Before last Monday, I had never seen much snow.
I had walked in a patch or two at Mt Kosciuszko many years ago, so I had an idea of the texture and temperature of snow, but somehow, this was different.
Snow, to me, is a special kind of magic.
It falls from the heavens as tiny flakes that can either melt into nothingness or remain and form sheets of white bliss over mountains and villages.
In the mornings, it is hard and icy, but after only a few hours it completely transforms, becoming soft and yielding, powdery and somehow, at the same time, wet.
Against my logic, you can walk on snow and find yourself sunk to the waist, but then glide over the very same substance with two thin pieces of fiberglass strapped to your feet. Or, you can ball it up into a sphere and throw it, watching as it fragments in the air, and then pick up the pieces and build a solid, towering structure resistant to all but heat (and my host sister).
Snow is magic.
Two Sundays ago, my wonderful host family took me to the French Alps. In five days, I had more fun in the snow than a person with Reynaud’s ever should.
On Monday and Tuesday, I decided to go skiing.
Now, this could have been a very bad idea, as I am A) not an athletic person at all; B) extremely clumsy; and C) not covered by my travel insurance company for any activity involving my favourite form of water. However, it didn’t end in disaster – in fact, I had a heap of fun.
I was placed on the beginners’ slope with a whole lot of very small children, which wasn’t as demoralising as I originally expected, surprisingly enough. I’m not a big fan of kids, but even I have to admit that tiny children squashed into tiny ski suits on tiny skis are a wee bit adorable, especially when their helmets are designed as dragons, knights or bats.
I had been advised to take a lesson with an instructor, which ended up being a fantastic idea, despite the cost. I was given private tuition – but only because there was a unanimous agreement that giving me instructions in French would be a bad idea for all – by a very friendly and chatty man who loved Australia. When he found out where I was from, he jokingly asked for my hand in marriage for a visa into Australia. I politely declined, so, dad, you’re not a father-in-law. Be proud.
Within that hour, I was surprised to learn that skiing is, in fact, way harder than it looks, but gives you an immense thrill. I’d never really understood why anyone would want to pay a stack of money to slide down mountains at rapid speeds, but I now know how unbelievably fun it can be. You are always at the cusp of a disaster – at least, I was – and that, combined with the incredible speed and feeling of flying, leaves you heady and breathless when you reach the bottom. I love it.
I wore at lot more than this in the snow, but you can become surprisingly hot while skiing.
Snowshoeing (Faire des raquettes)
On Wednesday, the family decided to mix it up a bit and go for a
walk hike trek in the snow. At first, I was a little wary, but after being told that there would be fantastic scenery, I enthusiastically joined the group.
Armed with a camera, a backpack with enough food to feed a small French army (it held a baguette with the top poking out through through the zip, so I felt that was appropriate) and two giant, blue, plastic, boat-shaped snowshoes, we headed up in the ski lift to Mont de la Chambre, 2850m up.
I suit them, don’t you think?
After strapping on the shoes (which took a considerable amount of time, might I add, due to my clumsy fingers) I gazed around at my surroundings. It’s funny how dirt and ice piled on a couple of hills can be so very beautiful.
Over the next few hours, we zigzagged down the mountain past skiers and snowboarders, entrapped in a bowl of pristine, snow capped mountains. The beautiful view (see featured photo) accompanied us as we dropped 1000m in altitude. It was exhausting, but incredible.
Important moments along the journey include:
-Picnicking on the side of an extremely snowy mountain, with only ice and air beyond the steep drop just by our feet. This is something that needs to be added to everyone’s bucket list, as it is the best way to soak up the view. Directly underneath that, you need to add “explain what a bucket list is to someone who doesn’t speak English.” The odd look you receive is worth all the difficulties you undertake explaining the term, trust me.
-Earning the fond nickname “Boulette,” after getting trapped in fresh snow and tumbling off the side of a mountain after thinking that sliding down on my bottom would be a better way to descend than walking down a steep slope. “Boulette,” literally translates to “Ball and chain,” and essentially means “someone who is incredibly clumsy and forgetful but laughs about it, and allows others to laugh with them.” It’s nice to know that it only takes a week-and-a-half for people to discover the true me.
-When the ski lifts stopped working so we had to walk down the side of the ski slopes for an extra hour (it felt like forever).
-That amazing feeling of satisfaction when we reached the bottom and realised it was all over. Miscellaneous fun in the snow
Along with skiing and walking in snow, I felt that making a snowman was an integral part of a snow trip. After an hour, many thrown snowballs and one failed attempt (after my youngest host sister knocked it down), we made a snowgirl only a head shorter than me.
We named her Crystal, because snow flakes made us think of sparkling diamonds. (I made this with a ten-year-old, remember.)
We also made a snowball roughly the size and shape of a Cyberman’s helmet, but in the spirit of our last day in the Alps, we rolled it down a hill and watched it crumble into snowflakes.
Featured photo is the incredible view from our picnic spot.