|Seat (that's the Manufacturer) Minivan|
|Driving, Alps in the distance|
I will admit, being able to drive in Europe was a lot of fun for me. I love driving anyway, but being able to try to figure out road markers and roundabouts while having the Alps in the backdrop was a blast. The drive to Chamonix only took about an hour each way, and the last 45 minutes of the drive was in France (my first time in that country). Chamonix is a well developed town nestled in a valley directly underneath the largest peak in Western Europe, Monte Blanc. Everything was dwarfed by the mountains surrounding the town. We got to the ski rental place, which was a very different experience than going to a ski resort on the East Coast of the US. This was a quaint shop with eight seats that each had its own fur pelt for us to sit on, and a single man carefully selecting which skis to provide us with and adjusting the bindings accordingly. It was very unlike the mass operations that you find on the East Coast of the US. We paid, got on a bus, and got on the gondola that took us up to something of a base-camp, where you catch the lifts up to the slopes. This gondola had to have taken us up at least 5,000 to 6,000 feet of elevation, considering the mountains we were skiing on were all around 10,000-12,000 feet. I decided to stick with the intermediate to advanced members of the group, which I quickly regretted.
We got on a lift and got up top, and I came to the immediate realization that a Red-slope on the East Coast of the US is not a Red-slope in the Alps. There were drops like I have never seen that I would have to try to navigate my way down, otherwise I would be stuck on the mountain, or be that poor sap riding the lift back down. Naturally my pride took over and I went for it. There were moments that I felt like a skiing God, but I do mean moments. These few, sometimes up to 10 seconds, I was cutting left and right and feeling like I could handle anything. Then inevitably, I would get going to fast, lose control, and eat it. And I ate it hard. Several times. There were times where I had to hike 150 feet back up a 45-degree hill to retrieve my skis because I slid so far when I had fallen. When you walk up an incline like that, you need to dig your toes into the snow carefully with each step, otherwise you slip and you slide some more. It takes a lot to thoroughly frustrate me, but this did it. I was as close to miserable as I have been in a long time. Each time I fell though, I just looked around and reminded myself where I was. I was cut, sprained, bruised, wet, beaten, and demoralized, but I was attempting my way down one of the largest mountain ranges in the world on skis, and that is something that not everyone has the opportunity to try.
Britt, Hannah, and I made our way across the mountain, heading towards the rest of our group, who wisely stuck to the green slopes for most of the day. By 2:30, we had rendezvoused with them and I found myself in much more comfortable territory, only falling once in my last 5 runs of the day. I wish I had started out my day there to build confidence and get my skiing legs under me before attempting anything bigger, but I was definitely happy to end there on a good note.
We took the gondola down into town, and hustled back to the ski shop to get the now painfully uncomfortable ski boots off, and met up with the rest of the group. We then got in the car and drove back to Geneva, winding down from a long, rewarding day.
I cannot overstate the beauty of these mountains. I have been to the Rockies once in the summer, and I remember being awestruck by them. But the Alps are bigger, more jagged, and more massive. I am thrilled that I got to experience them.
|Road to Chamonix|
|Gondola up to where we catch the Ski lifts|
|View from the top of the Gondola|
|View from the top of the Gondola|