I just got back to Lille after spending the last six days experiencing a true right of passage here in France: Winter(snow) holidays. A group of friends planned this trip back in November as they do every year, only this year I got an invitation and decided to jump at it. I went skiing almost every winter in the US that I can remember but for whatever reason, it just never happened for me here.
The build-up leading to the trip was intense. This is the time of year where everybody asks you about your winter vacation, where you are going, and then you proceed to talk about winter vacations past for the rest of the month. I spent my first week skiing in the Alps in Megeve, which is part of the "Mont Blanc Evasion" with a bunch of stations and more slopes than you could ever expect to do in a single week. I can't even begin to compare it to anything I've ever done in the US because even the most difficult slopes at Snowshoe would have been classified as a simple red here, and depending on how much snow there was or whether they had been plowed or not, the difficulty of the slopes seemed to change every single day.
I'm awfully competitive by nature -- it's something that's really hard to turn off. I don't always have to win but I like to feel as though I've really given it my all and kept up with the group. Keeping up with this group of friends was a real challenge because they've been skiing together every winter for as long as they can remember, in addition to going with their families and other friends once or twice a year too. My lowly weekends at Snowshoe and Winter Place in West Virginia can't hold a flame to that kind of dedication. Alas, I did my best to keep up which really wasn't that difficult, but it wasn't really "fun". I enjoyed my day more when we split up into little groups and I could practice different techniques more in depth at my speed, so that was a good thing.
The town of Megeve is just adorable. When I told everybody that I was going there they were all, "Ooh it's so posh, it's so chic, it's so expensive, everybody will be wearing fur..." and that's not far from the truth. Restaurants were easily twice as much as they would be in Lille, but the ski rental and the lift pass were actually really affordable. www.skimium.com (exists in English & in French) is an excellent website for getting discounts -- I think my five days of ski/shoe rental only came to about 60€. The lift pass was around 170€. Because we stayed at a place owned by one of the girl's parents, it was free so we only had to split the cost of gas, toll roads, and food. Otherwise, this isn't really a place to go for budget travelers. What's really great about the town itself is that every single building including Carrefour and McDonalds are inside of chalets. The entire town looks like a Christmas card, adding to the magic and the appreciation of this beautiful little place.
I've also never seen so much snow in my life. There was at least a meter of snow on the ground and on the roofs. There were icicles as tall as me and as thick as my leg. When it snowed on Monday and Tuesday, we woke up to 20cm and 15cm of snow. Those were probably my favorite days on the slopes just plowing through the powder -- there is nothing like being in the middle of a slope full of moguls and powder. It's just magic. As for the plowed slopes, the snow was still OK but I much prefer the ones left untouched.
I left for the train station last night which was a fiasco in itself, may be a story for another day once the situation is resolved. I have very few plans for the next three days -- rest, pick up Victor tonight, and then get used to being back home. Now it's time to start thinking about where I'll go next!