Monday, March 16, 2009

Skiing in France

Julie and I took off for a ski trip to France. Fortunately Delta added a direct flight from Salt Lake City to Paris. We used frequent flier miles to fly business class, which made the 10ish hours each direction more reasonable. (Unrelated, the same Delta got rid of our direct flight from Salt Lake to Raleigh, which is causing great problems hauling the dog)

We had one day to wander around Paris before the rest of the group arrived. We decided to take a walking tour of the city. It was interesting and entertaining. The guy with with his hand up is our guide. It was a combination of real history with things like "Do you remember the bridge in The Bourne Identity? This is it."

We wandered by the Louvre and saw this group of radical extremists who thought it would be fun to do an impromptu Ring Around the Rosie. While you might think this is harmless fun, the Louvre's security didn't. They immediately came over to end what they must have viewed as a satanic ritual.

This just seemed too appropriate. The two pigeons sitting on the statue seem to be causing him to scream in angst. I can see him saying "Get these damn pooping birds off me!"

The rest of the group arrived that night and we all went out to dinner at one of our favorite Parisian restaurants, Aux Deux Canards.

These are the two people who have coordinated all of our French ski trips: Norm and Ginny Andrews. Until a month or so ago, they owned the Wine and Things store in Raleigh. They are now happily retired and are figuring out what that really means.

We went skiing Meribel, which is part of the Three Valleys ski area. The area is monstrous, with as many lifts as all the ski areas in Utah combined. This is the fourth time we have skied in France and it was by far the best. It snowed about 15 inches two days before we got there. Then it snowed another 18 inches during our first few days. Having established a nice base of powder, it turned sunny and warm. Just awesome!

Here's the whole ski gang on our first day out. From left to right, Julie (my wife), Cosette Serabjit-Singh, Dick Philpot, Paul Simson, Jennifer Van Anda, Norman Andrews, GinnyAndrews, David Beam, and Ilona Linnoila.

We were staying at a great chalet. Not only is it ski-in/ski-out, it comes complete with a wonderful couple who prepared most of our breakfasts and dinners. Sean and Kim are from England and have done this chalet hosting for three years. They were great fun, cooked well, and took great care of us. If you ever go to that area, I highly recommend using the company Ski Cuisine (out of the UK).

Julie and I, up at the top of the mountain.

This is Jennifer Van Arda. She is a great skier and was having a great trip until late Wednesday. She was skiing a nice line down the side of a slope when a snowboarder came zipping in from off-piste. He ran into Jennifer and took her out along with several other people. The bad news is that the board fractured her tibia and fibula. For the third time in a month, we had a friend go down the mountain in a toboggan.

It turns out the breaks were both bad. She was shipped to a hospital about 90 minutes from the slopes where she had surgery the next day. One steel rod and eight screws later, she was "fixed". Cosette went with her and stayed at the hospital. Our group of ten was down to eight until we reunited in Paris.

Very sad.

Ginny is plowing down through the powder. It looks like an interesting mix of skiing and running.

Julie was enjoying the powder with everyone else.

Cosette demonstrates one of the important lessons in skiing, you tend to head in the direction you are looking. Unfortunately, she was paying quite a bit of attention to me taking pictures. She stopped about a foot or two from me, spewing powder everywhere.

I love skiing in Utah but where do you find scenery like this? It is like this every direction you look.

One of the downsides of having so much snow is that you need to ski in a bit of bad weather. We weren't in the clouds that often, but when we were it was eirie.

Up on the top of Mount Valon, the winds were howling. You got a free dermabrasion with every run! Dick is fighting his way off the ridge line. Once you dropped a few hundred yards, the winds dropped to almost nothing.

The French Alps are spectacular. As they are much younger geographically, they are dramatic spires, steep and huge.

The lighting was really interesting one day. There were clouds moving in and out but the sun was shining through the holes. It was hard to really capture on film, but the mix of lighting and texture of the mountains was beautiful.

Dick and Jennifer stop in front of a glowing cornice. The wind had blown interesting patterns in the snow.

The powder was fantastic. There is so much off-piste skiing that you could find powder everywhere.

Sometimes you would be skiing along in the clouds and suddenly a distant mountain range would begin to appear. It was almost mystic.

The high winds at the top of the mountain were blowing the snow off, making even a bluebird day interesting for pictures.

Norman, having just jumped off the huge cliffs, is looking for his next hop. OK, maybe he really skied around them, but they sure are a sight.

I tried to get artsy and catch the reflection of the mountains in Julie's goggles. It worked, but barely. At least she's cute!

Other than Jennifer's broken leg, the trip was fantastic. Great snow. A nice place to stay. Awesome French food. Even a direct, business class flight. Wish they were all like this.

Now, back to NC this afternoon to get in my annual golf trip to Myrtle Beach.
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