Les Deux Alpes ou Où est la Pente de Lapin?*

Paraskiing at Les Deux Alpes

This has been un hiver rigoureux (a harsh winter) for all of France. It is the kind of winter that we North Carolinians revel in—warm temperatures and little precipitation of the white variety. Namely, NO SNOW!  But for the French skiers we know, it has been an abysmal winter. So, when we decided we wanted to try skiing here, we asked our skier friends where to go. Of course, we got differing answers, but given the lack of ski-able snow in the region, we were told to aim high. To a higher altitude, that is.

We started checking out the ski resorts and decided on Les Deux Alpes.  At from 1,650 meters to 3,600 meters (5,400 ft. to 11,800 ft.) and the largest skiable glacier in Europe, it seemed like a good choice. It’s located in the Isère region, where we live, and only about 60 km (40 miles) from Grenoble. TransIsère, the réseau de bus (bus network) that handles the day-to-day transport in the region runs a winter-season bus network called “TransAltitude,” which offers the Skiligne package deals to ski resorts that cover bus fare and forfaits (lift tickets) for one extremely low prix (price).

Steve had bought our tickets the day before, and so we were ready to show up at the gare routière (bus station) for the 7:15 autobus (bus) on le vendredi, 4 février (Wednesday, February 4). When we arrived, a number of sleepy-headed university students were already there, yawning and smoking, with snowboards tucked under their arms awaiting the arrival of the bus. The bus pulled up on time, and we boarded and were off, climbing the twisty but snow-free roads leading to Les Deux Alpes.

One hour and 40 minutes later we arrived in the little village at the Mi-Alpe stop. We were still sans skis, so we found the tourist information building and picked up some brochures on rental and lesson options. They all seemed about the same price with the same offerings, and all had English-speaking instructors, and all les écoles de ski (the ski schools) had lessons that would be starting in about an hour and a half from then. We chose l’École de Ski Internationale St. Christophe (service was excellent) and arranged for a snowboard lesson. Next door to St. Christophe was a ski rental shop where we picked up our boots and boards. Having still about an hour until our lesson, we spotted a crêperie across the street where we could sit outside and soak up some sun, and nous avons décidé de déjeuner (we decided to have lunch), our “last meal” to fortify us before certain injury on the slopes.

Déjeuner: Des œufs et du fromage crêpe *

The day couldn’t have been more perfect for skiing in the mountains. The sun was shining, the sky was a beautiful, clear blue, and the temperature was warmer than in Grenoble. We were to meet our instructor, Valérie, by one of the hôtels near the slopes, and we found her finishing up a lesson with some ski débutants (novices) who looked to be about 4-years-old. Even though I may be considered vertically challenged, I envied these kids their even closer proximity to the ground on which I knew I would be spending considerable time in the not-too-distant future, and I was glad I wore my padded ski bib.

Valérie soon joined us, and after making the usual introductions, she asked us about our snowboarding levels. Steve had tried it a few years ago, but I had never been on a board and haven’t ever skied much, either. We replied with –3 and –4, respectively, as our skiing ability, but she insisted that we use positive numbers. I assured her that negative numbers were more appropriate in our case, but that 0.3 and 0.4 would work, too, if she insisted. Was that a mixture of disbelief and amusement in her eyes?  I think she may have been wondering how she would endure the hour and a half lesson with us. She mentioned to us that most novice snowboarders are, ahem, younger than us. No matter, we were game, and our Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage payments were current. The next hour and a half went by quickly with time waxing and waning between brief moments of panic-stricken terror and the exhilarating  Jean-Claude Killy mastery-of-the-slopes delight as we picked up what we could of the essentials. Finally, we bid Valérie, au revoir and merci for her patience, and she wished us, bonne chance! (good luck) We needed it!

Valérie et moi

The next couple of hours, we practiced in the fairly slick novice area—an area probably more difficult to snowboard than if we had moved on. Steve had retained some of his previous expertise and cut quite a snowboarding figure on the slope as the 4-year-olds helped him up off the ground from time to time with muffled words of encouragement. For me, after quite a few hard tombes sur le derrière (falls on the behind) and slams à la tête (to the head), I was ready to have a rest, and I perked up when I realized we were near a slope-side cafe!  We spent some time watching the amazing skiers schussing down the slopes and the colorful parachutes of the paraskiers as they descended to the ground.

When we returned home, we dosed ourselves with beaucoup d’ibuprofène and indulged in a hot shower and a well-deserved glass of French red wine. Never in our lives did a bed feel so good!


Paraskier descending

Les Deux Alpes ou Où est la Pente de Lapin?: The Two Alps or Where is the Bunny Slope?

Des œufs et du fromage crêpe: Eggs and cheese crêpe



9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne Woodman
    Feb 08, 2011 @ 21:53:33

    I’m just wowed that you tried snowboarding! I can’t imagine staying vertical for more than .2 seconds. What a sense of accomplishment, though, when you finally headed for bed (and wine)!

    Only now and then do I actually recognize a French word (having never taken French), and “lapin” was one I knew! Enjoyed the post.


    • steveandmo
      Feb 08, 2011 @ 22:07:55

      Thanks, Anne. It was an amazing day. Not sure snowboarding is the perfect winter sport for me, although Steve really enjoys it. I’d like to try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing next. If the snow doesn’t disappear too soon!


  2. Julie
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 00:58:34

    I’ve just finished reading your blog – it’s very entertaining and instructive. My husband and I will be arriving in Grenoble (from Toronto) for four months starting March 1, and this is just the kind of preparatory reading I’d been looking for in trying to imagine what our life in Grenoble will be like. I’m especially excited about the beautiful outdoors so nearby to the city that you’ve written about. Many thanks for taking the time to write so many great blog posts!


    • steveandmo
      Feb 09, 2011 @ 09:10:27

      Welcome, Julie. Thanks for the reply. We’d be happy to help you in any way we can as you settle into Grenoble. We really like it here and will be sorry to leave. If you’re interested, I can introduce you to the various groups to which we belong which we have found very welcoming and helpful.


  3. debbie
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 13:59:52

    With none too fond memories of my first (and definitely last) snowboarding lesson, I was relieved to find out you two survived intact to continue your French adventure unabated.


    • steveandmo
      Feb 09, 2011 @ 16:21:42

      Ahh, Debbie, you should know me by now. I wouldn’t let a little pain, fear and imminent injury stand in my way. Well, maybe only once. Checked that one off the list. On to something else!


  4. Catherine
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 01:18:47

    Wow, snowboarding! I’m impressed! I always thought you had a highly developed sense of adventure and now I’m sure of it. Cross country skiing is definitely much more my speed. So glad you survived to tell the tale.


  5. steveandmo
    Feb 12, 2011 @ 11:08:47

    Not sure my sense of adventure isn’t misplaced sometimes. It was fun, but like you, I think X-country or snowshoeing might be a better fit!


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