If you are lucky enough to ride the ski week, you are lucky enough. Onsens, free refills & incredible company. This is The Ski Week Japan.
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A week of sail to ski in Lyngen Norway all aboard the Arctic Princess
A long weekend well spent spring skiing in Val Thorens to enjoy sunshine, aprés ski & good company way above the regions tree line.
What happens when 180 people from all corners of the globe rendez-vous in the French Alps for a week. This is the Ski Week Chamonix.
Why choose when you can both ski and spa in and around the Shiga Kogen area?
Potentially the worst ski video ever created. My GoPro faces the deliciously fresh powder for about 90% of the video, while the other 10% combines my squealing, screaming, and complaining.
Well, it isn't a secret that 50 Shades of Grey premiered this past weekend. Although I will admit I did read the trilogy, this 50 shades refers to a much different reason for helicopter rides, ropes, poles, gloves, and whatever other innuendos you can think of when referring to a ski trip to the swiss alps.
This year marks the 10th anniversary for skiing in the city that fills my heart with more pleasure than one can imagine. Year after year the feelings are always mutual - Zermatt provides fresh snow, sunshine, and an even better atmosphere (food, drinks, accommodation, etc.) and I take full advantage of the situation at hand - call me selfish.
Perhaps I am a creature of habit, but every time I come back for more there are several variables on the “Zermatt Checklist” that must be checked off to really feel satisfied.
1. Get to know ALL of Zermatt
Zermatt is not only the highest ski resort in Europe reaching climax at 3,883 meters, but there are over 360km of pistes to explore. Even though I was only in Zermatt for a long weekend, I was able to explore all of the ski areas. It was romantic; Zermatt was a little shy at first, keeping the sunshine all for himself - but after getting to know each other again he really let everything hang out (the views were that good).
[ ski areas: Schwarze Paradise / Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Gonergrat (a long train ride to the top is well worth the view on a sunny day - Rothorn / Sunnegga ]
2. Get cozy with an italian
Italy is right next door, so just cheat on Switzerland for the day and ski down the 17km piste to Cervinia. Grab an amazing bowl of pasta and a crispy margarita pizza. I always go back to Zermatt at the end of the day, so no one would even notice I was gone (minus the food belly from all of those carbs).
3. Drink in an igloo.
Enough Said. There is even a blob to jump on.
4. Apres Ski at Hennu Stall
Loosen up a bit before you get down to the town at Hennu Stall. Funny story in fact - 10 years ago, I remember skiing down the home run witnessing 200 skis parked outside a little chalet bar 5 min ski down to town. I always wondered why people were dancing on tables, falling over, taking shots out of skis, and then skiing home with their little ski bunny. I understand it all now, and finally got to take part in the fun. No comment, just experience it. The music is great, the drinks are better (cash only - 50 Euro credit card minimum, by the way)
5. Fondue at Le Gitan
This quaint, classic swiss restaurant has their wine list written on a chalk board and locals come for the night without an ounce of rush. The tomato cheese fondue made love to my taste buds. Between the soft yet crispy bread, mixed with the cheese melting in my mouth my taste buds were exploding with endorphins. I could have done it over and over again (with no regrets).
As if I wasn't satisfied enough, I splurged and got the Toberlone dark chocolate mousse (you know the saying ‘once you go black…’)
6. The Old Town
Those calories aren’t going to burn themselves… After dinner take a stroll through the old town. We always look at all of the hotels being built and write them down for the next time. The new, Hotel Omnia embodies contemporary elegance with one of the best views of the Matterhorn (absolutely stunning), and the recently renovated Hotel Beausite eludes classic swiss beauty with a mountainous flare.
Zermatt with the lights on
& with the lights off
7. Get Fuchs.
Fuchs is a popular bakery in town and one can not go to Zermatt without getting 2, maybe even 3 of these soft donut balls. They are fluffy, doughy, not too sweet, but just sweet enough. Get them in the morning while they are fresh.
8. Eat and drink everywhere.
Everything tastes amazing.
Maybe it is the eating, skiing, drinking, or the hiking - but I think it is safe to say Zermatt has my heart and every time I come back it keeps getting better and even more exhausting. Either way, I hate to say goodbye.
The Story | The Proof | The Suggestions
Black crows. Commonly and usually associated as rats with wings. Picking up the leftovers, hassling over every last crumb of a granola bar at the beach, or a lost bite of a gyro sun dried with the hustle of an overpowering city. Give the definition some slack, as that is just one girls wild interpretation of such creatures. Though, the black crows I am referring to are quite the contrary.
They are the eyes of the valley. Why yes, they often snaggle around for the last bite of baguette atop Brévent, or at the mid station in Grand Montets. But when the black crows are out, so are the blue bird skies, and the free bird souls. Perhaps we are all the same as the black crows - analyzing the weather, scavenging the mountain for what it is worth; Rinsing every fresh line dry until the storms come again, and sharing stories at the local watering hole.
It is quite difficult to compare Chamonix to the other ski resorts of the world. There are no covered or heated chair lifts for miles, ski in ski outs are for the extremists, and how does one even determine what après ski bar to go to? Would you walk into Elevation in your moon boots and Bogner jacket? You could, but Probably wouldn’t.
The latest season's Patagonia only, S'il vous plaît.
Just as a background story I skied Chamonix for the first time 4 years ago with my mother - the peaks alone got me hooked. I didn’t even explore past the McDonalds on Avenue Michel Croz because I didn't even think anything worth going to was past this way (I just to happen to miss all of the best après ski bars) Eh. You live and learn, right? One year later I found myself getting dropped off by some handsome british transfer driver asking me “Is this your address?” My response: “Eh. I am not exactly sure… this is what they gave me? I guess I will find out” I went to ‘study french’ in a town that echoes swedish and english over a lick of anything french. Although, Insted the school I studied at was phenomenal. Skiing and Studying - genius beyond the SEO search value. In the two months spent there I learned how to drink a lot of beer, eat even more baguettes, say cheers in swedish, and attempt to keep up with the ski bums.
The following year, same time, same place - I arrived fairly more confident of my location for an ‘internship’ with a startup (talk about a resume builder) and while the season started out slow, I made some friends, drank more beer, and learned what the mountains had to offer. Patience.
This year, I booked a 4 day stay in the city that stole my heart - and it is safe to say nothing has changed. The swedish ski bums still affluently populate the city / bar / restaurant scene, the snow was dumping, and the black crows are still flying high. Touche chamonix, touche.
I personally always forget to use the extraordinary guides of the internet (lonely planet, checkin, tripadvisor, pinterest, etc.) I usually prefer to ask my friends where to go when traveling. So if you are also one of those people who are horrific travel planners - as in aimlessly wandering in a city until you see a menu with a typeface you like, and a crowd that looks enthused this one is for you.
1. Aprés Ski
- Pointe Isabelle Hotel (Across from McDonalds) (A new one - ‘pre aprés ski’ in my opinion)
- Venture to Chambre Neuf around 6:15 (when the ski bums arrive) for No Limits live band (expect to scream 'one more song' , 'we are Chamonix', etc. - the swedish and norwegian ski bums dance on the tables, feel free to join, they won't bite - crowd surfing is allowed, hang the pitchers on the chandelier when you’re done).
*Don't shower beforehand, and wear your ski clothes.
- Munchie - Best sushi / fusion food in town
- Moo Bar - Pulled pork burger. Just do it.
- Le Jekyll - Sunday Ribs
- Rolly Polly - quick delicious sandwiches
- Casa Valerio - Favorite Italian / Pizza spot in town
If you want to buy food their are plenty of grocery stores (Petit Casio) scattered around town (next to the Rossignol store, and across from WESC) and Super U located across from Moncler -ish. The beer is on the first floor, and the food is cheaper than the other places.
3. Where To Ski
- If it is sun you want: Brévent-Flégère
- Perhaps trees + backcountry: Grand Montets
- Touring: Le Tour
- First time on the slopes: Les Houches
- Something Extreme: Aiguille du midi (you should probably hire a guide, bring crampons, a rope, avalanche gear, etc.) You can walk to Brevent, and Aiguille du midi everywhere else you need to take the bus (which rarely runs on time)
4. Sleep Warm
- . I like the little places like Hotel du Louvre, and Hotel Richemond. Partly because they are near the bars, restaurants, and busses to all of the ski lifts (call me lazy). Wifi is fast, cheap and the breakfast and coffee is sufficient (Croissants, Pain au chocolate, and hard boiled eggs). There are plenty of beautiful places to stay throughout the city.
5. Smile, you're in Chamonix
Until next time, Chamonix. For those who are there - enjoy it.
With 10 quarters of school down and only 1 more to go, it’s a bizarre feeling to realize that one chapter of my life is coming to a close, while another (unwritten) chapter is about to begin. As Winter break is on the verge of commencement I have been thinking a lot about the past 3 years in Savannah and where my hard work will take me. The people I have met will be life long friends, travel partners, or just a person to call up and say hello. The work I have cried, laughed and stressed over was a way to challenge my mind that I will forever appreciate no matter where and/or what I end up doing. I have only grown to appreciate the work and relationships I have built through the time away from this historic town. The exceedingly long winter breaks given to SCAD students are a time for me to reflect upon the projects I have done previously, and obviously a time to blow off some steam. While I should be actively seeking jobs (which I am) I want to hold on to the small ounce of youth that society deems acceptable. Since six weeks is a potentially long time to do nothing, I think it is important to make it a potentially long time to do something. It is not about the places you go, who you see or what you do whilst there, but rather about the people you spend your time with. Freshman year , I spent my winter break skiing in the beautiful town of Zermatt with my mother (and of course, fresh pow + blue bird skies & the Matterhorn in the distance), came home, flew out to Colorado to ski with my longtime best friend and fiancée in Beaver Creek, then cruised the Caribbean for Christmas with my family all before bringing in 2011 in New York City with strangers who are now some of my dearest friends. While I have vivid memories of Zermatt’s crisp morning air filled with freshly baked croissants I remember the laughs shared with the people who I was meeting and traveling with the most. While exhausting, every decision I make when I have the time off revolves around the statement “I never want to spend life saying I wish I did that.”
So take a trip to North Carolina to get some fresh air, or a weekend road trip to Montreal. Remember traveling isn’t about the Instagram posts & facebook statuses, it’s about the people you meet & share moments with along the way. You never know how your actions may impact the people around you.
So where is next? I'll be spending thanksgiving with my family in Florida, and then will have the opportunity to go back to a city very dear to my heart, Chamonix. I spent winter break 2012 studying French at Insted language school in the heart of this mountain town. This year I have a unique opportunity to intern with a start up company in the alps. Why not integrate work and play? I'll be spending 4 weeks designing, working and of course skiing (conditions permitting).
Have a safe & happy holiday season.
P.S. Don't forget to volunteer & donate to local shelters this holiday season. Sharing is caring :)