Day 3: Skiing in the Rain
Instead of going to Lyon for the last day of my solo trip, I decided to stay in Chamonix for two more days to go skiing. When I looked out my window in the morning, it was foggy and it had started snowing. Not the most ideal conditions for going skiing, but I was determined to hit the slopes nonetheless. Before I went skiing, I went to the town center to pick up some more ski gear because I didn’t want to wear the same long underwear and socks for 4 days in a row. I also wanted to find an small alpine backpack I could wear while skiing so I could store a packed lunch, my water bottle, and my wallet. Luckily I found some good deals because it was still the winter sale season in France.
When I left for the town center, my roommate was leaving to go skiing. She told me she and another person from the hostel were going to go to Le Balme. I decided not to go there because there weren’t as many easy trails as some of the other stations, and I wasn’t sure if I would even find her there because the ski stations are so big, and because she was a more advanced skier than I was. I ended up going to Les Houches by myself because I heard that station was lower in the valley so there would be more visibility, and that it was family friendly so the ski trails would be good for my level.
It was kind of a long ride to get to the station, so I arrived around noon. I decided to start out on the right side of the mountain because there were more blue trails there. The first run I did was on Chamois, which seemed easy. It was a pretty straight forward blue trail and not difficult at all. Next, I tried La Cha, this seemed like it would be a fun trail, but I struggled with this one. The trail was not well groomed and there was a lot of un-groomed snow that made it difficult to ski. After that I tried Abbaye, another blue trail. This trail ended up being my favorite trail out of all of the ones I tried. It was long, more narrow trail surrounded by trees with the occasional beautiful view of the valley and the other mountains around it.
Around lunchtime I stopped in a café in between Chamois and La Cha and had some tea and a pain au chocolat, plus an apple I sneaked in. The rest of the afternoon I switched off between Chamois and Abbaye, avoiding La Cha. Eventually I got back on La Cha and my second run of that trail was much better than my first. That afternoon, the weather did not get any better and it stayed foggy and rainy. I had to take off my ski goggles because I couldn’t see very well. By the end of the day my pants and gloves were soaking wet, but I didn’t care becuase skiing was so much fun.
An Accidental Challenge
After looking at the map of the ski station in between runs, I decided I would venture to the other side of the mountain for my last run becuase I could ski all the way down to the bottom on the blue trail Aillouds and take the bus from there. This part of the station had much wider, more open trails than the other side. After looking at the map it seemed like I could take that same blue trail all the way down. When I was skiing, I must have made a wrong turn becuase I ended up on a red trail, I later learned was Mur des Epines. Since it was the end of the day and I was comfortable skiing, I did not panic, and instead accepted the challenge. I even saw a kids’ ski class go down and decided to follow them for a little bit. I thought if a kids’ ski class is going down this trail, I should be able to handle it. It was only after I saw how fast they were going, that I noticed their vests said competition course on them and I realized maybe it wouldn’t be as easy as I thought. This trail was steep and challenging, but fun. I fell a couple of times and had to slide down the slope horizontally a couple of times, but I made it down the mountain in one piece! I think the difficulty level of red trails in France are in between the blue and black trails in the US, so I was pretty proud of myself at the end of the day.
Back at the hostel that night was another concert. This time it was a French band called Paprika Paradiz who played Romani Music. They were really fun! Here’s their website if you want to check them out: http://www.paprikaparadiz.com/musique/
After they finished some of the Flemish students who were also staying at the hostel prepared some of their own songs to perform. I was unsure about staying in a hostel because of a mediocre experience I had in Paris, but this time I was glad to be in a hostel becuase of the community there.
Day 4: My Last Day Skiing In Chamonix
On my last day in Chamonix, the weather did not improve. It was still foggy and grey with a little bit of rain. Luckily it did not rain as much as it did the day before so I returned home dry. After comparing our previous days of skiing in the fog, my roommate and another French guy from the hostel decided to come along with me to Les Houches where the visibility was better. Even though we went to the mountain as a group, we ended up going our own separate ways to ski because we all had different levels of experience. I went back to my favorite side of the mountain to start my day and warm up.
After a few blue runs, I decided to try a red trail, on purpose. I saw this trail from the chairlift and it seemed like it would be a good one for me to try. It was called Fontaines. My first run in this trail went surprisingly well. I did fall once or twice, but I was expecting that. It was still before lunch so the trail wasn’t skied on very much yet, which made it easy for me. The only real challenge on that trail was that it was very steep.
We were supposed to all meet for lunch, but there was some miscommunication so I ended up eating alone, which was not as bad as it seems. I sat outside and ate a hummus sandwich I brought from home along with some fruit as I enjoyed the scenery. I also stopped in the café for some tea to warm up a little bit.
When I got back on the slopes something weird happened. It was almost like my skiing was getting worse. I was falling a lot on blue trails and my form wasn’t very good. This made me discouraged because I really wanted to have a good experience on my last day skiing in the Alps. I later realized my problem was because my boots were too loose, one of my buckles was even undone! After tightening my boots I forced myself to go back on Fontaines, even though I was struggling on the blues. This run wasn’t as good as my first on that trail, but it was better than how I was skiing just prior. After adjusting my boots and skiing on a different trail, I got back into my groove.
After another tea break, I decided to explore the other side of the mountain some more. This time I was able to stay on Aillouds and didn’t get lost. I also decided to try the red trail Mur des Epines once more, which wasn’t any easier the second time around. After that I decided to go back to my favorite trails to end the day. By that time my legs and my knees were starting to hurt becuase I had been skiing all day, not just half a day. I decided to get one more run in of Abbaye before I left because I wanted my last run to be on my favorite trail. At the end of the trail I discovered something I hadn’t noticed before. It was another path on the left to get down to the chair lift. I had always been going right and struggling with a steep un-groomed hill. The path I took this time wasn’t hard at all, but super fun and smooth. I think the other path was where Abbaye met a red trail. At the end of the run I was satisfied. My legs hurt, but I felt like I was just flying so I didn’t care.
My most embarrassing fall of this trip was not on the trails, but instead coming off of the chair lift. After my last run, I had to take the lift back up the mountain so I could get on the gondola down to the bus stop. I was exhausted and not very observant at the end of the day, which caused me to fall. Before I got off the chairlift, one of my skis got caught on the ramp and I tripped and fell off the chair. My ski came off and the chair bumped my head as it passed over me. I quickly scrambled out of the way so I wouldn’t get hit again and the guy in the control room stopped the lift and helped me get up. Good thing I was wearing a helmet …
That night there was no concert so people either went to bed early, went out to a bar, or stayed in the community area of the hostel to stay and chat. I didn’t go out becuase I was leaving early the next morning, and instead stayed to practice my French with the acquaintances I had made during my short stay.
It still feels like it was a dream visiting the Alps. Before I went I thought you needed to be a rich experienced skier to vacation there, but it’s possible to go on a budget and not be an expert. I’m grateful that this experience was my first solo holiday and I hope to come back someday.
Let me know what you think and leave a comment below! Does anyone else have a memorable solo vacation?
P.S. Check out this vlog I made about my time in Chamonix and Annecy here ! Annecy blog post coming next 😉