January 16th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 152

Today was pretty standard here in Chamonix.  We had a nice long morning all working on a few things and then headed out for some skiing.  We really just wanted a workout, so we headed up to La Tour in order to do a nice climb in the trees.  We made our way to the back side of La Tour and put our skins on for about an hours climb back up to mid mountain.  Once there we sat at the lift station and had a nice lunch.

After lunch we decided we had exercised enough and we should get some downhill turns in.  Peter really wanted to show Stacie where we had skied the other day with Chris, so we headed back over to see if we could find our way on our own.  After a couple of mistakes we found the right path and had fun bouncing through the trees again.

Peter getting ready to jump off whatever he can find

A rare sighting of Stacie on the Daily Dump

After a few more runs it was getting late, so we decided to head home and start packing up.  Tomorrow is moving day.  We are leaving Chamonix and heading about 15 minutes up the valley to Argentiere, which is a smaller village right at the base of Grand Montets.  

I had to run up to the ski shop to replace my boots for the third time because they were killing my feet.  I am really hopeful this is the last swap I need.  

Chamonix has been a great stop, much better than anticipated, but it's time to move on....



January 15th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 151c

Bluebird powder day in Chamonix

Getting blown off the mountain yesterday was no fun, but it did mean we received fresh new snow and because most of the lifts were closed in the afternoon we were going to have a foot of fresh untracked powder today.

Chris from Tinderbox picked Peter and I up at 8:30 and we headed straight up to Grand Montets for some powder turns.  The line were starting to form for the first chairs up the mountain, so we loaded our gear up and scurried over to get in line.  

We made it all the way up to the highest open point and then headed way over to the left side of the mountain to find fresh tracks.  We made some really nice turns in a wide open bowl and then headed down into the trees.  Skiing trees in deep powder is so much fun because you move slowly through them and every turn and it's beautiful.  

We made a few runs through trees and then headed to the right side of the mountain for more fresh stuff.  

Peter and Chris waiting for the old man in the back (aka me).  Ice falls in the background.

After about 3 hours we decided to head down the mountain, eat some lunch and move up the valley to La Tour where Chris thought there would be more fresh snow and less people.  We had a great little lunch and then headed up the bubble lift.  La Tour does not look like much on the front side, but as we quickly found out, the back side is where it's at.  In fact it's called the Dark Side because it gets very little sun and therefore the snow stays good longer. 

We had to put our skins on to reach the dark side, but the hike was only 20 mins or so and we were standing over a large treed bowl with no tracks and no people.  This was the beauty of having a guide, he knew all the good spots and more importantly the safe ones.  We ripped off our skins and got ready for some deep powder.  

Ripping skins before heading into the Dark Side

The skiing was unreal.  The snow was deep, the skies were blue and the terrain was some of the best I have ever skied.  Big rolling mounds, little cliffs, perfectly spaced trees, the Dark Side had it all.  

We worked our way down to a cat track and had to put skins back on to make it back to a chair, but none of us cared - it was so much fun.

We spent the rest of the day doing laps on this side of the mountain carving big fresh turns on wide open slopes, bouncing through trees, and watching Peter drop off rocks whenever possible.

Peter dropping another rock - Chris watching over his student in the upper right

We could have kept on going forever, it was one of those perfect ski days that you just don't get that often, but the sun was setting and the lifts were closing - our time was up.

The last lift up

As we were skiing back down to the car the sun was setting over the valley and we could not have been happier with the day and with the overall experience we had with Chris for the past four days.  

The sun setting on Chamonix

We worked our way home, had a nice dinner at home, watched the latest episode of Modern Family and hit the sack early.



January 14th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 150

Today we had a relaxing morning. Everyone woke up and went straight to work. We were planning on doing our third and final day of our ski class with Tinderbox but the conditions didn't look good. After a good morning of work, Peter, Stacie, and Pete had lunch and decided to go try the snow. Lea decided to stay home as she seems to have some telepathic way of telling whether or not the conditions are good. We then decided to head up to Flegree to check out the snow. When we got to mid mountain we could tell that it was not the snow that was the problem, it was the wind. Flegree is one of the few resorts in the valley that does not have any enclosed lifts going out from mid mountain. We hopped on the Index chair and hunched down for the long windy ride to the top. The wind was so strong that the chairs coming down the hill were slightly swinging back and forth. Once at the top we realised that the snow was good but the wind was unbearable and the visibility was poor.   

Pete standing next to the lift status sign (all the lifts are red) 

Pete standing next to the lift status sign (all the lifts are red) 

We got to the top and started our decent down the mountain. The snow was great but the visibility and the wind were unbearable. We started down the main run but soon veered a little bit to the left of the run were the snow was great. Once we got down to mid mountain we packed our skis up and called it a day.  

Another picture of the lift status board 

Another picture of the lift status board 

When we got back to the apartment the we found Lea sitting cozily inside, happy about making the right call to stay home again. After a little more work we had a great beef stew dinner and watched a movie called The Good Lies.  

January 13th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 149

Today Peter and I had another lesson with Chris Fetcher of Tinder Box Ski School.  Chris has an easy going manner works with you to create an agenda tailor made for what you want to learn.  He is a great ski instructor and generally a great guy to be around.  I would highly recommend Tinderbox if you are looking for some instruction or guiding in Chamonix.  We told Chris Peter was really looking to take his skiing to another level so he wants to work on technique along with some lessons on the steep stuff.  

Today we were going to head up to Brevant-Flegree, which is where Red Bull holds the Freeride World Tour event.  It's only about 5 minutes from our apartment, so it was not a long commute.  We started the day with a couple of warm up laps where Chris was really working with Peter on technique and I was trying to pick some things up as well, but old dogs new tricks and all that.  

Then we headed back to mid mountain and had a coffee and jumped on the cable car to the summit.  The cable car connects two peaks with no towers in between - it's amazing engineering, but a little freaky as well.  

Picture courtesy of Dave Miller

Once we were up there, Chris brought us over to the edge of the platform where you could see all the way straight down into town 5000 feet below.

A happy boy

 We traversed across the peaks to a place where we would drop into a steep col for our steeps lesson.  The traverse over was a lesson in and of itself.  At one point we had to drop off a little 3 foot rock onto a small cat track.  Peter popped off it without hesitation.  Although I have been skiing for 30 years and this was not a big drop it gave me a little pause and I delayed for a minute or two before dropping in - sometimes getting older and more cautious sucks.  

We made it to our drop in point and it was indeed steep.  I have skied lines like this in the past but it was a first for Peter.  That did not prove to be a problem as he followed Chris without hesitation making solid turns and having a blast.  

Dropping in - Peter in green, Chris in Blue

We made it down without any problems and had a great time doing it.  There were some great pockets of soft snow mixed in with some ice, so you had to be careful where you turned, but getting a nice turn in was like heaven.  

Peter and Chris giving me their "rad" look

The line was steep by our standards, although not steep by Chamonix standards.  I took out my slope meter just after I took this picture and measured the slope at 43 degrees and this was significantly less steep than the top.  My guess is the top would come in between 45 and 50 degrees.  

Loving the steeps

The green line represents the line we skied down this face, it does not look nearly as steep as it was

A little GoPro clip from the Hotel Face

We did one more run a little further over on the face and then went in for lunch.  Afterwards we did one run and it was apparent that my legs were toast, so I bailed and went home while Chris and Peter carried on.  It was another great day skiing and seeing Peter get the instruction he wants and needs is just awesome.  

Later that night we decided to go out for dinner.  Peter was hungry for a burger so we went back to Poco Loco, which has become a family favorite.  

Upstairs at Poco Loco

We had a nice dinner and made it back to the apartment by 7:00, which is even a little early for us to go to bed, so we watched a Newsroom before heading to bed to read.  Another great day in Chamonix.

Our Tuesday morning started the usual way with science lessons for Lea and landscape design lessons for me. I knew I'd be waking up with an itch to get out and enjoy the mountains, and I also knew Lea would not, so I decided to head out for a solo touring experience.  Lea worked hard and held down the fort.

I headed to Flegere for a nice easy tour on a groomed run. It was a little dicey climbing up while very inexperienced boarders and skiers barreled  down the mountain. One dude decided it would be fun to head full speed toward me and turn at the last possible second. After that I decided it would be safer to wear my helmet on my climb. It went pretty well overall; I only had one guy yell at me in french. I spent the remainder of my climb wondering what he said..."Hey, dumb lady you can't do that", or "That looks like fun!", or "You must really be in great shape to do that!", or "Happy Tuesday to you!".  I don't have a clue, but I kept thinking he'd come back and yell at me again.

It was a fairly short climb up, but there were some great views of the Chamonix valley.  The wind kicked up so I couldn't get a good photo at the top.

In the afternoon Lea and I did our daily grocery run. It's always a long process of walking to the store, translating french, and hauling all the grocery bags back up the 3 flights of stairs to the apartment. 

January 12th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 148

Today was an epic skiing day for Peter and I.  We decided a few days ago to hire a guide / instructor so Peter could improve his skiing and we could get out into the backcountry safely.  We hired ex professional skier and 20 year Chamonix resident Chris Fetcher, who owns Tinderbox Ski School.  Chris picked us up at 8:30 and we headed over to Flegree to take the cable car up and get as high as we could on the mountain before starting to hike.  We moved quickly and were at the top by about 9:30.  We clipped in and enjoyed some amazing fresh powder turns while descending to the point at which we would start our backcountry tour.  

The view across the valley from where we were hiking

We pulled our skins on and started hiking across the top of a cliff band which was probably 100-150 feet high.  We were about 20 feet from the edge and while we were on an established skin track, it was still a little scary.  We made our way quickly across the cliff and from there the touring was spectacular.  We picked our way up the mountain carefully and just kept going and going and going.  It seems like you can go forever here in almost any direction.  We learned that France has banned heli-sking and snowmobiles, so the only way to access this terrain is to use your legs, which is pretty cool.  Even better than the feeling of having to earn our turns was the fact that it was completely silent out there, no engines, no people, just us and the mountains.

Climbing and then a little more climbing

We worked our way up the mountain and finally made it to a place where it was too steep to skin up, so we peeled our skins, strapped our boots to our packs and started to climb up.  We made it as far as we were comfortable going and then clipped in for our first backcountry turns in France.  I went first and made two beautiful turns before leaning too far forward and face planting in epic fashion right in front of our guide and professional skier - nice, well done Pete.  Peter went second and had no problems navigating the 40+ degree slope, and then Chris went, making the slope look like the bunny hill.  

We skied down for a while making wonderful turns in untouched boot deep powder and then it was time to climb again.  We were going to head up a couloir to our final climbing destination.  It took another hour or so of climbing before we reached the top, but it was worth it.  

Heading up the col

The view was amazing and we had a couple thousand feet of powder turns below us.  We took in the view for a few minutes and then decided to strap on our skis and head down.  The slope was steep, but the snow was nice and we all enjoyed the turns.

Heading down

Once we got out of the shadow of the col we decided to stop and have lunch.  The sandwiches we had tasted better than anything I have ever had, however,  we were so hungry from the hiking shoe leather would have tasted good.  The only bad thing about the day was that my left heel was killing me.  Renting boots is never fun and in this case it was downright painful, so much so that I had to pull my boot off mid mountain to give it a rest.  

The view back up the col.  We hiked right up to the notch between the two cliffs.

After lunch we still had some great turns in front of us and we enjoyed every second of heading down - we had earned it.  

GoPro video of the turns down from the col. 

We made it back to the resort and my legs were jelly, however, Peter wanted to keep going, so we jumped on a lift and did two more laps with Chris giving us some instruction along the way.  

When we got home we were completely spent - it had been a hell of a day of great skiing along with a massive workout.  

BTW, Lea picked the photo...

And what did the girls do? Lea has adopted a early-bird-catches-the-worm attitude  even though she stayed up until midnight reading last night ...sound familiar, G-ma Shirley? After 3 hours of science we headed to the gym in Chamonix. After a scary search down dark halls for the workout room, Lea and I found it and started with weights alternating with sit-ups. Even though she claims to not have abs, she rocked my pathetic routine and then asked, "what's next?". 

We had a quick lunch and then decided to head out and explore the town. We started at one of our favorite places...la pharmarcie. I know that sounds strange, but the pharmacies in Europe are amazing. They have a great selection of makeup, vitamins, and nail polish. We found a deep blue Lea has been looking for since she saw "The Fault in Our Stars", which is her favorite movie. Then we did some window shopping and meandering around town while sipping hot chocolate. 

On the way home i found my dream car...

and Lea found hers...

We headed back to try out the blue nail polish and clean up our tiny apartment. My daily kitchen sweeping takes 1 minute and 12 seconds.



January 11th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 147


Today was the day we were supposed to wake up to a white Chamonix.  We had been manically watching the forecast for the past few days and all signs pointed to a nice dump of snow overnight.  However, when I woke up at 5 AM and looked out the window there was nothing.  Then around 6:00 I hear what no skier ever want to hear - rain on the roof.  Then it got louder and louder without a flake in sight.  It is so depressing to know there is precipitation in the area and it is falling in the wrong form.  One of the great things about Chamonix is the elevation change.  Just because it was raining at 3300 feet, where Chamonix town sits, does not mean it was raining up at mid mountain at 6000 feet, let alone at the top of the mountain at almost 11,000 feet.  

We kept our fingers crossed and Peter and I went to go up to Grand Montets to check the snow and give a report on conditions.  We optimistically packed a lunch and headed out.  Once we were halfway up the first gondola we started to see white on the trees and then we saw a ski line carved through fresh powder.  The mountains all around us were blanketed in white. (Forgive the poor quality pictures, I am not up for bringing the camera yet, so these are with my phone).

Now I have to say if you don't ski you will not appreciate this, but if you do ski and have experienced a good powder day you will know the bliss that was about to ensue.  Then halfway up the second lift the clouds broke and it was sunny - a double whammy - snow and sun, what we call a bluebird day.  I sent a quick text to Stacie to let her know the conditions looked great and then buckled in for what looked like a great ride.  

We popped out of the lift, buckled our boots down and took off.  With the first turn I knew we were in for a great day.  We bounced down the mountain floating in the powder hooting and hollering with joy.  There is nothing like fresh tracks under blue skies.

Sheer bliss

Stacie texted back and said she was on the way, but Lea was not coming -  I was bummed.  Peter and I kept doing runs while she worked her way to the mountain.  Then on about our 5th run it happened.  We were skiing a steep line when I looked hear Peter yell.  I turned and looked back up to see his ski running down away from him and Peter on his back.  He kept yelling "no, no, no", which I thought was a little dramatic for what seemed like a little fall.  I chased after his ski and finally caught it and yelled to make sure he was ok.  He said "I am fine, but the front of my binding is still on my boot".  I looked at the ski and sure enough he had blown out his binding.  It was the price we paid for buying used rental skis.  

Fortunately we were about 3/4 of the way down the mountain, so we strapped his skis on his back and he boot packed out.  It was a pretty major setback and he was disappointed.  Just then I heard a ping on my phone - Stacie had arrived.

Once we made it to the run that took Peter to the lodge, I hurried on to meet up with Stacie.  I was a little early and as it happened Peter and Stacie showed up at the exact same time, then 10 seconds later Lea appeared!  They had played a joke on my by saying she was not coming.  I was thrilled to see her out here. These mountains are huge and the runs can be overused and icy, so I was thrilled to see Lea continuing to try to make it work and get better, it took a lot of courage, but that is something Lea has in spades.  

We quickly made a plan.  I Peter and I would trade boots and skis and I would head back to town to see about a repair, while they stayed and skied.  Lea and Stacie took a run while we swapped boots and ate our sandwiches.  Once we were done we waited for the girls.  After the one run Lea decided it was enough for one day.  The runs had indeed become icy and it was not fun so she was going to come back with me.  

Heading down on the cable car

We headed back to town and swapped Peters skis out with the shop we bought them from.  They were great about it.  Snell Sports in Chamonix town center if you need anything they are awesome.  

It was a pretty long day so we had a nice fajita dinner after Stacie and Peter got back and then headed off for an early bed time.  Peter and I start a three day free-ride ski class tomorrow and we are going to need every ounce of energy we have to keep up with our guide / instructor.

January 10th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 146

With Lea's final behind us this was the first day none of us had any major commitments in quite some time, so we had an easy Saturday morning.  Lea started her new semester in Science, Peter took a Science test and moved one step closer to being done with his entire school year.  Stacie has signed up for an online Landscape Design class with a pretty famous designer in London, so she was busy working on a school project.  I revived a project I had worked on last summer and put some time into that.  It is basically a financial management app for families which we use ourselves and I want to release into the app store and Google Play Store sometime this spring.  It was fun to put my mind into something meaningful and challenging again.  

After our morning I went to the grocery store.  It seems that we have to go to the grocery store every day here.  We try to get everything we need for three days, but we always fail.  I am not sure if it is because the stores are close, or because our kitchen is tiny, but we are literally there every day.  On my way back from the store I ran into the Chamonix Saturday market, which was much larger than I expected.  I was loaded down with groceries so I did not stop, but I want to go back next Saturday.  

Once I made it back and unpacked we all made lunch and then decided to head up to go skiing.  We knew the conditions would be icy because it has not snowed in a while, but we though we would put touring skins on and climb for a while for a workout.  Lea hates ice, so she decided to stay home.

Chamonix has a pretty great bus system and we have been figuring it out ever since we arrived.  Yesterday we made a big discovery.  We had been waiting at the main bus stop in town, but once we got on the #11 bus to the resort we had to do a big 10 to 15 minute loop around the town at all the other stops.  Yesterday we figured out that if we walked another 50 yards up the street we would be at the last stop in town and would go directly to the resort, so that is what we did.

Waiting at our new bus stop

It is amazing how long it takes to get the hang of things in each new place.  Once we finally figure out how things work and are getting into the groove, we typically have to pack our bags and move on to the next spot.  This process of acclimatizing to the new environments is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating.  Figuring out how other cultures live and operate is one of the best things about the trip, but constantly being in the mode of having to figure out how to perform the simplest tasks means you have very little energy for meaningful thought / work.  Some of the funny differences we have observed from a daily life perspective are:

  1. There is no such thing as a garbage disposal outside of the U.S. Not one of the places we have stayed has had one.  It must have to do with old plumbing is the only thing I can think of.
  2. The dryer is a machine who's time has not yet come in the rest of the world.  We have become very accustomed to air drying out clothes, because we have only had one real dryer in all of our houses.  The washer dryer combo is a neat idea that does not work at all.
  3. It is nearly impossible to buy Vanilla extract in Italy.  I am not sure what they use to bake with, but it's not vanilla. 
  4. The concept of a big box store is just starting to emerge around the world.  Life still operates in small shops dedicated to their profession, like a butcher and a baker (although I have yet to find a candlestick maker)

I could go on and on and will probably do so in a longer blog post, but this is the Daily Dump and it is time to move on.

We made it to the summit easily and got ready to head down.

Getting ready to ice skate

We were right about the icy conditions, the whole mountain was like a skating rink.  So we decided to stick to our plans and put the skins on for some exercise.  We made it to a quiet part of the mountain and started the process of getting into touring mode when Peter said - "oh crap my glove".  Stacie and I turned to see his glove blowing away in the wind, over a ridge and then gone.   Peter chased after it, but could not find it.  We made a note of where we lost it and figured we would try to find it on the way down.  

We skinned up for about 15 minutes before the going got too steep and icy so we decided to put our crampons on.  None of us had ever done this before so it took us about 15 minutes to figure it out.  Once we did we made it up for another 10 minutes or so before we decided what we were doing was not fun and we should bail.  So we stripped our skins and headed back down.  Peter and I went to find his glove and Stacie was going to meet us at the mid mountain station.  We quickly made it back to where we last saw the glove and started working our way down the steep chute it had disappeared into.  About 200 yards down we spotted a dark object that turned out to be his glove.  We were very lucky to find it, but now needed to get out of the area we were skiing in.  it was about a 35 to 40 degree slope with big rocks that was sheer ice.  We picked out way out with no major problems and then met up with Stacie and hightailed it back to town.  When we got back we complimented Lea for her wisdom in staying home.  

It was Saturday night and Stacie and I were in need of a date night, so we showered and went out for Indian food.  We arrived a little too early, so we went down the road and had a cocktail.  This was probably the first cocktail we have had in 3 or 4 months.  We have been stuck on wine forever and it was fun to have some spirits.  We had a great conversation at the bar that continued at dinner.  It had been a long time since we had been out alone and we made a commitment to do it every week from here on out.  We are together all the time, but there is something different about being out to dinner when it is just the two of us.  We don't need it often, but we do need it, just like at home.  

It is supposed to snow tomorrow and I sure hope it does.  The season has started out a little light and a nice dump is just what we all need. 

January 9th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 145

Peter walked into our living room / kitchen this morning and said "you have to see Mount Blanc.  Stacie and I had been up for a couple of hours but the curtains were closed so we could not see anything.  We opened them up and had a beautiful view of the mountain with a pink light surrounding it.  

There is something about being in the mountains that just feels right.  It is where I am the most comfortable and the most happy.  

Lea was planning on taking her semester exam today so we were going to study in the morning and then go skiing in the afternoon while she was taking her test.  All went as planned and Peter, Stacie and I left to go skiing around 1:00 and left Lea to finish up her studying. 

We made it to the mountain easily, but when we got there the gondola was not running for some reason and we had to take the cable car / tram up.  This would be Stacie's first time on the tram.  We waited in line for about 15 minutes and then were let out on to the platform with 60 other eager little sardines waiting to be packed into our tin and whisked up the mountain.  The tram slowly approached and then the doors opened and we all started shuffling in.  Packing 60 people and their ski gear into a 15 x 10 space is quite a feat, but it does not lead to a great deal of fun for the riders.  Standing face to face with some french guy who has not brushed his teeth in a week for 15 minutes while the car gets hotter and hotter is not my idea of fun.  However, it did get us up the mountain quickly and soon we were set free.  These trams are incredible engineering and they really do a great job of getting you places you would not otherwise be able to go, so I love them, you just need to bring nose plugs and claustrophobia medicine.  

We made our way to the next gondola and enjoyed a quick trip up to the top.  When we stepped out there I had a feeling this was not going to be a long ski day.  The wind was blowing, the fog was up and it was snowing.  All that combined meant visibility was really low and the snow conditions were not great.  Heading down was tough going and by the time we reached mid mountain we decided to bail.  I did not want anyone to blow out a knee skiing on a crappy day.  So it was a one and done day.  

When we got back home Lea had made good progress and was getting ready to take her test.  We reviewed a little more and then she was ready to go.  She disappeared into her room for the test, Peter went into his room to chill and Stacie and I got to enjoy a nice bottle of wine alone on a Friday evening.  It was a nice way to end the day.  

The test took Lea a while, but she wrapped up and did a great job.  This was her last final for Semester 1, so we celebrated the fact that both kids were done with the first half of the school year with some ice cream and cheesecake.  

It's wonderful to see the kids taking charge of their learning.  Online school has been more like college for them than anything else.  They set their own schedule, put in as much or as little time as they want and have to live with the results.  There are no set rules or guidelines so they are having to police themselves.  It is a lot to ask for a 13 and 15 year old, but both of them are rocking it now and have learned great lessons along the way.  We are really proud of them!

January 8th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 144

View out the back of our chalet/apartment 

Today was a big study day for Lea, she is coming down to the end of the semester in Math and has been working really hard to prepare for her exams.  She took one this morning and did really well, which was awesome, and she has a big one tomorrow.  Studying at a self directed pace has  been a huge change for Lea and she has done a great job learning self discipline while on the road.  We spent the majority of the day preparing for her exam.  

Cranking away

Peter woke up and asked "when are we going skiing today" like he has everyday since we arrived.  The conditions are still a bit variable on the mountain so it is great to see him so committed regardless of fresh snow.  There is some snow in the forecast which will be a nice addition to the snowpack.  He went skiing for the majority of the day.

Stacie was a pioneer today and attempted to go ski touring (climbing up the mountain on skis and skins).  She made good progress until a steep icy slope that was not passable on skins and had to tun around.  

Late in the afternoon I went on a walk around town to get some fresh air and took some nice pictures of the sunset on the mountains across the valley.  

In the evening we stayed in and had a really terrible grilled chicken salad for dinner using a rotisserie chicken I bought at the grocery store down the road.  Most of the meals we have made on the road have been good - this one was not.  You win some you lose some.



January 7th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 143

HALF WAY!  Our trip is officially 286 days long, so today is our half way point.  It's hard to imagine we have been on the road this long, but at the same time it is hard to believe we are half way through the trip.  We decided to try to have a normal day and then head out for a celebration dinner tonight.  

We had a nice slow morning and then Peter and I headed up to Grand Montets to ski while the girls decided to have a down day.  

In the first two days we have skied at Grand Montets we have not gone to the summit, which is at 10,606 feet.  Just for reference the base of the resort is at 4051 feet, so from the summit it is a 6550 foot vertical drop.  For someone who grew up in North America skiing where a vertical drop of 3000 feet is very big, this is simply massive.  There is a special cable car that goes to the summit and it warns you that all runs are black and conditions are tricky.  We wanted to get our ski legs tuned up a bit before tackling the terrain.  

Peter and I dressed and headed out.  It takes about 30 minutes by bus to get to the resort and then another hour to get to the summit after having to wait for a cable car.  The ride in the cable car is incredible, the engineering is mind blowing as is the view.  We finally stepped out of the car and we are the top.

Welcome to the summit of Grand Montets

From there we decided to make the hike up to the viewing platform for a better view of the surrounding area including a perfect shot of Mount Blanc which towers over everything in Chamonix at 15,781 feet, the highest mountain in Western Europe.   

You can see the cables for the cable car in the lower left of the screen - what you can't see is how steep this is.

The view in the other direction from the viewing platform.  Most of the white is the glacier that makes the skiing here a little more dangerous because of crevices 

View down the Chamonix valley.  The little house in the lower left is the cable car house and is actually huge, but everything looks small against these mountains.

Peter at the summit with Mount Blanc over his right shoulder (left as you are looking at him).

We had an amazing day skiing. The resort is so huge we were still able to find powder stashes a week after the last snow.  We have not even touched half of the terrain available here in three days skiing.  Peter is advancing quickly and is skiing icy chutes with no problem and dropping off any rock that is covered in snow.  

We made it back to the house around 3:45 and met the girls on the street because they were out for a walk.  We showered and relaxed a bit before heading out for our celebration dinner at Poco Loco, a GREAT burger joint in downtown Chamonix.  Dinner for four plus drinks was only $54, which is insanely cheap for Chamonix.  

Stacie and I had a great beer called Grimbergen and the kids actually had Coke, which is a treat for them.  It was a nice night out to celebrate our halfaversiary!

January 6th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 142

This was a pretty slow day here in Chamonix.  Lea really needed to study for her upcoming math final so we stayed in all day while Peter and Stacie went back to Grand Montets for some skiing in the afternoon.  Actually Peter left early and went on his own for the first time, which was pretty cool.  

The only major thing that happened today was we painted Lea's skis.  We had to buy some used skis and they were not that cool, so Stacie had the idea to paint them.  Since we were going to be giving them away when we left anyway, we did not really care what they looked like.  So we went to the hardware store and bought so sweet blue paint and gave them a new look.  

The ugly originals

Step One

Step One

The final product

The final product

Supported by her friends


January 5th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 141c

Our first day skiing in Chamonix.  We woke up fairly early and Peter's first question was "when can we go skiing?".  He had been waiting for this day for a very long time and was ready to be on the first lift.  As typically happens we moved slower than we hoped and it took a while for everyone to get their gear situated, get dressed and get out the door.  As we were finalizing our dressing ritual Lea asked "has anyone seen my gloves?".  Nobody had, because she did not have gloves.  She skied most of last year using an old pair of my gloves and we figured we would just buy a new pair when we got here, but had forgotten about that when we first arrived.  So we were all packed up but still needed to hit a store on the way to the resort.  We actually ended up hitting two stores because the first one did not have any gloves Lea liked that were her size.

After the shopping we went to the bus stop and jumped on the #11 bus towards Grand Montets, the largest of the Chamonix resorts.  It took us about 20 mins on the bus and we were there.  We jumped on the first gondola and were on our way up the mountain.

Our first gondola ride in Chamonix

Our first gondola ride in Chamonix

The first gondola only takes you to mid mountain.  From there you can take the tram to the summit, or another gondola up to just below the summit.  Since there we wanted to warm up before going for the hard stuff, we decided to head to the gondola and save the summit for later.

We had sunny skies and it was fairly warm.  There was not a lot of new snow, but up high on the mountain we were able to find soft snow off the marked trails, even some powder stashes.

First day out in the big mountains

First day out in the big mountains

Everyone made their first tentative few turns and then settled in.  On his first run Peter decided he was warm enough and started jumping off small rock drops and throwing some 180's for good measure.  This is a free skiers paradise and I think Peter has found heaven.  

The mountains are huge here, like nothing I have ever skied in North America, and they are intimidating.  The main runs are a little icy since they have not had snow in a couple of days and most people use them to get down the mountain.  While Peter was off ripping everything he could the rest of us slipped and slided our way down the mountain doing the best we could.  Lea was a trooper in tough conditions.

After some time on the slopes we went and had a great lunch and then took another few runs before calling it a day, all in all a big success.

We loaded back on to the bus to head back down to Chamonix and found out the bus still needed to head to the end of the valley before going back down to town.  We sat and relaxed as we passed through Argentiere on our way up to La Tour.  Once there the bus driver made us get off the bus and switch to the one behind us for no apparent reason.  When we got back on the bus was packed, but we found seats.  By the time we made it to Chamonix the bus was loaded to bursting.  Then we made a stop on the north end of Chamonix that must have been close to a school because about 50 little French 10 year olds pushed their way on to the bus.  The next stop was ours and when we arrived all heal broke loose.  About half the bus was getting off at this stop, but the kids were blocking the exit and had no intention of moving.  In fact their intention was to find a way to climb back further into the bus to secure a seat while everyone was trying to exit.  They started attacking like a wild pack of baboons lowering their shoulders, climbing over the rails jumping from seat to seat.  I have never been closer to punching a ten year old in my life.  The french adults were screaming at the kids, I was yelling "out" and yet the kids just kept coming undeterred.  We finally made it off the bus and could breathe again, but vowed not to be in that situation again.