Before this past December, I had never gone skiing in my life. But, being that learning how to ski is almost a rite of passage for those who live in Switzerland and around the Alps, I had to give it a shot.
The night before heading to the slopes, F and I took a little trip to Decathalon, a nearby ski store, to get our ski gear: warm gloves, ski goggles, beanies, under armour, and the warmest jacket and pants I have ever had the pleasure of wearing (Why didn’t anyone tell me about ski pants during that first, brutal winter I spent in Chicago?). F chose a really sleek black jacket and a pair of bright neon green pants (his green, grey, and black-striped beanie went really well with the whole ensemble). I got a longer grey jacket with salmon accents and a pair of bright salmon-colored pants to match.
F‘s cousin and his wife took us both to Les Contamines, about 45 minutes or so outside of Geneva, in the South of France. The Swiss ski resorts are terribly overpriced but, thankfully, the slopes in France are just as good and much more affordable. Plus, since winter hasn’t really arrived yet, Les Contamines was supposed to be one of the few ski resorts with open slopes for skiers of all skill levels.
We arrived and the first thing we had to do was rent the skis and ski boots. Anytime I have to deal with size or weight here in Europe, I get totally stumped. The man at the counter asked me my skill level and weight (I guess that determines the kind of ski you use); I replied, “Well… 100 and… 125.” F laughed out loud, reminding me that weight is measured in kilos and that if I weighed 125 kilos I would look quite different. The man behind the counter thought it was pretty funny, too. He handed me my skis and a pair of boots, size 36 (US 6). I could barely get my foot into the boot so I decided to size up and go with the 37, my match made in heaven. Ski boots are supposed to be tight around your foot, leaving little wiggle room, so that you have more control over your movement.
Then we made our way to the resort, finally, and after paying for the entrance and picking up some much-needed ski insurance, we went in and got right onto the gondola to make our way up the mountain.
One ski lesson later I was able to get going on my own, turn, stop, and get myself up a steep hill while wearing skis. Unfortunately, no beginner tracks were open since there hadn’t been much snow the night before, so my opportunities to practice were limited. In fact, most of the snow that was on the ground was artificial, my private instructor told me. Still, I enjoyed our rides on the gondolas and our lunch break at the top of the mountain, where we just kicked back and soaked in the sun.
At the end of the day I was all pooped out and I even fell asleep in the car on the ride home; the next day my legs were super sore, too! But that’s the name of the game when it comes to skiing though, isn’t it?
F enjoyed himself but he did comment on the extreme steepness of the slopes in the Alps. He had been skiing a few times before and he admitted to feeling a bit daunted halfway down one of the slopes. After seeing them for myself, I was not surprised when I heard about the Schumacher and Merkel incidents. Skiing is no joke.
We’ll probably make another trip up to the mountains sometime soon, but this time we’ll be going to a different resort called Val Cenis. Val Cenis is known to have “the longest green ski run in Europe” (Green is the color they use to decode tracks for beginners) – a full 10 kilometer run. They call it the escargot because it allows you to ski at the pace of a snail and just cruise along, all the way down the slope – perfect!