I am currently approaching the date on which I can say that I have survived a quarter of a century in this world and I’ve been fitting in a few more life experiences before I hit the milestone. Most recently I went for my first ski holiday exclusively with friends, drove by myself across Europe for a day, and spent some time in a foreign police office filling out a claims form. All of these stories revolve around mountains.
By know you are all very well aware that I am drawn to mountains much like cats are drawn to cat nip or warm corners where they can curl up. As I am in Europe for the foreseeable future and my local friends know how to ski or have recently learned I was lucky enough to join several trips to the Alps. In fact everyone scheduled their trips in such a way that I could practically link them one after the other, so I have two and a half weeks in the snow. The first week and a half of these fun-filled snow-skill weeks took place in France, in Flaine and in Les Deux Alpes.
Most of my time in France I spent on snowboards, rented snowboards. On the first trip this was planned. The package holiday included rental and I kept my flight costs down by avoiding the extra luggage. This went fairly well and in Flaine I got to try several different rental boards and several different lengths before I found something I was confident with. I’m not sure what was making the difference, but I turned out to be fairly picky. Therefore I was looking forward even more to enjoying a weeks’ worth of rides on my own board in Les Deux Alpes. As I had committed myself to a three day odyssey of a drive from my hometown all the way in Northern Germany to the middle of France, It wasn’t a problem bringing the board, either.
Before I had even touched snow, however, the board was stolen from the ski lockers in our apartment block. Overnight someone must have had it away, leaving only some splintered wood and crowbar marks.
So, after three days of driving and a short nights’ sleep, I spent my first morning scouring the entire building, calling the owners of the apartment, and searching for the police station, instead of ‘ripping up’ the slopes. At the police station they made it very clear that there was not much they could do- they gave me a form to fill out with as much information as I could remember about make, model , etc., stamped it and that was it. It would have taken significantly less time if I had learned some additional French vocabulary that did not focus on getting a hot chocolate or asking where the toilets were, but we got there nonetheless.
Armed with yet another rental board, the rest of the week went fairly well. We had a large dump of powder the evening we arrived, followed by six days of almost constant sunshine. The resort is bigger than Flaine, offering far more blue and red pistes and every day we tried to explore different areas and routes. The increased confidence I gained from working hard on powder and un-maintained pistes in Flaine put me in good stead to push myself more on the slopes in Les Deux Alpes, and I was proud that I was able to stick with the skiers for most of the week, even if they had to lend me their ski poles or give me an extra push on some of the traverses that led to trickier or more exciting routes.
Fun on the slopes was closely followed by the highlight of some really great food- in Flaine we were catered for by UCPA, a French organisation, which offered buffet-style meals, plenty of variety and choice, and a constant supply of fresh fruit, veg and cheese. Even more delicious were the home-cooked meals I enjoyed: bakes, hot pots, burritos, curry, all laden with vegetables (and often with cheese). My friends and I might not know how to party anymore, but we do know how to cook, enjoy good food, and drink a bottle of wine with an air of sophistiation.
Which has all led me here- to my third week in the snow. I am now in Austria, after driving a good 750 kilometres by myself in one day. By now my muscles are really getting tired, my knees are complaining and I’m wondering if I have enough energy for the last few days. It’s full steam ahead, though, because along with my sister and my mother I am teaching a school-group how to ski. So far this has involved a lot of walking sideways up the slope, to then slide back down again, and repeat. The kids are making great progress, though, and we are hoping to take most of them up the lift in the next day or two, making everything far easier. The snow here is far ‘older’ and softer than the nice soft powder we had the first few days in France, but we might get lucky and get some fresh snow in the middle of the week. If we do, I’ll make sure to make my third snow angel, some more snow men, and toss a few snowballs at my lazier students!