Category Archives: deux alpes

Gnarled Vineyards and Snow Like Icing

There are no pictures for one part of this post because my camera was doing a weird thing where it had lines across the image. Kind of as if they were being taken by a surveillance camera. It seemed to go away after I charged it more, though, so I hope that my good digital Canon friend is not dying on me.

On Saturday, assistant friends Kat, Leslie, Jamie, and  Gearoid journeyed by train from their villages and towns to Valence. I showed off our sprawling park and its deer and exotic bird inhabitants, our kiosque, our giant church, our Maison des Tetes (House of the Heads) covered in stone faces, our blue-hued pastries, our Suisses, our charming streets, and…well, that was Valence. So since they were in the area for the day we took the train to Tain l’Hermitage and I basically recreated the tour seen in this post, with the additional of a surreal moment with a man on a unicycle and another with a funeral. We ate chocolate at the Valrhona shop, walked across the river to Tournon, and then attempted some hiking in the vineyards overlooking Tain. However, I didn’t learn my lesson from last time and ended up leading us on some wrong turns and along some dangerous precipices. The grape plants are still dormant and looked like grasping skeleton hands coming out of the ground.

It was a lovely day and made me wish that I saw more of the assistants outside the Drôme/Ardèche area. Not that I don’t enjoy the company of the Valence metro area assistants; they are awesome. I just feel like I should make more of an effort to see the other cool people I’ve met in France. It’s astounding that I came to Valence knowing absolutely no one in the area and have ended up meeting all these interesting and unique people. I hope I will be able to stay in touch when I go back to the States.

Ski lift at Deux Alpes.

Ski lift at Deux Alpes.

On Sunday, I caught an early bus to Deux Alpes with Canadian assistant/super good snowboarder Lauren. The weather was beautiful: sunny and warm. We started out on some tame blue slopes before heading over to the bigger area of the mountain. Unlike last time I went to Deux Alpes, there was no ice and the snow was thick like frosting on a cake.

On the glacier at the top of Deux Alpes.

On the glacier at the top of Deux Alpes.

I think I did pretty well, with only a few dramatic falls. Most of these were coming off the lift. I’m convinced the lifts were running faster than last time and practically swept me off my feet while getting on them and threw me on my face down a steep incline at the end. Maybe I am exaggerating. There was a bigger crowd than last time and the internationals were out in force. I heard a lot of English accents and German. I think they were on winter break. This was nice in a way because I was far from being the worst person on the slopes. Then again, people were crashing and careening wildly all over the place, so it was a little scary at times.

Deux Alpes seen from the telepherique. (Sorry about the scratches from the glass.)

Deux Alpes seen from the téléphérique. (Sorry about the scratches from the glass.)

I though about how it was to go skiing on Spring Break in the States in New Mexico with the hordes from Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, most sporting sweatshirts from their respective universities. Everyone is generally bad or average, except for a few standouts (I think my brother Tim is usually speeding along pretty well). I miss it, though. I fit in well with the average skiers and snowboarders. I know it’s weird, but I’m never really concerned with going fast. This is contrary to the whole reason for snowboarding I guess, but I really just like the feeling of turning the board through the snow, the sound of the edges, and the mountains stretched out in front of me.

The Alps seen from Deux Alpes.

The Alps seen from Deux Alpes.

I should mention that the sandwich I packed for lunch was delicious . I made it on something called a “1900” bread with Tomme Blanche cheese and tomatoes. We sat on a ledge overlooking the Alps (don’t worry, it was a short drop) and I thought about how much I’m going to miss being two hours from snow covered mountains and being able to buy amazing cheese and bread. Then again, I’m ready for a new adventure. France is beautiful and I love it, but I’m actually getting more excited than nervous about going back to the States and looking for a job. It might and will probably be hard, yet I love discovering new places and people and can’t wait to see where my life takes me next.

The town of Deux Alpes.

The town of Deux Alpes.

I had a well-earned beer at the bottom of the station in the town of Deux Alpes and then got on the bus back to Valence. The scenery on the way back was stunning, like something out of a Thomas Moran painting.

The weather is getting warmer and I’m sure I’ll be on more adventures soon. I might be going to Marseille this month and will certainly try to work in more snowboarding.

Les Deux Alpes

Last Saturday, January 17, I went snowboarding with Lauren, an assistant from Canada, at Les Deux Alpes. Les Deux Alpes is the second oldest ski resort in France and is southeast of Grenoble. It’s a beautiful station and I don’t think I’d ever been to a ski resort that didn’t have any trees on its slopes.

It was very, very cold. There also hadn’t been much recent snow, so it was rather icy. I accidentally slid into a small valley of ice on our first run. I’m still not very good at turning quickly on the narrow, crowded runs. However, I can tell I’m getting better and didn’t have any spectacular falls like usual. I mainly lost my edge when trying to turn fast on the ice. Les Deux Alpes is kind of strange in that there are really scary black runs near the bottom and you have to go up higher to find the easier green and blue runs. In theory, it should be no problem to get up to the top. There are 51 lifts at Les Deux Alpes. However, all of these lifts seemed to be in the same place. I was able to count nine visible lifts while on one. It was ridiculous. The map for Les Deux Alpes is also rather useless. There are no markers for runs, so it’s easy to end up on a different slope then you thought you were. This happened a few times when a blue slope we were going down was suddenly red (there were poles on the side of the trail showing the color). I tried to ignore these and carefully S-turned down the 90 degree angles.

Due to the conditions, the crowds were light and we never had to wait in a line. Les Deux Alpes has a cool lift system where you get a card that lets you through a turnstile. You don’t even have to take it out of your jacket, so it must have a chip or something inside. This is unlike the usual stickers you get connected to your zipper.

The most amazing part of Les Deux Alpes was the glacier you can reach by funicular, kind of a metro with one stop. It’s the largest skiable glacier in Europe and is open year round. It was more like ice skating that snowboarding, but absolutely beautiful. I think I helpfully pointed out how beautiful everything was at least once an hour to Lauren (who is snowboarding in this picture).

After several hours of snowboarding, we took a lift down to the village and got drinks at a cafe before catching the bus back to Valence. You can see how it looked to descend the mountain in this picture. Later that night we had dinner at our friend Julia’s apartment, which included two delicious quiches, one with olive and one with eggplant, and salad. I was too exhausted to go out afterward and went to sleep before midnight. A rarity for me.