Saturday, February 20, 2010

When the Circus comes to town.

Living in a foreign country you sometimes find that you're wanting some hometown companionship. Last week I was lucky enough to have some hometown friends come and enjoy the French Alps with me. All of them also made big sacrifices to make it here. Heidi was delayed almost 48 hours (what a shitshow), Mikey, Devit, and Charlie changed their flights to avoid another shitshow, then Rob and Kelly drove 10 hours from Italy to make it there. Devit was also traveling with a severely sprained ankle. I was sure glad they all made it for a beautiful weekend of sun and snow.
The weekend started in true French fashion with a couple great runs off the Glacier followed with wine, cheese and jambon. The skiing was better than we expected. The night before the wind had scoured the snow and I wasn't sure any of the goods were left. There was. After our first run I think everyone was happy with the powdery conditions.

After a few bottles of wine and hanging out with the patrollers on duty, we met up with Mikey Hovey and Gretchen. They had skied a very nice couloir a few runs before and thought it'd be a good spot to end the day. Boy were they right. The snow was amazing and the lines were even better. Everyone skied well and enjoyed the elevated heart rate. Once Mikey Hovey skied his line with a 30 foot cliff to exit his couloir we headed for dinner in Plagne Center. The first day was a huge success and everyone was excited to be in France. I still couldn't believe they were all here to enjoy this great experience with me.

The next couple of days the sun stayed out for us and the snow stayed soft. I was stoked that everyone got to push themselves a bit and enjoy some of the great skiing La Plagne has to offer. The picture below is of an area we skied a couple times over the weekend. I think the biggest reason we skied these lines was to get to the Borseliers. Which could have turned into Heidi's new favorite restaurant.

I had to put this picture of Mikey in the blog because it's a classic. The first night the little guy wouldn't stop snoring. So we put him in the kitchen/toilet/shower hallway so we could sleep. It didn't matter how he was sleeping, he just kept sawing logs. Big logs. This was his new bedroom for the week.

Devito was a real trooper for this trip. I would guess he was in pain the entire time he had his snowboard on. He tried and tried but the ankle wouldn't let him ski off piste. He made the absolute best out of the trip and I was stoked he had a good time. Nice work Devit!!

The stories from the week could fill a book, but those stories will forever stay with me and the friends I shared the good times with. I'm sure many of these stories will be told for years to come. Like drinking Genepi form a wooden statue. Take a close look above.
After everyone left I came home to empty flat and realized that only after one day of work I already missed everyone dearly. Can y'all come back please?

In a few weeks Jeff Rogish is coming out to visit for a while. I'm stoked! The snow keeps falling so the skiing should be great when he arrives. I'm not sure he's bringing skis, so we'll probably just do some shopping and sight seeing. There is a chance that if things go right I'll hopefully run into Kurt Kincel in Chamonix. Can't imagine that would be much fun. Mikey Hovey has said he still can't find the word to describe Chamonix.
Heidi is also coming back out for her third trip of the year a few days after Brogish. Her last trip seemed pretty short, but this trip will be for ten days and should be a blast. She's become familiar with La Plagne and has become comfortable with "French" way of skiing. I just hope all the good travel karma she built up on the last trip gets her here without any worries.
All is well. Thanks to everyone who came out for making my trip here more memorable. Words, or at least my words, can't explain how much it meant to me that you all came to France.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I can't wait until the Cubs win the World Series!!

My work week ended after a couple really fun work days. Saturday was an early morning wake up, a slammed cup of coffee and off to work kind of day. The snow had subsided for the morning and it was perfect working weather. There were some lingering clouds but the views were still incredible and the moon was up with us. This morning I was to meet Ben R. to do some different routes around the Verdon Nord chair. We worked on a couple different areas that were new to me and made our way back down for another lap up the chairlift.

This lap we had to use the CATEX system (cable transporteur d'explosif). I hadn't used this method of doing avalanche control and had fun learning a new system. We basically hung the charges from a cable that would move over the areas we wanted to control with explosives. We would adjust the fuses and rope lengths to the distances from the deck where we prepared the charges. Then run the charge out over the slopes. The furthest charge went 260 meters away with a 3 meter fuse.

The rest of the day was spent eating with my drinking pal Quick. We met Mateo (Chief), Olivier Chenu (Chief), and 6 other patrollers for lunch at the Borsillier. Normal. Towards the end of lunch a man walked to into the room with a dislocated elbow and a broken arm. He just happened to speak English so I got take him with "General" (who doesn't speak English) to Champagny. My day was over.

Mont Blanc from Roche de Mio 7am

Sunday started off with a sign of things to come later that day. My camera had fallen out of my pocket in my flat the night before and that morning it didn't work at all, broken. Sign #1 I'm a believer in the "things happen in 3's" theory. And today the theory was proven.
The work day went great though. The morning was super foggy and the helicopter wasn't able to fly us up to the Glacier to do the PIDA. We took the gondolas instead and it took us an hour to get up there. The Glacier gondola broke down and we sat for a long, long time. I felt sorry for Nico. He was hurting pretty bad from the night before and the rocking gondola cabin didn't help. I think most of us have been there and can imagine the misery.
Once at the top we did the regular routes around the Glacier and headed back to the top. The clouds had cleared around 2000 meters and the heli was coming to pick us up for another round of PIDA.
This pilot was no joke. He pretty much landed right on top of us, but in just the right spot to load and go. As we approached the mountain he flew only 30 feet off the deck and then straight up the mountain to our drop point. He dropped us off on the ridge line hovering of course with only one skag on the ground. We unloaded our gear. That's when he did a switch-180 and dove off the ridge line. That was awwwwesome!
The day turned out to be beautiful on the Glacier. Blue skies and powder. We did some good skiing and a few rescues. One of which needed a helicopter for evacuation.
Sometime during the day Mikey Hovey called and said there was an american football game on that night at midnight. And we could watch the game at his place on the HD widescreen. I was very excited and enjoyed my final run of the day to the locker room. This is when sign #2 came into play. I had broken a leash on my binding on my way down the hill. Bummed. First the camera, now the leash. I was starting to think about what else could go wrong and the "theory". I'm sure if you know me at all you know what went wrong. NUMERO TOIS! The game we watched lasted until 4 am our time and I was happy to sleep until noon the next day. That's all I have to say about that.
On a good note. Heidi arrives tomorrow to Lyon and we have a great week of fun ahead of us. Mikey, Devito and Charlie arrive friday afternoon, then Rob and Kelly Parish will be here early Saturday morning. Nothing like a good ol' Eagle County hoe down in France!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Just a taste.

This one is for all the folks who are headed here next week, and to all those who are thinking about coming. We're sitting pretty in a big storm right now and it's not supposed to stop until Sunday. It was dumped all day long with minimal wind, so I think it's going to stack up nice for tomorrow. The Glacier closed today after noon and we're headed in early for more PIDA work. Heidi, Mikey, Devito, and Charlie are in for a good trip. I LOVE SNOW!!!