Skiing the Alps – Chamonix, France
Our ski day! We woke up to a real winter wonderland of snow falling across town. Clouds made their way in between the mountain peaks. The ski lifts did not open until closer to 9AM so we wanted to get in a full breakfast at Cafe Bluebird to fuel our day.
We returned back to the Airbnb to suit up for skiing. To say I was nervous was a bit of an understatement. Skiing in Vermont was as “big” as we have done and on a good day I can master a flew blue slopes. But this was the Alps… the ALPS. The mountain makes the trails and they looked steep down below. One of the reasons I opted for the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass was because I really did not know where would ski. Maps were difficult to follow online and I really did not know ahead of time what mountain we would decide on. Since this pass grants access to all the lifts, we did not have to decide until we got there. We studied the maps very hard and after getting some opinions and consultation, we made the decision to start at La Flégère as there were two green trails (the ONLY green trains on ALL the mountains) and would make our way to Le Brévent through a series of lifts and blue trails.
A note of the colors of the trails here. Where I have skied in the northeast, there are primarily three different trail colors – green being the easiest, then progressing to blue, and the hardest being black, some are double black indicating it is extra hard. Here in the French Alps, there are four colors – green (which barely exists on these maps) as “very easy”, blue as “easy”, red as “difficult” and black as “very difficult”. Red and black routes dominate the map and we were told that the blue color in the Alps is comparable to the black in the northeast. We were hopeful that we would survive past the handful of green trails we could find and I would be happy to conquer a blue or two.
A bus was the only viable option and since none of the lodges have lockers (they were all removed several years ago as anti-terrorist security movement), everyone walks around with their ski shoes (snowboarders looked so much more comfortable) and gear. The walk definitely took twice as long in these ski boats (hint: do not walk with them completely buckled – whomp whomp) but we finally made it to the bus stop. A short ride put us at Les Praz gondola, looking up at the steep mountain and long gondola ride.
Stepping out of the gondola station, we were immersed high in the clouds, surrounded by sweeping views of the mountains once again. We continued to be amazed as if it was the first time every time but it really was unbelievable to be in this landscape. It is so completely different than anything we were used to.
I took out the map to verify that the slopes we were aiming for were correct, getting oriented with the trails – I was not about to make a mistake down anything but a green color.
Like riding a bike, the pizza technique came back in no time. The fresh powder was so fun but also made the speed much faster. Even this green proved to be a bit challenging. At the bottom of the first trail, I celebrated the survival of our first trail – we skied the Alps!
Hoping for a bit more progress and confidence, we stayed in this area flirting with the green trails until Kevin felt comfortable to advance to one of the nearby blue trails. When on the lift back to the beginning, it was easy to make out some of the other trails in this are and boy they were long and steep. We parted ways and I also attempted the smallest blue trail in history. With a clear path and no other riders, I seized the moment and cut my way down the tiny blue slope to the top of the green trail. Another victory!
When Kevin made it down his significantly more challenging blue, he shook his head – “Nope that was really hard”. And with that, we continued to enjoy ourselves on the green trails.
There were actually plenty of people at the green slopes so while the large majority of people there are black or bust, there were also people just starting off, in a ski school group, or like us just trying to have fun. And it was hard to not have fun with these every changing views.
After several hours, we decided to turn in – we were clearly not following the intended plan of traveling across the mountains from La Flégère to Le Brévent so it was better to cut our loss here. Plus we were starving and the food at the lodge was pretty pathetic looking and way overpriced. We did our best, experienced beautiful fresh powder, all with the most breathtaking backdrop – we skied the Alps!
A much more relaxing, though sore, gondola ride down, it was like getting transported to a completely different place as we descended into Chamonix.
We shuffled over to the bus stop and made the journey to the ski rental shop to directly return all the gear. Not sure how we would have managed since we only brought one pair of shows with us, but it would have been wise to leave a pair at the rental shop for this very occasion. Kevin decided to go back to the Airbnb to get our boots while I waited at the rental shop – what a hero. So happy to get these boots off – I do not know how everyone just walks around in these completely effortlessly. Perhaps if I skied more than once a year I would improve.