It was a French white Christmas, well, in 2011 that was. Yeah, we’re definitely playing catch-ups on the blog. Catch-ups or not, Chamonix is worth writing about.
We left an elephant-grey London behind and started our pursuit of ‘powder’. Now, both Lauren and I were wishing for ‘fresh powder’, but really, we had no idea what this actually was! It was just the thing to say when going skiing. Little did we know that our hopes of a ‘powder pursuit’ would very much come true.
On arrival, we jumped on a transfer bus and after gawking at the mountains for an hour or so, we arrived at our home for the next week; Chamonix (to save anyone the embarrassment now, it is a silent ‘x’, so now you can at least say it correctly in your head). We quickly dumped our bags in the most amazing chalet (I will come back to that later) and went exploring in the town as the sun began to set. What a privilege it was to stay right in the midst of the action in a ski-town. It was buzzing with the click-clack sound of hundreds of ski-boots as people were coming down from the last runs of the day. There were more headbands that you could poke a stick at, fresh baguettes under most peoples arms and the excitement was definitely building for Lauren and I to hit the slopes the next day.
Day One at Brévent/Flégère was such a special start to our skiing adventures. I must admit it took me the first half of the morning trying to work out how to say the names of the ski fields that we were at, however the beauty of where we were soon took over. The snow was falling and the sun was creeping through. The French know how to ski. I think they pride themselves in looking good in their ski gear and also looking ever better as they ski. It was a touch intimidating watching the locals launch themselves straight down a run and disappear with speed off-piste in their own delicious, confident style. For Lauren and I, it took us both a few runs to slip back into the swing of things and get our turns looking ‘french’. After a full day of skiing, we headed back to our chalet for some dinner and rest. It was Christmas eve and we switched on the Christmas lights. The chalet felt like it was oozing Chistmas cheer from every nook and cranny. The owners, who are usually there, went back to the UK for Christmas, so it was all ours! So so amazing! The only catch was that we had to look after their cat, Hoodie which was such a pleasure as Hoodie was always outside playing in the snow. I swear that cat was meant to be born as a huskie dog.
Day Two was Christmas Day! This was to be the most glorious day of all 2011. We knew that the snow report for the day had predicted very good things, so we set off early and had an absolute treat of a a day! We were given a very beautiful present by the Swiss Lé Tour ski resort, that not even Santa could have delivered. We met ‘fresh powder’ for the very first time. We couldn’t believe what we were skiing through. Our ski’s totally disappeared and everything was completely silent. Just for good measure we purposely stacked into our new friend of deep, fluffy, white powder and it felt like a goose-down duvet. As if Lé Tour hadn’t delivered enough on Christmas Day already, we were given a further treat. The ski fields were practically abandoned. So, we had every lift open, a bucket load of fresh powder, and no messy and clunky ques to line up in. It was pure bliss! Thankyou Le Tour, we are forever grateful and hope to come back one day to repeat this day of days.
For Day Three we didn’t have to travel very far as we stayed in our Lé Cabin and had some Lé Rest. I think I drove Lauren a little crazy by making up for my lack of French by substituting ‘Lé’ in-front of any word that I wished to communicate, “Hey babe, can you Lé pass me the Lé salt that is on the Lé bench“. It was short lived, as I think it got on Lauren’s Lé nerves, but I felt a touch more ‘French’ every time I did it. We had some morning re-cooperation and then set off to check out what was happening in Chamonix village during the day. Our muscles were constantly thanking us for taking them for a stroll around the village and taking time to enjoy a hot chocolate and soak in the village atmosphere. There were numerous wine and cheese specialty shops that I veered our path to intersect with. We also walked to see Mt Blanc from another angle and it certainly makes you feel respect for the alps when you are standing at its base. It is mesmerizing. It was like Mt Blanc was commanding us to come back and explore it in more detail for another day of skiing. So that is what we did. We picked up our compulsory baguette, wheel of cheese and bottle of wine and headed back to prepare for the next day at Les Houchés.
Lés Houches was far more than just a fun word to say, but put on a show of sunshine for us. There were plenty of runs to do many times over and find different ways of attacking them. By Day 3 of skiing I think it is only fitting to update you all that our French ‘style-o-meter’ had crept up a few more points. At rare intervals we could even do an odd turn that could have been mistaken for that of a French local. Speaking of the French locals, although their style would suggest that they would be an arrogant bunch, we found it was quite the contrary. We found that the people of Chamonix are like the English in that they love to que politely. Thank you Lé Houches. You were magnificent!
I forgot to mention before that we encountered a delicious irony in our time away in Chamonix (for Christmas Day). Now, Lauren’s family love to do ‘themed’ Christmas’ and it just so happened that the 2011 Christmas was ‘French’ themed. Well, although we were unable to attend and dearly missed our family, we felt as though our French Christmas was the only real and genuine one. Yes, well, perhaps we may have Skyped them whilst holding a full glass of ‘real’ French wine in each hand whilst making sure we constantly referred to our French baguette and French wheel of cheese that we bought using French phrases like, ‘Fromage Merci’. Pretty much it was just making up for missing everyone so much, however, I think all involved enjoyed the banter. It was a special time to feel included in a Christmas day that was occurring thousands of miles away.
Day Four was a whole new experience. We met the Italians. It was only a 30minute bus ride over the boarder, but the Italians couldn’t be more different to the French if they tried. We arrived to loud bustling music being pumped through the speakers down at the base lift. By the time you are half-way up you are being offered vodka snaps by young Italian girls who aren’t exactly dressed for a full day in the snow. It felt like a party atmosphere. Lauren and I sussed the situation, made the necessary adjustments and assumed the role of an Italian local for the day. The first activity involved pushing our way into the line for the first lift whilst shouting loud phrases in Italian (no queuing or quiet moments in Italy!) We kind of enjoyed it. The atmosphere of the whole ski field was bustling with life. For lunch, the locals would even strip off and take the opportunity for a bit of cheeky snow-style tanning! Oh, the Italians. It must be said, I think they take more time over their appearance than the French!
As I said at the start of the post, we had the most amazing Chalet. And it was truly that. Chalet is the word that you use because it sounds more impressive and it is in a ski town but really it was just a massive house. Loft bedroom, full kitchen, dining room, study, and even space to have slept a few more. We will forever be indebted to Chamonix for making Christmas 2011 one of the most memorable I am sure we will ever partake in.