Val Skiing – [Pen]Ultimate Day 20 March 2008

trainIt is windy today – we can see the snow blowing off the peaks above (just like you can see on Mt. Everest!!), and Jim & Irena have gone early again to ski the blacks. I will meet them in Tignes at 1pm…maybe – if it is not snowy and blowy. If it is, I think I will just enjoy the day to myself, working on this blog and my photos.

Okay, so I did go up to ski…rode another tram today that went through the mountain (left)…so cool. I kept struggling with my ‘I-don’t-want-to-ski’ attitude even after my solitary long easy run to meet up, and even through delicious chips (French fries) and chocolate tart (like a brownie in a pie crust) when we met, but after the second run, on a beautifully prepared black (yeah, another BLACK!), it was fantastic; best day of skiing I’ve had in years. Irena & keyholeWe went over to this keyhole area Jim and Irena had been to on Tuesday before I joined them, and the scenery is just spectacular. Irena took a face down spill earlier today in the powder below the keyhole – here she is, not so bad for the experience! Too bad I missed it…NOT. It was, they BOTH said, terrifyingly steep! But I had my own less-exotic heart-pumper here… when approaching the lift gate, I was a bit slow, and Jim and Irena’s gate opened before I got there, and then closed so quickly before I could go through. However, in the confusion, I had to have been leaning on it, because the gate opened and I slid through onto one of those freaky lift carpets, which propelled me forward and at the same time, to my astonishment (and deep embarrassment), the chair lift suddenly banged my bum sideways and managed to scoop me up, *quite* ungracefully. Luckily I didn’t fall, and there was no drop-off, but boy did I feel stupid! I even joked, as we approached the top, that the lift operators at the bottom had probably radioed ahead to warn their cohorts to keep an eye on the chubby old gal in the orange parka! But in spite of that, today was my favorite day of skiing of the week – great snow, clear weather, horizon-wide views, strong legs.

This place (Val d’Isere and Tignes) is absolutely huge… the scope of the skiable area is just mind-boggling to me. PDF Map of L’Espace Killy There are 135 slopes (and 2 glaciers) and 90 lifts, with over 300 kilometers of runs! But what I find so fun and fantastic is that skiers and boarders go *everywhere*! tracks everywhereThe terrain, called “espace Killy” after Jean Claude Killy – a famous Olympic skier when Patricia and I were skiing teens, is huge, and as we rode the lifts up to peaks, across the flanks and over the ridges, it is breathtaking, with braided tracks on nearly every patch of snow and kind of terrain, via lifts, or on their own two legs. We have seen folks hiking up above the top of lifts to the very peaks, hiking UP the mountain on skis (eschewing the lift!) and then skiing down, tracks in near vertical chutes off rocky peaks, and clear evidence of skiers/boarder jumping off lifts to get the highest, steepest terrain. If you click on this photo to enlarge it you can see the tracks.

Our flat is comfortable – it has big window that opens wide, a nice small balcony with a great view of the mountains up-valley, and funky Mediterranean posters, but it is quite small (for the price), and not very well outfitted for a ski condo…for example, only 3 hooks for hanging ski stuff in the place (sleeps 4), and no place to dry things except for a very small heater – strange. We have never gotten the DVD player to work, and the agency (in the village) has not been helpful.

condo living roomWe are about 1/4 mile from the main lifts here in town (which means a LONG walk in our ski boots up the road AND of course, a long walk home!), then a short flat distance to ski over to one of about 6 lifts at the base of the two peaks and around a big wide beginners field (the size of 2 football fields) in the center of the village. We can also walk about 2 blocks to catch a bus that will take us up or down-valley. But the valley is very narrow so all buildings are surrounded by steep ridges, so it is quite beautiful! I discovered yesterday that if you stretch out against the wall on my bed/couch below the living room window, you can open the window and have a huge mirror view of the whole upper valley mountains – fantastic!!