Rêves Blancs

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February 8th 2013
Published: February 22nd 2013
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8 February

In the train, I almost fell asleep because did not sleep during the night. A certain distance away from Lyon, patches of snow started appearing and at last there was snow everywhere, but I saw no mountains yet because it was dark – but I felt them and was very anxious about how my skiing would go. The previous “mountain” skiing in Sigulda was a perfect exercise, of course, but it was just a low swell of the ground. Now, I am more than certain that I’d be a failure in Chamonix had I not skied previously in Sigulda.

The accommodation (hostel, or sort of guest house) Chamoniard Volant is a bit off the centre but very close to the bus stop. On pure economic grounds, I booked the cheapest bed in 17-person room with a very low ceiling. Apart from such a crowd of people, remoteness from the centre, and loud talks in the kitchen it was a good place; by the way, there was no kettle in the kitchen so I boiled water for tea in a saucepan. In the night, I woke up several times and put on clothes because it was chilly, even cold.

In the morning I went to the kitchen and casually glanced at the window and on seeing the snow-covered peaks got so enthusiastic about the whole affair that decided to waste no time and immediately go. The whole area was covered with many centimeters’ deep snow, and truly I felt already happy and satisfied. Chamonix nests in a valley, and to the left and the right there are mountain ridges, with Mont Blanc, though not too dominant-looking, exciting one’s courage, curiosity, and feeling of adventure. I hope some day I will summit it, and definitely return to Chamonix in summer. It is as of present unclear whether I manage to go skiing in Alps this season, but next season I will definitely take my girl and maybe a couple of friends and spend a week or two just skiing. Make it three! In Russia, there are plenty of ski resorts, but I still have to browse information about them and make a decision.

Firstly, I collected my Chamonix lift pass (3 days, 124 Euro) at Place Mer De Glace, then collected the rented skis from Chamonixski (it is situated also off-centre, so I had to walk a distance; I booked them online with a very significant reduction). I found the shop purely by luck just moving in its supposed direction, trying to remember the map I saw earlier.

The shop assistant prepared my skis and boots, adjusted the poles, and I said everything was perfect (this time I had boots size 47, because size 46 in Sigulda was too tight causing a blister). He also guessed that I was Russian (by what, I wonder) and said he was studying Russian, while I said I spoke very poor French though I studied it at the institute.

While going to the ski shop, I saw the lifts and now headed to them, with the equipment in my hands; I put the boots on at the Brevent lift, getting more and more excited because I was going to ski in the Mountains! Suppose I fell and broke something, or collided with somebody, or damaged the skis? (The shop assistant took my bank card details, apparently, for security).

As I entered the spectacular lift cabin and was carried up to the spectacular top, my heart rate quickly accelerated when I looked down at the fast diminishing town. Near the top, clouds obscured the view. One, two, three, ready, steady, go!

I skied very gently, seeing nothing but whiteness in front of me, behind, above and below me – in all the multitude of directions there was white snow or white clouds. Later I found out that this piste was a blue one. I lost control and fell, though tried my best to remain stable and descend as carefully as possible. It was only several minutes after the fall that I noticed blood on my thumb, thinking little of it, and then scrutinized the spot and found half an inch of skin torn not too deep. Somehow the ski pole pressed on the thumb and displaced this tiny area; I guess one has to be very careful about the method to hold one's poles, and wear durable gloves (mine were thin and were also torn). Blood rushed rather slowly but continuously, though I managed to stop it tying up both my gloves. I was disappointed, but decided to continue skiing, even though for a couple of descents only. I don’t suppose the falling as such was at all dangerous.

Then I fell once again, and this time had to tie the wound up even tighter. The advisability of further skiing was doubtful; I returned by the chair lift and saw a first aid post. A doctor bandaged my thumb (he had only a thumb left on his right hand, which arouse gloomy thoughts in me). The “operation” was free of charge, but the doctor advised seeking medical attention for “reparation” of the thumb. I was unsure as to that, because I’ve paid for ski lifts and skis and was disposed to ski the remaining two days no matter what happened; and had not budgeted for medical treatment. This time, I went back to the guest house. Now, it is a most difficult task going in ski boots on town streets, especially if one is not accustomed and is simply tired. I walked with obvious effort, and though my shoes were in the rucksack, I did not change into them.

In the evening I went out to find gloves, bought none because of the price (shops were starting to close already), and on the way back enjoyed the dark outlines of mountains and tiny shiny stars. A paradise on earth, sort of. I wonder how many other paradises are there on our planet. It is a single vast paradise, although a hell in places.

Before going to sleep, I studied the information about ski areas in Chamonix and decided to go to Flegere the next day, because the bus stop was just two steps away from the hostel. A perfect choice that would turn out.

9 February

In the morn, I bought nice gloves for a significantly reduced price and also a bandage (I needed it in case I displaced the old one during skiing, so that I could dress the wound myself; a good idea will be to take a disinfectant next time). The skies were blue and sunny and Mont Blanc looked its best.

It must be noted that in many shops in Lyon and Chamonix paying by card is allowed to a certain amount only (for instance, six or ten Euros), but though gloves and bandage prices were lower than the limit, the shop assistants allowed the transaction.

I waited some twenty or thirty minutes for bus to Flegere and found there a long queue at the lift, slowly moving at the speed of 55 persons a lift. There were only two cabins (or perhaps even one, not sure) taking 6 minutes to lift and apparently 6 minutes to descend. I imprinted the spectacular views into my permanent memory and started down… Again, at a certain point I lost control over the skis and just tried to keep balance (which I’m good at in certain circumstances, because I went in for Nordic skiing for several years) and decelerate. It was all white before my eyes but soon I stopped. After a small level patch there was a descent, and somehow I reached the bottom without incidents or accidents; gradually got accustomed and skied without pauses for about two hours and a half (green routes Trappe and Libellules). Well, psychologically I’m now ready to try blue pistes (because in the classification they are labeled as easy) because the technique of careful descent at small angles and low speeds is almost unfailing; one can master any kind of piste only by trying them an indefinite number of times.

The panorama from the piste was unbelievable – actually, mountains soared on all sides. In addition to my other mountain experiences, alpine skiing added another hue, I perceived them from a totally new viewpoint. I almost lost my telephone when it accidentally dropped from my pocket when I was fiddling around with my pass. In summer, this area might be unbeatable.

I made a great step towards ‘professionalism’ (being a ‘professional’ amateur) actually without paying any cent for teaching. Although, I did watch several youtube videos in advance, unable to believe that I’d ever be able to carve like that. The second day in Chamonix was a discovery of myself, of some hidden strength in me, and a great desire to learn new things.

10 February

The third day, I went to Flegere again. This time there was even a larger queue (maybe because it was Sunday), taking more than half an hour. Skiing was excellent, I did not want to stop and go home, and each time I said this time is final, and I go; no, this time is final, and I go. It was not enough. Financial considerations did not allow extending my stay.

No sooner had I thought of making rapid progress and ate a Twix than I fell once – twice – thrice. The third time was rather dangerous, because I glided down fast on my hunkers and tried to stop by means of my hands. Gloves saved me from grazing the skin. I told myself to calm down, pull myself up and continued much better. Without doubt, it was a perfect day, and in the evening I removed the old bandage and replaced it by the new one.

I took bus back (hugely overcrowded) and then had to walk to Chamonixski (the bus stop being far) to return the equipment. I said, moi, j’ai skie bien, je reviendra a Chamonix, merci beaucoup, c’est parfait. Unexpectedly, I did shopping this evening in a satisfied state of mind, bought a jar of honey, Weleda cosmetics, wanted to buy a map of Genève and an infant book in French but credit card was not accepted.

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