"Never be afraid of life, never be afraid of adventure, trust chance, luck, destiny.
Go, go and conquer other spaces, other hopes. The rest will be given to you."
Henry de Monfreid
On Tuesday night, as the first snow day of the year blew all over New York, my mind was elsewhere. I packed my usual gymbag with my snowpants, goggles, my passport, and a one-way TAP Air boarding pass, destination: Paris-Orly. I was lured by an airfare sale a month earlier, I didn’t have all the details worked out completely. I was monitoring my flight status because of the snow. 200 flights had already been cancelled at JFK, and I wasn’t sure my tight timing and sale ticket could absorb too many changes. I just felt strongly about one thing. If I had the chance to live this dream, and see the alps in the snow, I should GO!
So instead of schlepping to Grand Central after work at 6pm, I puddle jumped to the subway. Far-Rockaway bound A-train, that familiar feeling.
They are the old kinds of trains, with two-seaters by the windows. I found a window seat and rested my head against the glass for a nap, like old times. Just past the casino, I prepared myself for the transfer to the AirTran.
The subway platform was a slushy mess, dirty snow reflecting floodlight s from above. I took a picture, because something in me loves these moments.
As crazy as it all seemed, I was soon enveloped in the controlled and calm atmosphere of JFK for a few hours while I waited for my flight. Portuguese air was in a far corner, and I was one of the first to arrive at the gate.
There was no delay at all. I bought a return ticket from Paris to New York while I waited to board.
But it wasn’t necessary - they stamped my passport in Portugal without questions. I was only there for an hour but I felt the heat of the southernmost country- I bought Brazilian havianas to free me from my ski socks then walked to the gate.
It was an uneventful flight over the Pyrenees to Orly, where I caught a commuter plane to Geneva.
Finally I arrived, and from the Geneva airport it was a 1.5 hour drive into the mountains.
I pinched myself driving up the dark roads. The reality was I was never so sure this would happen, and now the snow was right before my eyes, I was breathing the cold air and reading the blue road signs as the kilometers counted upwards towards Chamonix - Mt. Blanc.
Past the glittering mod lights of Megeve, and resting at Les Saises, a perfect little mountain resort of mostly blue and red trails and views of Mt. Blanc from every one. The lower alps had just been blessed with three days of snow.
But next morning was bright and blue. I warmed up on a green trail around the S curve of adorable ski school parades, 3 ft high. The snow was soft and trustworthy. The fresh air in my lungs and white snow in my eyes sent a buzz to my head.
I went up the bigger lift to Bisanne and stopped for lunch, where all the charm of a little restaurant run on this mountain in the French Alps was not lost of me.
« Cheez - bah - gah ? » The girl behind the counter called out three times. It wasn’t mine, I just loved this elegant variation of something so familiar.
Outside, people lounged and scoffed down plates of frites against a background as towering and stately as any of the solemn cathedrals I had visited over the summer. I was just in a state of wonder. I realized my senses were a bit dull from the course of a few months of routine, and I wished at once to sharpen them so I could feel fully everything in front of me.
I took a blue down, I didn’t fall at all. My legs shook at the end of the run, where there was another option of lift « Chard du Buerre » .
I took as many runs as my legs could take and was exhausted by 5pm. I fell in some places, and at these points I happily took in the views from the middle of the piste.
The next day, I discovered the other side of the mountain, with some excitement as the first trail was a difficult blue with a steep section at the end. I fell sharply and cursed the mountain, still looking up in awe at the serene hill i was slipping down.
« you can take board off and walk down, it’s not a shame »
And on the one hand I like this about skiing. Many times there is no giving up, you must make it down the mountain, whatever way you can and be thankful every time it’s not the ski patrol.
Still, the idea of taking off my board set a baseline, and I was determined even if I had to plow my way down, or use my trusty crutch of « pizza » for snowboard (switching from goofy to regular to stay on the toe edge all the way down) I would not take off my board.
The reality, I had to do this, and perhaps shamefully- scoot on the seat of my snowpants down the soft snow on the steepest section.
Covered in sweat, but otherwise intact, I unbuckled both feet at the base of the mountain and retreated for some frites.