657 words on Travel
After last year’s great ski trip to Italy, this year’s destination was Montriond in the Portes du Soleil ski resort in the French/Swiss Alps. As ski resorts go when you’re not living in the mountains, getting there was a bit of a nuisance: eight hours on trains plus a 90 minute bus ride and gave ample opportunity to watch countries and landscapes go by. On the way I got the impression that Switzerland is overrated: trains may be on time, but they are not particularly fast; the mountains are pretty but the villages you pass through look as uninspired as their German counterparts; somehow it looked better on TV.
The appartement we rented was very spacious, its ten beds easily accommodating our group of eight, there being two lounges for relaxing, a nice kitchen-slash-eating area and a lift opening right into the appartement (really as good as it looks on TV). In some parts of the flat one could even find an open WiFi connection. That said, some aspects of the flat seemed a bit odd. The primary one being the countless light switches on the walls for controlling many lights, none of which really lit the areas we used for reading or chopping as well as we wanted them to.
Given our talent in picking the worst possible week for skiing, this year’s excursion matched the week of the U.K. half-term holidays. Meaning that the whole ski resort was filled with English people. In fact – despite being France – the whole area seemed very welcoming to English speakers. Many of their (bad) websites are available in English and you can easily get by speaking English as well.
While heavily penetrated by ski pistes, the mountains and landscapes remain beautiful, and the Portes du Soleil ski area includes more than two hundred lifts and pistes, giving all of us the slopes adequate for our respective skillsets. Generally the lifts seemed older and slower than the ones we had in Dolomiti Superski last year which gave a couple of lengthy cold journeys. Still, there were no long queues at most times.
My impression was that the other people I saw on the pistes skied better than those I saw in Italy, even the snowboarders did a reasonably good job instead of just sitting on the slopes smoking. The markings of the pistes, despite being presumably standardised seemed to match that impression in that the difficulty of some of the easy blue pistes seemed similar to some red pistes in Italy.
The ski course I took at ESF Morzine was not as helpful as the previous ones I took. Somehow their courses take place at times which make it hard to actually be there if you have to catch a shuttle bus to/from your flat before or afterwards. And their administrative staff was not particularly helpful advising or accommodating my needs, either. So I ended up with an afternoon course which felt too easy and had a forced rush for the shuttle bus afterwards. And as my friends preferred skiing in the neighbouring Avoriaz part of the ski region which required a lengthy transfer to get to the ski course, it was a bit of a hassle and I missed some sessions because I did not always make it in time.
Finally there is the aspect of location. With the ski area being located in both France and Switzerland, there are a number of locations where you cross borders. Just that you will hardly notice you did so. It’s all quite transparent and simple – presumably because Switzerland finally entered the Schengen region. They did seem to do occasional checks of people’s backpacks, though. Being in France means that you can enjoy eating and fill your body with all the fat you need from croissants and cheese, with even the lowly supermarkets offering considerably more joy in those areas than their German counterparts do. Merci beaucoup.