Thursday, January 6, 2011

Europe Trotting

We've just returned from what is becoming our annual European ski vacation! Last year, Austria, this year, France. While it's true that I don't necessarily always give the French a lot of credit for being nice and welcoming, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary (!), I had a wonderful time skiing in France and thought that even though it's yet more not about Turkey, it was still way cool and worthy of blog space.

Since we spent about 5 months paying off last year's Christmas trip, we were all settled to go to Bulgaria this year instead. It's close, it's much cheaper than the Alps, and the skiing is supposed to be great. BUT, 'round about October, we noticed that Tim's cousin, Chelsea, whom we met at another cousin's wedding, was moving to the French Alps for the season. "Hmmm," we thought and proceeded to get the scoop. Turns out, Chelsea's boyfriend was doing a ski patroller exchange with the resort, Courchevel. It helped matters that he has a cute avalanche dog, and voile! (as the French say) They got put up in an apartment in the center of 1850 Courchevel, the most expensive and tres she-she part of the biggest, most expensive, and tres she-she ski resort in the world! Oh, and they had an extra bedroom (thumbs up!)

So we changed plans and went to France instead. We got cheap tickets into Turin, Italy, and then took trains to France and spent about a week and a half skiing. We even got a powder day! We'll post pictures at some point. Tim did take out the fancy camera one day, and we had the point and shoot the rest. But he loves doctoring them a bit before he publishes. We also had a few days in Turin on the front end, and we loved it! Fortunately, we get to go back to Italy in April for a week and we're really looking forward to it.

For now, the difference between the Austrian Alps and the French Alps:

Skiing in France---better! The pistes are wider and seem better maintained. However, it's still, you're either on the piste or on your own and if you have to get rescued, they are chargin' your ass! Even if you're in-bounds of the resort! We were off-piste on our glorious, but low-visibility powder day, and I did a somersault off a low cliff. Good thing it was a powder day...

Apres Ski in Austria--better! I think we have a special place in our hearts for dancing on tables, crashing beer steins, singing bad music, eating sausages, and smiling big with our big beers after a long day skiing. We may be slightly German at-heart.

Lift lines in France---better! I don't know exactly why, but they sure managed and moved the crowds better. Perhaps because there were several gondolas at the base and many easy routes to take back down to the base?

Gondolas and lifts in Austria---better! There were no heated seats in France, and very few storm bubbles on the chairs. Austria totally had this dialed.

Cool backcountry shop---both! There was one token rando/tele shop in each and the people at both stores were equally friendly and helpful and cool.

Food?---Hmmm. The French eat a lot of cheese. And duck. And dried meat with cheese melted on it. And steak tartare and foie gras and many other things I'm not ready to try. The Austrians eat sausage and kraut! Mmmmm, sausage..... Of course, we could barely afford to eat out in France, so perhaps there were more and better options?

In Germany/Austria, we fell in love with Gluwein, but the French Alps added an irresistible twist: fortification with Grand Marnier! Oh, yes! We'll add that to the mulling pot for sure!

And lastly, like I said, the people there and on the trains were genuinely friendly and interested in us, and were genuinely interested in trying to speak English to communicate with us. Okay, France, maybe you're not so bad after-all.