Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Skiing in the Alps vs. the Rockies.

Are the American Rockies to the French Alps like comparing apples and oranges?

I think ski trips are amazing family vacations and this year, we zipped to Chamonix. Have you skiied in both Europe and North America? What do you think?

Things we loved about Chamonix
1) Un-broken, exquisite alpine vistas with memorable, hearty, rugged, skiing and that brought varied conditions.

2) Skiing village to village! (Yes, like the movies) If weren't for the blizzard, we had planned to ski across the boarder into Switzerland.)

3) French Savoy food: fromage, jambon, fondue, raclette, chocolate chaud, vin chaud ....a slice of heaven.

4) Alpine Villages: Picture, perfect, 19th Century lodging in a mountain top village full of hearty locals with all of the shopping we needed, complete with teeny, crowded bakeries for our daily bread runs.

5) Snow: 60 inches of pure powder snow within 48 hours (mountain closed for 2 days), then rain, then snow...

Preparing for Trails in the Alps (more here):I was surprised by looser restrictions in posting conditions and terrains in Chamonix. I was very happy that our children were experienced skiers when we hit the trails and kept them close. Even green paths, could closely trace the edge of a sheer cliff with very little warning and little barrier, if any, at all. A watchful eye on terrain and speed was important until we were completely familiar with the area. If you are looking for family friendly skiing, do your research before heading to the Alps to ski. Chamonix is known for adventure skiing and this was true.

The area of Le Tour (in Chamonix) is know for being quite family oriented but, again, attention is needed, even here, to conditions and terrain markings. My memories of skiing double diamond experience from skiing in Vail's back bowls felt carefree compared to some of the blue trails we skied, on or near crevices and glaciers, after a fresh snowfall.

Ski lifts:There are many more poma lifts than I am used to in North America. This is good to keep in mind when skiing with small children. There aren't as many opportunities to warm up in enclosed gondola and lifts and taking poma lifts requires more thigh work (however, the kids rarely let this show!). We did enjoy the small, ski huts to warm ourselves with grilled sandwiches and chocolate chaud which are wisely located near most poma lifts.

Lift EtiquetteI found an unusual amount of skiers who were much more "determined" to get to the front of the line quickly than I was accustomed to ---- skiing over other fellow skier's skis, using elbows and applying body weight for a better spot in the ski lift line was something I learned to be prepared for. (This "determination" was applied to even the skis of young children, as well.) In addition to the extra trail attention necessary, I found that I needed to be attentive in ski lift lines --- this was not the place for map reading or applying your children's lip balm.

As with all travels, being open and aware is always the best way to get the most from these experiences. We had a great trip and would love to plan to return for summer hikes.

Bon Vacance. Bon Appetite.

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