French Alps, March 2009

Hello there again, I’m back after a week’s absence, and also more than a week being sick with my yearly cold that drags on and on. Being sick and snowboarding don’t quite mix, although I was more or less functioning.

I flew to Geneva, waded through the chaos of the airport on a Saturday evening, and boarded a bus for the three hour trip south to the Tarentaise Valley, via Annecy and Albertville. I was picked up at the very quiet Bourg St. Maurice station by Steve McDonald of the White Room Chalet, and he drove me the remainder of the distance to Sainte Foy, around 20 km away, and 800 m higher. He and his wife Iona run an excellent operation in Sainte Foy, so a big thanks goes out to them for everything, from the transport to the food, and of course showing the secret stashes. So I settled into my bunk on the ground level, which would be my home for the next week.

Morning, looking towards Les Arcs

Morning, looking towards Les Arcs

Now if you’re looking for immersion into French culture and language, the Tarentaise valley is not the place. The region appears to be the domain of holidaymakers from the UK, with some French and Dutch folks mixed in there (although many are fluent in French). It’s not really what I came for, though. This area is the Alps in all its wickedness and awesomeness, dominated by Mont Blanc (4808 m) a few miles to the north, which is taller than anything else in the surrounding region. It cuts quite a different profile from the Tarentaise valley than the more familiar sight from Chamonix, though, but is one massive, awe-inspiring mountain. Mont Blanc was being a bit shy for much of the time I was there, though.

Mont Blanc, hiding

Mont Blanc, hiding

Arrivederci Italia, bienvenue en France

Arrivederci Italia, bienvenue en France

Being on vacation, I checked email and Internet a total of twice in nine days, and avoided all phones and crackberries, and even my lovely MacBook Pro.

Powder turn, Sainte Foy

Powder turn, Sainte Foy, following a 30 cm+ dump

Summit of Sainte Foy, with Mont Blanc

Summit of Sainte Foy, with Mont Blanc

View from the summit, Sainte Foy

View from the summit

Playing tourist

Playing tourist

I spent a very wonderful, powdery six days at Sainte Foy and in the surrounding area, Tignes for a day, and crossed into Italy at La Rosiere and La Thuile. Sainte Foy is a nice moderate-sized resort, with a mix of trees and above treeline riding, plenty of gullies and rocks and the like to explore, and given the right conditions, lots of off-piste stuff inbounds and out of bounds. At the end of it, my legs were jelly, I realized that my technique could use plenty of improvement after seeing it on film, but I got more or less exactly what I was looking for.

Tignes was particularly interesting geologically, with this nice little natural arch next to the lift station. The other highlight was manmade, this very speedy funicular that made the 1000 m vertical ascent in a matter of a few minutes, going at what I estimated to be 80 km / h.

L'aiguille percee, Tignes

L'aiguille percée, Tignes

Steve on the job!

Steve, working hard on the job!

And finally, a mention about Geneva. I’ve been here a few times for work-related stuff and the like, and it just doesn’t excite the senses. It’s got all the stereotypical luxury stuff, from ten star hotels, lots of expensive cars, banks, and watches, mixed in with a fair bit of sleaze near the train station. I did have a nice, filling meal of pot au feu in the old town (perfect winter food), and finished with a bottle of the local artisan beer, Calvinus noire, at the bar next door, for the undemocratic price of 8 CHF. It’s a good place to spend an afternoon or a day, but that’s about it.

Jet d'eau, surprisingly quiet.

Jet d'eau, surprisingly quiet for a 140 m ejaculation

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