As I flew into Geneva to meet my Kiwi friend Neil for a weeks snowboarding in the Chamonix valley of the French Alps I couldn't quite contain the excitement, little did I know that the holiday would far exceed all of the expectations I had laid upon it.
We drove from Geneva to the Alps at night and the excitment grew as we passed shadows of mountains, heavier and heavier snow falls and noticed great banks of snow piled on the sides of the road. We arrived in our resort - Argentiere - very late and fell straight to sleep with dreams of mountains and fresh powdery snow in our heads.
Waking up did not disappoint, it was a winter wonderland directly out of the window of the hostel room. The view was of snow capped mountains and trees, blue skies and the promise of great snowboarding. We promptly collected our gear and headed out to try out the ski field of Le Tour, and the gentle green pistes (beginners slopes) to start.
I started off with a great hiss and roar, only to be humbled after 3 runs of the beginners slopes. I went to fast too
early and took a massive tumble, I hurt my back pretty badly which affected my boarding for the whole week, luckily I had packed enough pain killers to keep me going.
Our first night in our resort we headed along to the English information session, only to find that there were just 3 natively English speaking people in a hostel of about 400. Lucky for us we made a great bunch of friends at the info session (who were only there as they were looking for a free table to sit at with their drinks) that were more than willing to share the French culture and cuisine with us.
Our holiday was booked through UCPA, the French Youth Hostels, so it was not really surprising that the majority of the 400 people there were French. The package included Accommodation, Food, Hire, Lift Pass and Instruction. It was a great deal and organised very well.
The lessons were a great way to be guided around the slopes that were within our capabilities, Neil and I went to the beginners lessons where our instructor Tibo patiently coached our mixed beginers group. Neil and I were a step up on
the others who hadn't snowboarded before, however we had terrible technique. Tibo set up drills for us and gave us tips and tricks that had us going over jumps in no time (if not really landing them sucessfully) and even saw me head down my first Black Piste (very difficult) by the end of the week.
UCPA also organised extra activites for us during the evenings. One of the activities was snow shoeing. Our little gang headed out on a 1 hour walk to head up a frozen and snowey river to a view of the Argentiere Glacier. It was great to feel like we were floating on top of great big snow drifts. It was hard work after a days snowboarding, but great fun.
Wednesday we took a morning break from snowboarding and headed up the cable car to Aiguille du Midi, for a view of Mt Blanc. Aiguille du Midi is at 3,800m, and the sudden rise to this height made us feel a little dizzy and very cold. We emerged from a cloud covered valley to brilliant sunshine and admired the views of the Alps stretching out to Italy and Switzerland, then warmed ourselves up
with some mulled wine at the highest restaurant.
Our remaining week was spent carving up the slopes, learning more tricks from Tibo and generally exhausting ourselves during the day. In the evenings we then relaxed at UCPA, local bars, singing French kareoke, watching mini ice hockey games and ice climbing and sipping on more mulled wine. There was a great vibe about the Apres Ski.
For our final night we headed to a local restaurant for Cheese Fondue. I have never had anything quite like it, basically it was just bubbling melted cheese that you dip bread into, delicious. We accompanied it with some good French wine and reminised about all of our skiing and snowboarding stories from the week. We ended the meal with a shot of Ginipe, a digestive, to cut through all of the cheese and to get us in the mood to dance the night away.
The final day we headed to the patisserie one last time then had to say our farewells. It was extremely hard to leave, we had an amazing holiday with great people, great boarding, great food and spectacular scenery.
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