Skiing in Les Arcs and other experiences

2 February 2011

Here’s a good summary of the resort. Les Arcs, from Wikipedia

One of the greatest recreations in the world

Going down a slope at speed with the concentration solely on incredible 360º scenery and where to make the next turn… there’s nothing like skiing (I haven’t snowboarded but I’m sure it’s the same).

The alps are unbelievable. The mountains are so sudden and sheer, but also so damn vast. Undoubtedly, what made me aware of this was ascending to 3225m for a ski run, seeing Mt. Blanc amongst incomprehensibly numerous other peaks, looking down at other peaks, and realising you were well above the clouds… But which group of clouds? That’s an interesting thing - through different valleys the clouds are at a different level so you get one pool of clouds then another pool of clouds at a completely different altitude. Alongside the incredible scenery you get the freezing wind, nothing below you but white and some granite rock and barely any flat surface. Makes you feel like you’re on another planet.

Christ, I sound like Victor Frankenstein.

Heading down the mountain you get further sense of the size of the alps. Going down the “Aiguille Rouge”, the highest run of the resort, you descend over 2 kilometres, and you ski over 7 kilometres. Not the longest ski run in Europe (held by Vallée Blanche at almost 21km at Chamonix), but one of the longest black & red runs. You go from sheer cliff faces to skiing between forests.

For me, this experience typified the physical sensation of skiing - sublime.

However, skiing, I reckon, is pretty technical. Although you can just point your skis down the mountain and’just fucking gun it’, the reward from getting comfortable with such an unnatural technique is two-fold: 1. You get a sense of satisfaction 2. You’re able to experience the environment you’re in

But wait! The unique thing with skiing is then the unison of these, as I said at first. Skiing: a fast, slow, strategic activity in which you experience an expansive, magnificent environment. For me, this is what it seemed like, and it was 2nd to none.

A new take on sports

Your mileage may vary of course, and this is why I think some people prefer sports to’recreational activities’. Skiing itself, I’ve just realised, is not a sport. Now, I think it’s strange when people compare say, cricket, to skiing. It’s impossible; how could you compare the physical side of cricket to skiing? Is “Boy, I was standing in the sun all day!” the same as “I’m still shaking after that black mogul field we just did.”

A huge element to cricket is the game element, i.e. winning or losing. There is no competition in skiing (of course you could do one of the sports involving skiing/boarding e.g. slalom, but this is besides the point). I think the reason I personally don’t like cricket is without the’game’ element you don’t really have too much at all. I like football/soccer because there’s a good physical side to the sport, where you run, dart about etc.

What’s my point? Basically nothing. I just thought I’d share my new insight of sports and recreational activities that I’ve had thanks to my week of skiing.

An interesting side to ski resorts

You get all sorts of people in ski resorts. It’s bloody funny and interesting.

In Arc 1950, one of the several establishments in Les Arcs, there are heaps of Russians. I don’t know why or how, but there just seem to be loads. Keep this in mind.

Just like many holiday places, there are saunas, pools and steam rooms. One really cool thing about the pool at Arc 1950 is that you swim outside and there’s snow by the pool. The water is way warmer than the air so there’s no temperature problems. To illustrate the point, I literally lay down my life and body.

Do people really like saunas and steam rooms? Well, the Russians do and man do they love the latter more.

Walking out of the pool from my lovely snowy winter swim I wanted to see what the sauna was like (I can’t bare steam rooms). Walking towards these rooms, I suddenly heard clapping of skin. It was suspiciously rhythmic, and there were several involved. What in god’s name was going on? I know what you’re thinking, and I can tell you it was far more likely in my mind just because it sounded so… real……..? “Oh no, ” I thought, “the Russians!” Walking closer to the steam room I thought of more and more reasons to not go any closer. I can’t offer a more accurate, but unfortunately stereotypical, depiction. The door for the steam room was all fogged up and I could just see some colour of human flesh. As I got even closer I heard stamping of feet, and then some sort of chant going on.

My guess it was some sort of ceremonial, celebration, cheering sort of thing. Sort of like singing Waltzing Matilda. But with many men packed into a tiny place. That’s incredibly hot and steamy. Wearing only swimsuits or towels, and, um, “clapping and stamping”.

Ok, so maybe it isn’t so similar to Waltzing Matilda but you get the drift of my guess. There are some cultural differences that I’ve got to understand before taking a guess like that, to put it mildly.

Giving you just a fraction of my experiences in the snow makes me realise how much fun it would be to go up there with friends for a week or two, and also the cost of it all. It’s a pretty expensive thing, is skiing. Ah well, I’ll organise that one day, but for now, I’m off to London.

À bientôt!

February 2nd, 2011 11:04pm