Just an hour outside of Geneva, nestled underneath two of the highest peaks in Europe, is Chamonix, France: The site of the first winter Olympic games and, more recently, where I took my very first ski steps. (I’m sure that will be added to the Wikipedia page shortly).
With the long weekend upon us for the Easter holiday, my husband and I took a bus across the Swiss-French border early Friday morning and were soon staring wide-eyed at the most spectacular mountains either of us had ever seen. We dropped our bags off at our hotel and headed into downtown Chamonix to pick up ski equipment before making our way to the “débutant” slopes at the end of the local bus line.
Our adorable hotel
I had expected skiing to be pretty hard – I remember a friend attempted to learn in college and said she spent most of the time falling down – but I thought the challenging part was going to be keeping my balance on the skis. It turns out balancing is pretty easy. Stopping? That’s the hard part. My first day on the slopes included some pretty spectacular falls but I think they were all a result of me purposely diving onto my face or back to avoid crashing into something. The first one was scary. My husband (and self-appointed ski instructor) helped me up and I just stood there for a few minutes, refusing to continue skiing down the mountain or take my skis off and walk down. Eventually, to my bewildered husband’s relief (“I knew it was a Melissa crisis when neither option was an acceptable one,” he said later), I calmed down and gave it another go.
A foggy first day on the slopes: Taking the lift up the mountain
I made it down alive!
By the end of the second day I could zig-zag down the beginner slopes with what I considered to be pretty respectable speed and control for a newbie. But as we made our way back to the gondolas, I was quickly humbled as we watched some four-year-old kid launch himself down a double black diamond without a care in the world. Was he doing “pizza” the whole way down? Yes. But still. Damn. I decided we definitely need to invest in skis next winter so I can keep practicing.
Day 2: 50 degrees and brilliant sunshine
Still smiling, despite the tumble (my only fall on Day 2, might I add)
Cafe on the top of the slopes
On the chair lift to the top of the run
Taking a gondola back down the mountain
Besides the skiing, our time in Chamonix was spent eating delicious French and Italian food (including the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had), taking in the gorgeous scenery, winding through the maze of shops downtown, and hiking down and then back up 420 foggy steps to visit a glacier. We had a wonderful time, and will surely be back. Enjoy the photos!
Train tracks cutting through Chamonix
The Aiguille du Midi
Inside an ice cave in the Mer de Glace
Foggy climb back up from the glacier
The Mer de Glace is melting 😦
Gondola ride into the snowy abyss
View from inside the gondola