24 January 2011

Allons skier!

Like many Parisians, I have left the hustle and bustle of the city, its crowded, angry metro, and its polluted air to breathe the cold, fresh mountain air of the Alps. Skiing is a ritual experience for many French through the months of January to March. When you have the Alps in your backyard, why wouldn't you? The most popular moment comes when the kiddies get their two week vacation in February from school. If you plan on skiing in France, it is best to start by researching when the vacances scolaires are scheduled, lest you wish to share the slopes with hundreds of children.  But if you are going to be in France during the winter months, skiing should definitely be something that you take part in.  Call it a sporty cultural experience.

I went with Fab to his friend's apartment in La Tania, which is in the Alps and very close to Mont Blanc. La Tania is a ski village in every way. When ski season is over, the town closes up. The restaurants and grocery stores are insanely expensive (ski trip planning tip 2: try to bring your food with you and cook; you'll save money!) The most bizarre part about this town is that it is an enclave of British! All the signs are in English, the Eurostar comes directly to this area from London, and they even changed the name to La Tania because the previous French way of spelling it was too difficult for the Brits to pronounce! La Tania is part of the bigger ski region calles les 3 Vallées, and is a popular ski destination.

La Tania, France

Now, I, unlike many French people, did not grow up skiing every winter. I maybe skiied 3 or 4 times before turning 10, and most of those experiences were in the Appalachians, which are lower in elevation overall than the Alps. I hated skiing. I pizza'ed most of the way down, and then begged to go ice skating. Fast forward 17 years, and I find that being in a relationship with a Frenchy means I probably have to go ski. I told Fab my perilous childhood relationship with skiing, and how I hated it, and I think he was dreading our ski trip at Valloire (another big destination) almost as much as I was. I strapped on my skis, took a deep breath, and went on my way. And it was actually fun! Turns out, all of my years figure skating helped me with my turns on the slopes since you gotta do edges. Fabien immediately thought I was lying about my ski experience. We ended up having a fantastic time.

This year has been a little different. To me, the slopes here are more difficult. Those slopes, paired with icy snow, kinda scared me. And then there are the Brits, who I firmly believe are drunk by the 9 AM slope opening, and who seem to have no slope etiquette. They try to knock people over, they ski as if no one else was around them, and did I mention they are probably drunk? After the first day, I was hurting. I fell a couple of times on what was virtually ice, and it left a mark. The second day was even worse in terms of slippery, icy slopes, so now on the third day of skiing, I am coming to you live from my bed, writing a blog on my Blackberry, with a sprained ankle. I, am a champion.

At least the food has been good. You come to ski to workout, but not to lose weight. It is important to keep this in mind, especially when you are with French friends. Ski = cheese dishes because the most popular ski destinations are in Haute Savoie, which is known for its fondue, raclette, and tartiflette. And this is precisely what you will eat after a productive day on the slopes. Raclette is generally served as a huge wedge of cheese with a heating unit to melt it. Modern day machines involve slices of cheese that you plop down on a flat, non-stick surface, and then scrape onto an individual dish. Bref, you get yourself some melted cheese, and place it on some cold cuts and sausages, as well as boiled, peeled potatoes. (See? No weight loss.) The next dish most Americans are familiar with : fondue. Except here, you don't do as the Melting Pot would do...with apples, broccoli, and carrots in addition to crusty bread. Here, it is cheese and bread. When I bought carrots and apples last night, I got bizarre looks and mumblings of how I don't respect ze cheese. Maybe so, but I also need fiber. The last dish is tartiflette. You take boiled, skinned potatoes, and slice them. You then put a layer of reblochon cheese, lardons, sauteed onions, and then cover with more potatoes and a final layer of cheese. You then bake in the oven until golden brown. I insisted on a green salad, because again, fiber.

All in all, I love being in the mountains.  Even though this trip ended in injury, skiing is a great way to see the legendary Alps, and practice your French if you go along with friends.  But mostly, it is a way to fit in with the French and enjoy life à la française.

1 comment:

  1. You are not only a trooper for your skiing adventure with drunken Brits, but also for typing all this on a fucking Blackberry. You are my hero. <3