For the second year in a row the end of January has been marked off as “ski time” in my diary, I’d skied a few times when I was younger but I’m able to go more regularly now and I’m determined to make this at least a yearly trip. So on a cold Thursday morning a few weeks ago I dragged myself out of the bed in the early hours and arrived half asleep at Dublin Airport where I was meeting up with the Irish contingent of our ski group.
Once onboard our plane I manage to drift off shortly after take off but woke an hour later just in time to order a breakfast on board. A ‘fry in the sky’, tea and OJ promptly arrives and as I let the caffeine go to work the voice of Aer Lingus Captain Mark Tracey chirped over the tannoy to inform us of our progress, he’s obviously a morning person and is in fine spirits as he updates us all adding that he’s jealous of anyone on board who’s going skiing. A few minutes go by and Capt Mark pops up again to declare that he’s just caught sight of The Alps for the first time and he is sad to inform us all the snow has melted and we won’t be able to go skiing – I find myself smiling in spite of myself, the man’s mood is infectious and I’m awake enough to let that holiday feeling take hold of me. We were about 20 minutes from Geneva Airport at this point and the mountains can we seen out of the window rising straight up though the clouds. If you’ve never flown in Geneva it really is a sight to seen on a sunny day like we had, they really don’t make mountains like this in Ireland.
My parents have a house just under an hours drive outside of Geneva crossing the border into France. They bought the place a couple of years ago in what I can only assume is their latest attempt to make sure there’s no money left for their poor kids to inherit. It’s was a bit of a ‘fixer-upper’ but the main bulk of the work is complete now. The house is located in a small village near Chamonix in the Haute-Savoie region and from here the main road allows us easy access to three of four of the main ski resorts. The village is not a purpose-built tourist resort and so maintains a charm and community that you don’t always find in the larger resorts.
The first few days of the trip are taken up skiing with “the boys” made up of me, my Dad, my uncle, my cousin and two of my cousin’s boyfriends. (The girl’s side of the family have their own gatherings we’re excluded from so don’t worry about them!). It’s obviously a very manly few days and the house is heavy with the smell of deep heat, rum and wood smoke only for the illusion to be ruined as we all apply for face moisturiser and lip balm.
The boys left on Sunday but my dad and I stayed on, with my mum arriving Monday night; the three of us skied then most days til the following Sunday.
Here’s a selection of photos to give out an idea of what it’s like around the mountains when you’re skiing. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who’s not been and I should point out in no way do any of the pictures here capture the scale, majesty and beauty of the scenery you are constantly surrounded by.
The lads having a drink bottom right
Me again! Bottom right.
A quick 360 video of one of my favourite bars from our trip, the music isn’t added in but was blaring at the time I took this:
Being in the mountains could cause the most stoic person to become emotional and poetic and I’m far from immune. Lines from John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High drift in to my head on a regular basis here despite the fact I’m half a world away from the subject of the song. The Ancient Greeks believed their Gods lived atop Mount Olympus which stands just short of 3,000 meters above sea level; you can take a cable car here to 3,777m and Mont Blanc is still staring down at you from a further thousand meters above. Whoever your Gods are you can be sure they took their time making the Alps and your breath can be taken away at any moment as you turn a corner or the clouds shift to cast light across the valley from a different angle. This whole experience is only added to by the collective mindset of everyone heading up in the cable cars around you each morning; if they are here to ski or board or walk or simple get lunch everyone is going up to enjoy the mountain and what it has to offer.
One of the many things the people of the Haute-Savoie Region have gotten spot on is the regional cusine. The food everywhere you go is warm, hearty and severed with the knowledge that you’ve spent the morning working up an appetite and have a full afternoon ahead of you. Every dish is served with fresh bread and you’ll struggle to find something to eat that doesn’t come with cheese. Here’s a selection of some of the dishes we had out and about and a couple of ‘home bakes’ we had in the evening.
After you’re all full up on cheese, ham, cream, pasta, potatoes and bread it’s important to top up your sugar levels…they could be dangerously low!
Remember skiing is hard work and like all exercise it’s important to hydrate before, during and after to maintain optimal performance:
Food spotted out and about, including a selection of fruit and veg they don’t seem to stock in my local shop.
For me the food highlight of the trip has to include eating out at the local restaurant which is less than 10 minutes walk away. We went for the set menu at €29 for an amuse bouche and three courses, it’s fantastic value and each of the dishes were amazing. I didn’t get the best set of photos unfortunately but the lighting wasn’t great and I was acutely aware I was delaying everyone from eating a meal they were enjoying.. I also didn’t note down what all the dishes were…still working on some basic blogging skills!
I managed to bake some french bread and madeleines in France and Kinder cupcakes for work on my return, they’ll all be included in a post going up in the next few days.. I’ll finish up with a quote from a fooide book about the Alps that’s in the house. Winter is my favourite time of year and I think this helps explain my love for the region:
“In Europe, the very essence of winter lies in the Alps…the Alps are, if you like, a concentration of the season, the full and complete experience”
Winter In the Alps, Manueia Darling-Gansser
Merci, au revoir et bon ski! 🙂