Monday, August 23, 2010

Jan 2010 - Chamonix, France

Our first trip of 2010 may have been the best vacation that I have ever taken. We were in a fully catered luxury condo that was ski in ski out. And it was only 750 Euro per person for the week. Plus 280E for my unlimited (7 mountain) week long lift pass, plus about 180E for the plane tickets. Words don't do justice to how good it was. We would wake up in the morning and either our chef (who trained under Gordon Ramsey) or our "house girl" Jenna (who was a cute little 19 year old college student from New Zealand on her summer break) would have prepared a breakfast for us. You could be out of the house and walking to the tram to the peak at 9AM or as late as you wanted. When we had fresh snow (which was 3 days) I was out early and up the mountain as fast as possible. I would ride all day, and either break for lunch at around 1 or 2 and then either quit for the day or ride until 4. Then it was back to the house where Jenna would have baked fresh cookies and breads and put out snacks and coffee and tea. We were also given "unlimited" beer and wine for the week. Unlimited in the sense that if we finished all the beer in the house they would then buy more and charge us, but it seemed that the first 2 cases per day were included. So you could sit in a giant bean bag chair and Jenna would bring you cold beers until you told her to stop. We never got charged for more beer, but I think that with a different crew perhaps an East Coast crew we could have done a lot more damage. We could lounge around, watch movies, go down to the ski lodge for apre-ski, or sit in the hot tub, steam room, sauna, or pool... by about 8 (5 of the 7 nights) our chef would have a ridiculous 4-5 course meal prepared for us.... it was amazing. It was all you could do not to pass out after the meal.

The most amazing day of the trip was the day that we hired a guide to take us back country. All of the photos of the trip are uploaded on my FaceBook page. The guy got us into some sweet, sweet untracked powder. My only complaint that day was of the 4 of us in the group, I was the most skilled and probably the only expert (besides the guide). He took us on some fairly easy (mostly lift accessible trails to gauge our talent). And we immediately had one guy say that he couldn't hang and back out. Then we hit the hardcore back country stuff (which wasn't all that hardcore if you just listened to the guide). We took a lift to the edge of one of the French resorts and then hiked (about 500m) to the French / Swiss border and dropped into a untracked bowl heading into Switzerland... again it was amazing, but I was the only on that could keep pace with the guide, so we ended up having to wait a couple times. I'm not complaining, but if I could do the trip again, I would set it up so that I was with only expert riders when we hired the guide. So that the mountain guide was pushing us the whole time. Basically the only real rule was, never get ahead of the guide. This was a important rule that prevented you from riding off a cliff, starting an avalanche, or falling to your death in a crevice. Other than that we were out to have fun. So, we needed to ride down to this Swiss village and catch a bus back to France (where we could access a lift again) Since we were delayed, we missed the bus in the Swiss village and had to get out chef to come pick us up in one of the vans. So we had a nice lunch and waited for our rescue. We made it back on the mountain around 2 and had time for one more back country run. The one girl in the group quit and it left just me, Andrew, and the guide. We again took lifts to the edge of the resort and started to hike again. This time across the spine of the mountains between two valleys. This was hard work, and at one point the guide was wearing his skies, carrying my snowboard in his arms, and had Andrew's skies on his back. I was using the guides ski poles to walk so that I wouldn't post hole in the snow, while he carried ALL of our gear. So we get to the top of a small bowl that funnels into a chute and then out into another open bowl. It had other tracks in it, but you could still find some nice fresh powder, it was amazing. I think you can see in my photos, the initial tracks and then the steep drop into the chute, with just tons of powder built up in there.

So, my thought on the whole trip is that it is one that I want to do again, and I want to bring the crew from NJ on this trip to France. The house we were in held 11, and the one connected to it holds another 8. We could just do adults, but you could bring the kids because Jenna (our house girl) will also baby-sit during the day (for a fee), she also will do your laundry, and I'm not sure about any other services that she might offer. You would have to discuss that with her. I think that we could swing some reasonable flights to Geneva from NYC and once you are in the house, the cost of the trip is actually a bargain. (More expensive with kids, but still totally worth it). If anyone is interested in doing a catered chalet in the future, let me know because I will keep in touch with Jon up at Chamonix for additional trips out there.

There you have it, the most amazing snowboarding trip of all time. Ciao, Joe

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