Chamonix II

here are some excerts from emails i’ve written to people recently to give you a feel for life here this week:

i had my first day of skiing today (mon 28th). i went to les grand montes which is supposedly the
hardest ski area here, but also i heard it had the best snow right now. they haven’t
gotten snow in a while and aren’t expected to have more, so to avoid the ice i went to
where i was told it was best. oh the very crowded bus on the way there, i was standing
next to a guy that had a “us forest service” key chain on his backpack and when i heard
him talk i knew for sure he was from the states. so i asked where from and he and his
wife were from oregon! WHOO!! they worked for the forest service and were on they’re
delayed honeymoon. anyway i saw them again at the top of the tram and he asked where i
was going to ski (keep in mind i had heard a lot of horror stories about glacier skiing
and crevasses, etc. so i was a little nervous). i told him i didn’t know but said bye and
to have a good day. so i went to check out the map and it looked… overwhelming. so i
walked back over to them and asked if maybe i could just start out the day skiing a
couple runs with them. they said no problem and actually it worked out great. they were
so nice and appreciated being able to have someone to talk to also. we ended up skiing
together into the afternoon. and i even went up to the top of this ski area (where the
scary stuff is supposed to be), but we checked out the guide book and stayed where we were
supposed to. anyway, the skiing was really good and i was surprised how good my legs felt,
even with the altitude (4000m at least). anyway, they’re going to be on the same ski tour
of vallee blanche tomorrow which is very cool. they headed down a little after one and i
just skied around on some different stuff. very good, i took lots of pictures and as soon
as i’m in london and have my computer i’ll get them online. the alps are truly amazing!!

so that was today, which went great. after i sent my email yesterday, i hopped back on
the bus thinking i would go back to the hostel… but oh no. i got on the right bus, but
it was also headed to the ski area at the end of the valley, les hoches, which is where the
world cup was held this weekend. so by the time we got to my stop there was NO WAY to
get off. so i thought “ok, i’ll just ride it to the end and catch it back” but then… i
was like “huh… why don’t i go to the world cup?” so yes… i did. and it was
ridiculous, i got there like 20 minutes before it started, i could not have planned it
better. I SAW BODE MILLER WIN!!!!!!!!! he skied a flawless run. i was right down at the
bottom near the finish line. i could see the big screen and scoreboard perfectly and
probably 10 -15 of the turns at the bottom of the hill. it was the men’s combined event.
bode led after the morning downhill and then he just dominated on the GS. unbelievable!!
anyway it was like a giant party (of course i didn’t talk to anyone so it was just great
people watching for me) it was so cool. so then i headed back (with the masses) to the
bus stop, and was literally the LAST person to get on the bus back to where i wanted. i
was standing on my tip toes the whole time and luckily a woman right next to me wanted to
get off where i did and yelled across everyone to the bus driver to open the door. haha,
also could not have planned that!! just got very lucky! so i headed back to the hostel to
drop some stuff off and then walked down the road again (it’s about a 5 min walk to the
bus station) to find the rental place phil the hostel owner suggested. i arrived again…
in perfect time. the guy had just opened and it wasn’t busy and he spoke english! WHOO!
so i got some skis, they’re not great, but they’re getting the job done and actually i
felt like i skied really well today, so i’m satisfied.

so, feeling pretty accomplished for the day, i headed back to the hostel to read (what i
really wanted to do was sleep, still kind of adjusting to the time) but i heard some
people come in so i opened my door and two australian brothers were in the room next to
mine. ha, they were super nice and i was so grateful to have someone to talk to in
english. we hung out for a good part of last night, one of them had been living in london
recently and had also skied all over the U.S. so we didn’t really run out of conversation
topics. anyway, that’s how the last day and a half have gone. pretty good!! it’s been
very successful so far! tomorrow morning is vallee blanche, but after warming up skiing
today and knowing that the couple from oregon will be there, it is reassuring. i’ve heard the
terrain isn’t too intense, so i might have even skied harder stuff today-who knows.

Tuesday – last night the three crazy norwegians who showed up late on sunday night came
back and had skied vallee blanche twice. unbelievable, they are out of control. as far as
i can tell chamonix redefines what it means to be “outdoorsy.” literally every picture for
rei advertising could be taken here. all you have to do is sit at the base of the tram
that you take to the top to ski vallee blanche (i would butcher the name, so i won’t even
try) and watch all the people show up between 8-9 with their backpacks, harnesses on, ice
picks, climbing gear, ropes, transceivers, helmets… it’s just ridiculous. i got
there a little early because of the bus schedule and just watched people for a while. any
“outdoorsy-ness” i claim became inadequate after seeing that, ha! on the bus to town today
there’s a huge rock and people were just climbing up it, and then i looked up and there
are about 10 paragliders above me just circling like a flock of birds. wow.

anyway i was so glad that the oregon couple were on my same ski tour today. they were
nice and actually helped me figure out where to go to meet with the guide. we ended up in
the same group which was great, along with a very nice couple from spain. our guide, denis
(pronounced “denny” of course), had a good sense of humor and was very nice to us. he
has been a guide here for 21 years and it sounds like he has been all over the world
doing ridiculous skiing/mountaineering things!  i was definitely nervous about the “trek”
that you have to do on the ridge down to the glacier, but it actually was much better
than i thought. they harness you together, i was the group leader, i had crampons on and
they have a permanent rope railing, so actually it was better than i expected.
unbelievable views from the top. i can’t wait to show you pictures. some of the skiing
was harder than i expected, but i think it was mostly because i was nervous about how
uncomfortably close i was to HUGE crevasses. the terrain wasn’t anything harder than what
i have skied before, but the thought of falling made it a little scary. not sure i’ll be
a regular glacier skier. i was also moving around in my boots a lot today, and didn’t
want to cramp them down tight because my legs would cramp. so i didn’t do my best skiing
today, but i did ski vallee blanche, so i can’t be too frustrated 🙂 also, they failed
to mention in the explanation of the ski tour that you have to climb about a bizillion
steps to the gondola to take you out of the valley. after trekking down the ridge (at
12,000 feet you can definitely feel the altitude) and skiing the glacier, it’s kinda the
last thing you want to do. also it’s been really warm here the last two days so with all
the layers, we were all sweating!! it actually feels a bit like a spring day here right
now. really nice out, if it were like this at home, i’d be reading on the porch.

WED – just as i was leaving town to catch the bus back to the hostel last night, the 3 Aussies i met the night before were at the bus stop trying to figure out how to get back. i was able to help them out and we ended up hanging out the rest of the night, playing cards and laughing about the differences in the way we say things. went skiing with two of them today, weather wasn’t great, low clouds and they’re in need of snow, but it isn’t supposed to come until tomorrow. maybe it’s snowing up there now, but the valley is mostly just wet from the melting snow recently. we didn’t ski too hard today since visibility was bad and there’s a lot of ice around, but still good to be up. we’re in town tonight going to get dinner and split the price of a taxi back so we can enjoy the town in the evening (which we can’t do otherwise because of the bus service). anyway the aussies are off tomorrow so i’ll ski tomorrow and really haven’t done much skiing by myself, so i’ll go check out another of the ski areas and have a good last night in chamonix before i catch the bus back to geneva on friday where i’m staying with a family that used to live on queen anne and meeting up with lisbee to hang out on saturday. should be good times!

3 thoughts on “Chamonix II”

  1. Liz,

    Wow it really sounds like you have been having an amazing time skiing and meeting new people all over the place. Make sure you put pictures up so we can all see what beautiful sites you have been seeing. Take care and be safe. See i told you I’d read your blog.

  2. Sounds like quiet the adventure, I hope all your planning helps the whole thing go as smoothly as it has so far. One of my Swedish friends said you should go to the Vagabond for dinner and a drink, it may get you away from the tourists a little and allow you to meet the “outdoorsy” fold you speak of.

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