March 14, 2011

zee alps

So after Budapest I had about 24 hours to regroup, do laundry, pack again and get on a train heading Switzerland! Apparently this is what people who know how to partake in winter sports do when it gets cold. My friend, Shauneen (who also lives in Paris and is doing the school thing), was kind enough to convince her grandparents (and her grandparents were kind enough to be convinced) to let eight of us stay at their chalet in the alps during our winter break from school. I love Paris, but it was nice to walk around and see trees instead of buildings, to breathe in fresh air instead of strange city smells and to not have to watch my every step for fear of stepping in dog crap. It was so relaxing and just what I needed before school started up again.

We took the train from Paris and stayed in a little village on a mountain called Veysonnaz. When I say little village, I mean little - "main street" has an ATM, a couple of restaurants, a tiny grocery store, a bar and a ski shop. I was told that the chalet that we were staying at was basically at the top of a mountain, but I guess I never really thought about how would we actually get there. Shauneen just kept saying we have to get the bus that takes us to the top. So we get on the bus. The extra large coach bus. On tiny mountain roads. In the dark. I was terrified the whole time. As we got higher, the roads got smaller and the turns got sharper. Thirty to forty minutes later we get to the top and I see the city where we started our journey was now just a bunch of tiny sparkling lights. But we're not there, yet. We have a 10-15 minute walk with all of our luggage up a never-ending very steep hill. At the time, when we were all struggling to make our feet move forward while dragging luggage, groceries and ski/snowboard gear in the pitch black up a hill that seemed to unfold endlessly before us, we were not happy campers. But we made it to the top in one piece and arrived at the chalet that was waiting for us, swallowed up in the darkest sky I've ever seen with stars bigger and brighter than I ever imagined.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from the week:

The mountain roads that terrified me to my core. Good thing our first trip up was at night so I couldn't see what was really going on.

The Chalet
The view from the chalet

Hanging out on the porch
Life above the clouds

So this brings me to mid-week when we all agreed that for one day everyone would buy lift tickets and we would go skiing/snowboarding together in the alps.  All of us were at different levels - some had never been on skis or a snowboard, some had been but not for many years and then there were the pros who helped the rest of us with...well, pretty much everything. I had been snowboarding a few times many years ago and knew that this would be a stretch for me, but I was ready to try it again anyways. 

So, we get on the lift. We're gliding above the alps and I'm noticing it's a little more intense than Minnesota slopes. And then we get off the lift...the bunny hills that I'm planning on circulating all day still look like mountains to me.  Suddenly I feel as though my Minnesota upbringing has left me ill-prepared for the alps.

And then it comes back to me. I vividly remember why I didn't continue snowboarding in Minnesota. I don't have the ability to disembark from any type of lift when attached to a snowboard. Here I am, almost a decade later and I haven't magically acquired this ability.

And alas, it turns out I can't snowboard. These are the things I can do, however, when placed on an alp strapped to a board:

- crash into a group of people who see me coming, note my inability to stop and don't get out of my way (to the man whose skis i ran over while he was still wearing them, i'm sorry)
- get shown up by three year old children on skis
- run into a sign that says "caution: slow down"
- face plant trying to get figure out how to work a button lift while getting dragged up the bunny hill

This isn't me in the video, but it is essentially what happened to me when it turns out this is the only way to get back up the hill. 

My friend, Nora, and I called it quits after lunch. We returned our boards to the shop owner in town who gave us a once over and tried to not sound judgmental when asking "...that's it? you're done?". Yes, sir...we're done. At this point, I had more bruises on my derrière than a free banana. Here's me right before we dropped off the snowboards. The walk home was arguably the most successful part of the day. Even so, face plants and all - I'd do it again.

The rest of the time, we let the people who knew what they were doing hit the slopes and those of us who had their fill of winter sports wandered around and relaxed.

Me and my friend, Asmir
Asmir and Nora risking their lives on icy snow to bring bread back for the crew
Raclette - A traditional Swiss meal and a good excuse to eat cheese for dinner. Eight of us polished off an entire half wheel of cheese.
Cheese: it's what's for dinner.

Shauneen's birthday dinner...the big 2-4
Here's the crew!
On the train back to Paris


  1. So you could ski or hang out on the chalet porch and work on your tan? You are definately living the good life Paula! Now get working on your research paper.

  2. Wow, there is nothing quite like the Alps! Don't worry about the height issue (and hair pin turns) by middle age fear will totally take over and you won't do this anymore. Enjoy it while you are young.

  3. Oh Oh Oh, I love that cheese! It looks amazing, as do the mountains. Maybe we will need practice snowboarding in Minnesota when you return!