In 2004 I had the misfortune to hit a post while skiing at full speed in Ajax Mountain _ Aspen, Colorado _ and as a result I broke two vertebras (T12 and L1). There will be a specific post about this in the future.
It took me almost 6 months to recover and during that time I had to wear a “Jewett brace”. When I got rid of the brace I went on physiotherapy and RPG for almost one year. I must say that I was luck because there was no damage on my spinal cord, although the MSR and tomography shows the accident missed the spinal cord for less than 1/4″. Lucky me!
All this story to tell you why we did not go, as usual, to Aspen in 2005. I was recovering from my sky accident and the doctor said “Don’t go skiing, or if you decide to go, make it really light”.
The best way to “go easy” and “go light” is choosing a place where you had never skied before. When we don’t know the terrain we are, instinctively, extra cautious _ and that was the reason for choosing the super famous _ and huge _ 3 Vallées!
We flew to Geneva and had a very unpleasant surprise when we got there: Our luggage didn’t arrive. None of our three pieces of luggage! If you had already experienced that, you know what I mean: Arrive in a distant and cold place only with the clothes that you are on and nothing more. This IS bad….
I guess the worst moment is when the luggage carrousel stops and you realize your luggage is not there. I felt like if my blood was drained from my spine.
What to do? Follow other misfortunate souls and go to customer service in order to fill the “lost luggage” forms… 😦
So… we were “light”. No luggage , no clothes, no ski boots, nothing.
Light as we were, it was easy to go to the bus terminal, located at Geneva Airport. From there we took the bus to Moutiers _ you also can go by train but the bus is more comfortable. From Gare Moutiers we took another bus to go to Courchevel.
We stayed at Courchevel 1850 and although this place is pricey when compared with similar resorts in the region _ like Courchevel 1650, Courchevel 1350 etc _ in my opinion it deserves each penny you spend there. Everything happens to happen in Courchevel 1850, there are dozens of activities, many restaurants and also “The Forum”, a mall with a small supermarket and many shops selling from jewelry to wine and cheese. It’s always a smart idea to have something to bite in your hotel room after skiing and before going out for dinner. Don’t forget I am talking about Europe and no one there goes out for dinner at 6.30PM_ as we usually do in America. Dinner in France is late, and we usually had reservations for 9 – 9.30PM.
Our hotel had an excellent location _ if not the best _ and we could enjoy the mountain views and go skiing directly. Be able to go from your hotel to the slope without having to walk with ski boots is priceless! 🙂
Missed luggage: Our luggage arrived at the hotel at 4AM in the morning. We were told about this when we went down for breakfast. It was quite clear that people there were not very happy to wake up at that time to receive our luggage from a cab driver sent by Lufthansa. Anyway…. not our fault and we were happy that we could finally change our clothes!
I never thought I would be so happy seeing my luggage again! We flew from Rio de Janeiro to Washington D.C. and from there to Geneva and due to a flight delay our luggage did not have time to take the same plane as us.
Ski: Skiing in Courchevel is a fabulous experience that everyone who is into this sport should take in a lifetime. The runs are long, reeeeeaaaaally looooooong. The grooming is perfect and the lifts are super modern.
Skiing level: I would say that the runs there will fit better the intermediate / advanced intermediate and expert skiers. In my opinion, beginners and timid intermediates will not take advantage of everything this region has to offer. There are many other ski resorts that cost less and where you will be able to practice your turns before hitting this place where everyone go fast, really fast. Many of the skiers have this beautiful nickname: kamikaze. Do I need to explain more?
Instruction: I think it is a smart idea to have ski classes when it’s your first time at a ski resort. You don’t have to look on maps and you will not get lost. Finally, your instructor will know if you have the ability to ski that particular run. Don’t forget that “reds are reds” and “blues are blues” and regardless having the same color, the level of difficulty will be different accordingly to each resort.
“Reds” in Europe are the “intermediate” runs, equivalent to the “blue runs” in America. In my opinion, most of the time this is not true. The reds are more like “black” runs in the US than blue… If it is your first time skiing in Europe and you try to think like “Ok, it’s red it’s the same of a blue” take care not to put yourself into trouble. They may be much harder to keep your balance than you are used.
Private instruction, with the excellent ESF 1850, doesn’t come cheap, as it happens in most ski resorts. One full day cost approximately 450 Euros but.. if you think how much you already invested in this trip (flights, hotel, lift ticket, equipment, meal, time…) it’s not “that much money” and you will make the best use of your holidays.
Restaurants: French are known for the excellent food and Courchevel is a place where you will eat like a king. We went to several restaurants and never had something that was not extremely tasteful! Oh… I must mention that probably the most expensive restaurants in the world are located there as well! 🙂 (not everything can be “perfect”, he?)
At the time we were there one pint of beer in any regular pub cost 9 Euros! Yeah… looking the beer’s price you can imagine everything else!
There are dozens of restaurants located along the runs and you will have an unforgettable gastronomic experience wherever you choose to eat.
Skiing far far away : Oh Yeahhhhhh! One of the big advantages of staying in Courchevel is that from there it’s possible to go skiing far away! We went to Val Torenz, Meribel, Courchevel 1650, La Tania, La Platz, St Martin de Belle Ville and many other places on skis! Some places are quite scaring 🙂 (like when you are on the higher lift in Val Torenz and from there you have a sharp and narrow turn to make in a step path… If it’s windy or if it hadn’t snow during the previous days and you kick some small stones….well… this makes the whole experience even more memorable! 🙂
You have to start early in the morning because it’s a long way. You literally cross the Alpes on skis. You go up on gondolas / lifts and down to the next valley then up again on gondolas / lifts and down again. Yes, you do remember the place is called “Three Valleys”, he? To cross it all and return by the end of the day you will have some mileage on your skis! 🙂
I don’t need to mention that by the end of the day we were always almost “dead”.
There are moments while it’s possible to relax, and I do love the European way of resting after lunch. On the contrary of the USA where you eat lunch and rush to your skis (no time to waste, this is America!!!), in Europe the atmosphere is much more relaxed… and it’s common to see people sitting on the sun for a couple of minutes _ many of them during the whole day… haha_ , just enjoying the sun.
After skiing during the whole day we usually had to ski back to our hotel, and ski the “Combe de La Saulire” by the end of the day is an adventure in itself!
Oh boy… that is TOUGH…specially if you are already tired, the run is getting icy and you see many, many, people falling and stopping only 200 feet below _ due to the steep terrain. The run is not the “catwalk” you see on the picture… the run is at the right hand side of the image and you can “feel” how steep it is… If you look close you can see a skier there. We took this picture from a ski cabin, where there is this nice view of our “nightmare run”… 🙂
It’s an experience and giving yourself a stamp “Been there, done that” , you will be able say to yourself: “Thanks God, I survived!” 🙂 (Specially if you are someone recovering from a ski accident that happened just one year before!)
After ten days in this gorgeous place we went back to Geneve using the same transportation mode: bus from Courchevel to Moutiers and from there another bus to Geneve.
On the route we saw a beautiful place called “Annecy Lake” and we said to ourselves: “We MUST go to Annecy one day“. If you add this blog to your reader, you will be able to read my post about Annecy by the time I write it _ it’s lovely there!
In Geneva we had good food, beautiful walkings and pleasant moments.
Every time we go to Geneva we come to this place. Don’ miss it! It’s a small store located at Place de Bourg-du-Four, and they sell a delicious “sweet” (that is not “sweety” in an unpleasant way, it’s DELICIOUS). It’s “fluffy” and it’s like eating the wind…. and comes with a very light powder that can make your coat become white! I can’t explain. You must go there and try it yourself! 🙂
I highly recommend staying at Crowne Plaza Geneva. Location is superb and they have very well appointed rooms. We have been there before _ when we went to ski in Zermatt _ and this time we enjoyed the fact that it was even prettier than before, as they had redecorated the hall and the bedrooms in a contemporary style. It was even better than before!
Thanks for visiting my blog and my memories from the past! More trips are on the way of being documented!
Cheers and happy travels! 🙂