Monday, February 21, 2011

J’ai fait du ski aux Alps françaises (Part 2)

Here is a map of the station so you can see the runs I mention
Saturday Continued
I haven’t skied since I learned how to snowboard in 8th grade, so I was nervous to see if I would even remember how to ski. I could of chosen to snowboard, but it would have been a little bit more expensive for the equipment and I haven’t snowboarded for awhile either-that was my “logical” reasoning. The first hill I went down a couple times was an easy green run and had no problems making large turns or controlling my speed. If looking at the map it’s the run on the bottom all the way to the left and labeled as blue-it’s an older plan of the station, so it’s a little different.
The view from the top of the little green slope. Our lodge is among the little buildings you can see.
Two of my roommates for the weekend and I at the top of the green slope.

I then decided to go up the chair lift with one of the girls I was sharing a room with and try the first set of blues, “Les Essards”. There is only one chairlift at this station and to get to these ones you get off at the first stop it makes. These blues were definitely not easy blues. I don’t like going too fast and this run has a lot of curves, so I had a lot of trouble going down since going slow in skis is hard. To go slow on a steeper hill you have to make a lot of quick turns, which I wasn’t used to or good at yet. Or you can pizza wedge stop all the way down, but that hurts your legs too much. Then finally at the end there was this big hill that you have to go down and I ended up bombing it cause I couldn’t go slow. It was so scary! Later I found out it is actually a red slope and that there was a way to avoid it by going back onto the green slope. After a rest I went back up the chairlift with the rest of my roommates for that weekend to try the blues again. It was a little easier but I still didn’t feel comfortable on my skis. One of the girls and I were regretting not choosing to snowboard because skiing was a lot harder than we thought it would be.

At lunchtime we tried asking if we could switch over but one of the guys helping out said that we couldn’t today, but most likely tomorrow we could. So, we were kind of relieved and of course were going to try some more skiing after lunch. What they gave us for lunch was not very good. It was a tuna sandwich on a baguette! I know that is not an uncommon sandwich to eat but it is definitely a food that people either like or hate. I don’t eat fish and I especially don’t like tuna cause it has such a strong fishy smell. I did try it though since I was hungry and dinner was going to be late that night, but in the end I just the top slice of the baguette and the other snacks they gave us. After lunch we hit the slopes again going back on the blue runs. The weather was a lot warmer and sunnier than I thought it would be, which was plus because I didn’t bring or have my parents send me my normal winter jacket. We were getting a little bit more comfortable skiing, so we decided to take the chairlift up to it’s final stop from where you can take the blue slopes down or go up the “butt-pulls” to the very top of the mountain. We decided to take the blues down because going up to the top meant coming back down a red or a black! These blues were a little harder and scarier than the ones just below, so I fell going down once trying to go slow. After that we decided to take another break at the café at the bottom of the slopes and get some beverages. Even though I was baking in the sun I opted for a cappuccino because I was getting so tired. There were no chalets at the station, but there were two random cafes on the slopes and one larger one at the bottom to get drinks and food at. By the time we were done with that we only had about an hour left before the slopes closed and we met up with everyone to go back to the lodge.

Once back at the lodge they had chocolate and vanilla pound cake, hot chocolate, and vin chaud (spiced hot wine) for us to snack on before getting ready to visit the little town of Vallouise. It was a cute little mountain town with a few restaurants, bars, shops, and a church. We returned to the lodge welcomed by a strong smell of cooking cheese. We knew were getting some kind of typical Alps dinner, but we thought it would either be reclette or fondue. Instead what we smelled was a different cheese from the Alps called reblochon, baking in a dish called tartiflette. This dish is basically a casserole of potatoes, lardons (cubes of pork fat), onions, cream, and the reblochon layered on top. It was really, really good! The tartiflette was also accompanied by a walnut and apple salad and chocolate mousse. Everyone thought that the lodge definitely redeemed their lunchtime failure with this meal.

Sunday Morning
After a long night’s sleep (everyone in my room crashed at around 10pm!) and a less hectic morning, we were ready to hit the slopes. Oh but, this morning they decided to actually give us our lunches ahead of time, so I had to bring my backpack again-bleh! Another annoyance is that my friend and I weren’t able to get snowboards for the day. They said it wasn’t a money issue, but that they didn’t have the equipment there…we thought they were being kind of lazy because there was definitely extra boards and boots the day before. It was fine though, and we just accepted the fact and went out. I went down the green hill a few times to warm up, I definitely retained the skills I learned the day before, but one of my knees was sore. After that we decided that we wanted to find the blue runs that are up on the left side of the mountain because we heard they were super nice from the director of the study abroad program. To get to these ones you first had to ride the chairlift to the top, then take a small “butt-pull” to where you can cross a red and get to a catwalk.

Going on the catwalk or narrow trail was fun, though it was kind of scary since it’s narrow and on a steep cliff.
These runs were great. They had a better view of the mountain range and weren’t as busy. After going down a couple times we decided to cut back over and go back to bottom. The catwalk to get back was even cooler, longer, and scarier than the other one! It curved around a cliff. I wish I could have taken a picture but it was a long trail and I didn’t want to lose speed. Going back down I finally felt comfortable skiing and wasn’t as afraid to go fast. I wanted to do that same run again, but alas we decided to tackle our goal for the day before lunchtime. So, many people have told us the view from the top was amazing and that it was definitely worth it to go up there. Remember to get back down you either have a choice to take black or red slopes down! Our director told us that the red slope all the way to the right was a little easier and then it meets up with the nice blues on the far. To get up to the top you have to take a long butt-pull, one that goes really fast on a steep angle. Luckily, none of us fell off because I don’t where you would go since the path cuts through the trees!
This is the lovely view from the top! It was another warm and beautiful sunny, even up there.
Me on top! Woohoo! The reds we took down were steep and hard, but once we got back to the blues they felt super easy and I zoomed down the rest of the mountain. Afterwards I was super tired and we went and took off our boots and had some lunch (a normal meat and cheese sandwich). Then we went back on the slopes and did a few more runs until it was about time to leave.

My last views of the mountains from the ski slopes.

Sunday Night
After leaving the station we had about an hour and a half to shower and get our stuff together. Before boarding the bus at 5pm we got our bagged dinners, I had a lot of hope since the lunch was good…but nope they gave us smoked salmon sandwiches!!! That is even worse tuna, and I think most people on the trip would agree. I believe the reason why they gave us these fish sandwiches was because there were a couple of vegetarians on the trip that still eat fish. But still, they could have just made us cheese and vegetable sandwiches!

We were all hoping that the rest stop that we would stop at later to eat at, since we couldn’t eat on the bus, would have a gas station and food. It didn’t however because it was a stop before the highway with just dirty and flooding bathrooms. We had to stop at a place before the highway because prior in the day two people got hurt and had to go to the hospital (nothing too serious!) and weren’t back in time to leave with us, so they rode with one of the helpers at met up with us there. Everyone was not too happy about having to eat a bad dinner with no option of buying something at a cold and dark rest stop! We only stopped one other at time at another small rest stop with awful bathrooms-all public bathrooms here suck but that subject will be touched on in another post. We got in a little bit earlier than planned, but the bus didn’t drop us off where the schedule said they would. Prior to leaving I had told my host parents to pick me up at the scheduled place at 11:30. The scheduled place wasn’t that far away from where we actually got dropped of but it was dark out and in an area under construction, so I didn’t want to walk there alone. Everyone else though started to leave already by tram or walking a different path home, and the other people who told their parents to pick them up at the original place were able to call them and have them pick them up there. My host parents don’t have cell phones and they already left the house. I think the director would have walked with me but she ended up having to go to the emergency room herself, she must have fallen or something because she had a broken rib. Anyway, I eventually found my host parents while I was walking around the area where we were supposed to be dropped off.

So, in the end I think the ski trip was worth it money wise (160 euros for everything) and I really enjoyed the skiing in the alps, but I’m not sure I’m as satisfied with the actual organization of the whole thing and having to go in such a large group. I’m definitely excited to start traveling with just a few people at a time. Next blog post you will see the wonderful daytrip I took with one other girl to the city of Collioure!

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