Chamonix in February – What a Ski Experience!

Chamonix was my 12th ski area to visit on my quest to ski 60 new ski areas by the time I’m sixty.  It’s been a year since that trip……and it has taken me some time to write about this experience.  It was quite an achievement after knee surgery and I needed a little self-praise.  I had to find forgiveness in my heart for the thieves who stole my beautiful Kastle skis.  Then I needed to get to that mental place where you can remember that life’s experiences matter more than “things”.

Six weeks after knee surgery I boarded a plane to Chamonix France.  The journey to get there involved plenty of Physical Therapy and the actual journey included plenty of pain meds and ice packs!  But I was ready for an adventure….with dreams of skiing Vallee Blanche!

Have you ever been on a group ski trip?  Well, the plane ride to another country and coach trip to the mountain can be exhausting!  Once there, the group gets room assignments, ski locker assignments and locks – by the time you are finished, one can only hope to get in a nap before the welcome cocktail reception where you learn all about the mountain , skiing options, guides and more.

I promised my physical therapist that I would have a “day of rest” from our travel. So…I chose a little cross country skiing.  Oh, that promise was a day of rest from DOWNHILL skiing…but I was so excited to ski I wanted to be ready for the next day – and a little muscle toning couldn’t hurt!

The next morning, with visions of testing the slopes with my new surgically repaired knee, I headed to the locker room.  My lock was undisturbed; poles nicely placed in their locked home – WITHOUT SKIS!  I couldn’t believe it!  Did I have the right locker?  A double take and a lock number check and re-check confirmed my greatest fear…my beautiful Kastles were stolen!  Angry and annoyed – yes; frustrated at the lack of security – yes; really pissed off at the Hotel’s lack of concern – ABSOLUTELY!

So as you read about my first day on the slopes – think about my mental attitude.  Was this an all-encompassing less than perfect day?  Or was the day really not that bad but tainted by having my skis stolen?  You be the judge.

I finally got rental skis that the hotel paid for.  Chamonix is a resort town that connects you to various mountain areas primarily by bus – not my favorite – so we walked to the one area we could access that way – Brevent – Flegere.  That choice proved to be a significant vertical challenge that my brand new knee didn’t enjoy.  The views were fine really, but I found myself taking the Alp views for granted – like I expected them.  Did I mention it was windy?  Because of wind gusts some of the lifts were closed – so we decided to find an on-mountain dining experience – after all, we were in France surely we would find some great food.  HA!  Slow, bad service and mediocre food – the hits just kept on coming!

All I could think about was someone else was enjoying MY skis.  So I did the only thing I could think of to be sure the next day was a much better one by heading back to the rental shop and exchanging the rental skis for another pair.

Armed with a new set of rentals, I headed back to the hills the next day.  The walk from the hotel to the bus in ski boots was a little torturous but I vowed not to complain.  That didn’t stop me from wishing I was in a ski-in-ski-out arrangement, not a walking-about Resort town!  Of course once I sampled some of the most scrumptious French gastronomical delights I wished THAT thought away!

The regions that I managed to ski on this trip that we accessed by bus were Domaine des Houches and a trip to Italy to ski Courmayeur.  I missed the opportunity to ski Les Grands Montets – perhaps someday I will get back there, and I chose not to ski Vallee Blanche.  My knee and I decided that hiking with crampons along a narrow ledge on unfamiliar and less than perfect rental skis would be a bit of a challenge.  I did get the opportunity to travel up to L’Aiguille du Midi and see some adventuresome skiers…who know – maybe someday…..

I have decided that someday I will give Chamonix another chance.  I am willing to see if my temporary physical limitations so soon after surgery and having my skis stolen cast a shadow over the good food, evening entertainment and the beautiful view of the Alps.  L’Aiguille du Midi is an awesome experience and one not to miss.  You feel you are an arm’s length to heaven and the closest you will be to God while alive!

That, my friends, is why I keep on travelling!


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