Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ski Fest 2011: Les Menuires, France

To finish out our "hot and cold" combo this Christmas we ventured over to the French Alps to supposedly the largest ski area in the world:  les 3 Vallees (the three valleys).  The Three Valleys is exactly what it sounds like, but it includes 4-5 ski areas that are all in cahoots.  We flew to Lyon and took a 2.5 hour train ride to the base of the mountains before taking a 1-hr bus ride up to our ski resort: Les Menuires.  

The idea sprung from one of Marisa's high school friends, Shaun, who's living with his wife, Cassie, and dog, Colt, in Dublin.  We were all planning on staying in Europe for Christmas and it can totally suck without family and friends if you just stay at home, so he thought we should all get together some where.  We decided on skiing; they wanted to be able to bring their dog; so we chose a location close enough for the drive from Dublin (still can't wrap my head around that) with dog-friendly rental chalet's that could house a bunch of people, at a resort that had a good track record of early snow.  I should mention here that it wasn't just the four of us getting together - rather, we had Shaun and Cassie's sisters (1 each) from the States as well as their friends from North Carolina that are stationed in Spain......and one of their friends also in Spain.  So we're talking about a crowd here getting together for Christmas for food, skiing, and much merriment....including a gift exchange.  It's about the best you can do when you aren't going to see your family for Christmas.

There were several pre-planned meals laid out such as this beef filet with risotto and brussel sprouts - probably not the most common choice of a vegetable for a large group of people you don't know, but I give the Dickie's props for their effort in trying to convert a young, hardened generation into brussel sprout lovers.  Nobody drank the kool-aid in the end.

If this picture doesn't scream "Performance Package" then I don't know what does.  We all went for the 6-day ski pass and the insurance policy to make sure that we got our money's worth.  Left to right: Justin, Cassie, Chelsea, and Shaun.

Although a late-arriving Winter nearly turned our ski trip into a hiking trip, Les Menuires got dumped on for two weeks prior to the trip and the sun was shining the entire time we were there.

Marisa demonstrating the "Apres-Ski" culture in Europe by having a cup o' "vin chaud" or hot wine that resembled the German gluhwein without as much added spice.

Colt was everybody's favorite this week and needless to say........he also ate like a king this week.

Christmas dinner featuring ham, pasta salad, and I honestly can't remember what else.  I do remember enjoying it though.

The entire crew......happy despite sharing two bathrooms all week and with three sleeping on the couches and inflatable mattress.

The crew again, even happier after the "dirty Santa" gift exchange.  Everyone brought something under $20 that is representative of that country.  We had quite a variety including: red wine and Iberian ham from Spain, tons of iconic Ireland trinkets from the Carroll's store, a surfboard sign from Huntington Beach, a flask and wineskin from Georgia, and ornaments from Germany.

We also managed to string together a few game nights with Taboo and a card game called "BANG".

Two years in a row of skiing the Alps makes this guy a happy camper.  Absolutely stunning views and great visibility all week.

You know I love mascots and I found this ram or mountain goat or something atop the Les Menuires ski area.

Perhaps the profile does it more justice.

The success story of the trip was getting Marisa up on skis for her first time.  She did a beginner lesson the first day; then I gave her a few more pointers to mold this lump of clay into a beautiful masterpiece.  She was rolling like Picabo Street in just under 3 hours of instruction.

"I just don't know if I like something that has so much equipment" - Marisa.  While it is true that skiing requires more than spandex and kneepads, I hope that we can have more ski trips together in the future.

I highly recommend the Three Valleys and/or Les Menuires if you're looking for a week of skiing in the Alps.  This place was so massive that not even a week would be enough to make it down every run.  With lift passes going for about 40 Euros per day and rentals for more like 20-25 Euros, I find skiing in Europe more affordable than some of the high-profile ski resorts in the Rockies.  The exception being Switzerland of course.

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