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the alps

the alps

the alps

the alps

the alps

the alps

the alps

the alps

the alps

the alps

the alps

 

 

April 2, 2001: A weekend of snowboarding in the alps
This was an experience. I have been snowboarding seven days in my life; five were this season, and two were the weekend I went in france.

The other two don't hardly count, as they were from two years back. I had no idea what I was doing, my bindings were messed up and I was recovering from a rapid-fire succession of a motorcycle accident and two bike wrecks. After those traumatic two days, my doctor sent me through a cat scan to figure out why I was suffering with weeks of migraine headaches and ringing in my ears. I prefer to forget that experience.

That kind of trauma-related medical attention is nothing new to me, of course. If I get any more x-rays this year, I'll be able to plug myself into the power grid and single-handedly solve california's energy crisis.

Basic snowboarding is simple and easy to pickup. Don't be afraid to start off with some lessons, but get them from a real instructor. Your friends may promise to teach you, but people who know how to snowboard don't necessarily know how to teach you how. Once I took some real lessons, I started progressing really quickly.

Possibly not quickly enough to warrant flying across ten time zones to go in the alps, but it turned out well enough in the end. And despite the sound of it, it's much cheaper to go in europe than in lake tahoe: about half as much for the lift ticket alone.

The friends I went with: max (whose family I stayed with), yanaŽl, jonathan, his wife malika, her sister tahina and the physical comedian gabriel, were all a lot better than me, so I struggled to keep up. The french commonly get eight to twelve weeks of vacation each year, so they can afford to go to the slopes more often, and for longer trips. In fact, as we drove up early saturday morning, most of the skiers there were headed home after from a week of skiing already. When they do work, the french have a 35 hour work week. That's just plain ridiculous.

In the south of france, like the south of everywhere, the people are warmer and closer. This is a bit awkward for a northern american with northern european genes, but I made the attempt to play along. First and foremost, you immediately kiss everyone you meet three times, usually before hearing their name, as in, "this is my wife, kiss her repeatedly."

This frequent kissing was an interesting thing, but kept me so distracted I had to keep asking later who it was that I had been greeting. I realized later that about half the people I met I'd never even heard their name.

Saturday on the slopes it was so foggy that the snow blended into the sky, and the chair lifts ahead slowly vanished into the air like the cable cars on california street on some chilly june afternoon. Most of the drama of the mountain was only revealed the next day, when things cleared up.

The resort we went to was a decently large place that sprawled across several peaks in a squaw valley like arrangement. Unlike most tahoe resorts, there weren't the clearly defined runs that cut cleanly between banks of trees. Instead, lifts drop you off at various points on the mountain, and you have the option of following the carefully cordoned off pathways or blazing your own trail across the untouched powder.

It didn't feel that high, but we were above the tree line. This made for a foreign looking expanse of smooth, white rolling hills as far as you could see. At times on the way down, it looked like we were jumping off into bottomless caverns, and at other times, it looked to be too flat to keep moving, as if my sense of altitude change was all thrown off. It wasn't the drugs, as I didn't overdose until sunday. Possibly it was the white on white environment that afforded no discernible horizon.

There's more to be said about the weekend of snowboarding, but that will have to fit into another story, so check back tomorrow.

More information about snowboarding, culture, customs and drugs:

buy me buy me buy me buy me buy me buy me buy ime buy me

Where to ski and snowboard 2001
Walking in the alps
Learn to speak french
In the south of france
Rick steves' france
Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste
The french way: aspects of behavior, attitudes and customs
The essential guide to prescription drugs
© 2001 the treasure island experiment. All rights reserved.