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Méribel : The French Way

post #1 of 2
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This is more about ski life, ski style and tradition than pictures of "extreme skiing ".


Travel opens minds ( if you are ready for new adventures) and after skiing for 3 weeks at Méribel my mind was "expanded". This trip in  France made me realize how various countries have different attitudes, practices and rituals. Skiers should be sensitive to these contextual changes in order not to offend the hosts and learn new attitudes.


Let me set the context. An exchange of 15 ski "pros" from North America to France in order to become familiar with how skiing is taught, how instructors work and how the social context is in various ski resorts.


There are many differences and please from the very start do not assume that the "North American way" is better.


Let me illustrate with just one example. We are with the ski school director of a major ski resort and we stop at 11:30 for the "déjeuner". A warm up drink was served first. Then two to three bottles of wine were opened and as we sipped the wine a 2 hour meal was served. Never in North America would a ski school director drink wine "while on duty" ! Oh,,did I mention the 4 piece jazz band playing at the very top of this resort?


Another interesting point. All ski school directors are "voted in" by the ski school instructors by a secret vote. They are not appointed for life. All ski instructors must speak English to be fully certified.


Let me share with you my "faux pas" !


I did not bring my skis with me since we would travel to various villages and ski resorts. I had the chance to select any ski brand. I assumed they would be "typical rental skis". No way top of the line Volkls, Rossis, Salomons ( sorry no K2, Fischers, ). I selected a Volkl SL World Cup similiar to what I have at home. Poor choice. Grooming and skiing conditions in France is very different. Soft, varied "slopes" for SL type skis IS NOT recommended.


Oh did you notice the quotes on "slopes" ? Above the tree line the slopes or runs in the North American way do not exist. You may see one wide meandering "run" that most skiers take, but you are free to go anywhere,,,,,,,at your risk!!! 


The ski school director was our guide so he was "cruising" at a relaxed +60 km./h speed ( just to see if those North Americans could follow) at one point he turns 180 degrees into a side "transfer" narrow trail. No signs of this turn before turn and no signs to indicate a 3 meter drop at turn ( just past trail). So if you take a slower, wider turn around one bamboo pole you go down a vertical 15" drop. Skiing attitude here is, "go where you want"  ,,,,at your risk!


Those ski resort maps to tell you all about where you should go, or not go,,,,,,,,well they are so small and only suggestions. In short get a guide, friend or ski school director to lead.


There is North America a respect of "skier's space" or "skier's line" . It comes I am sure from the surfing tradition . Not in France.


If you really want to enjoy your stay in France you must understand the famous golden triangle. The golden values of; great eating, great dress and great skiing.


Let me explain. Skiing dress is critical. Take one walk into the village ski shops and you will understand. VIST jackets, Bogner and other brands are critical for your "acceptance" into the inns and "correct" restos.


No fast breakfast counter type "family" diners here! No fast coffee corners, quick take out meals here. You must learn to ; slow down off the slopes and speed up on the slopes! Really.


Now for you "technical skiers" . Saw some great great skiing and what comes to mind is how "ecclectic" and varied the skiing styles were. Mind you the ski conditions could vary in the blink of an eye from hard packed eastern surfaces, to Utah powder. All instructors were very proficient and not one style or one way to ski is taught. In fact within the ski school ( with 550 instructors) there are divisions for various skiing techniques you want to master ; off piste, extreme, etc,,,, .


In conclusion I must mention ski dress ,,that is skiing options. The resort is so vast and high that all smart skiers have at least the following; sunglasses, goggles, tuque, neck warmer, head band. Sorry few ski helmets seen. You change options as you go into valleys, pastures, plateaus and peaks. The change temperature change is that remarkable. Spring skiing at lower parts. Med-level -3c zone and at peaks,,,,much wind cold and very dry snow.


If you think you are going to France to ski,,,,,well you are wrong!


You are going to France to learn how to live within a skiing context.


Take the time to learn about this "living". Relax while going at +60 km/h down an unmarked trail/slope/run.


Respectfully as the ski resort motto says, "pour le plaisir"



post #2 of 2

Very nice.  Thanks for sharing!

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