As I rode on a bus through the falling snow, up a canyon I could only discern as windy – very windy – I had long since been lost in the throngs of travel. I don’t know if it was jet lag, or I had simply switched to autopilot, but as the tailend of the van swung side to side up the ever-winding road, I hadn’t a worry or care. I watched falling snow streak past the rear passenger window and although I knew what it meant, my emotions were subdued in my overwhelming longing for sleep.
Delphine and Ju Lia greeted me at the base of the Avoriaz Prodains gondola with the warm smiles and patience of people who are acquainted with travel. It turned out Delphine was more of a world nomad than I could ever dream of becoming.
The Prodains gondola rose out of the valley with near vertical ascent and as we went through formalities, I couldn’t help but notice the many majestic cliffs the gondola passed over (it would be several days until I saw with my own eyes what a magical village Avoriaz really is –– situated perfectly on the edge of a massive cliff).
Avoriaz was founded in 1967 as a ski destination; there is no other reason the village exists. It was created during the peak of France’s ski industry as an all-new, modern twist on the ski town. While other resorts were simply creating concrete bunkers, Avoriaz was to be adorned with wooden facias and new-age style apartment buildings. Up until roughly 10 years ago it was also reserved purely for the rich, but has since become a more reasonable destination for many Europeans and Russians. I didn’t meet another American the entire time I was there. There is only one hotel in the village, so the primary housing for visitors are private rental flats. I stayed in one of these.
I do not know how for how long the snow fell, but by the time I hit the slopes the accumulative snowpack was reported at two meters. I’ve skied Utah, and this snow rivaled the “best snow on earth!” It was “blower”, “over the head”, “deepest day of the year”, etc. etc.
I may have timed my trip with the storm of the season, but what makes Avoriaz great wasn’t just the pow. The resort has amazing access to side country, or as the french call it “off-piste.”
That first day we “drove the bus” through the whiteroom, barely giving ourselves time to catch our breath, but the following days the sun came out and allowed us to hike.
We set the bootpack up Pointe de Vorlaz, group rode Les Hauts Forts and as our tracks became many, we ventured into Vallee de La Maunche.
I stayed for a total of 10 days, skiing every day. By the end of the trip, my shins were devoid of hair, my calves taught and my back ached. These pains do not worry, but provide me with a sense of accomplishment. With any major trip, there’s always a sense of uncertainty: of the unknown, of rekindling distant relationships and in the case of skiing, the snowpack.
Avoriaz really opened my eyes, or my palate. The food – the fondue especially – and the architecture makes it well rounded. It’s one of those places that is hard to say goodbye. I’ve been to several ski areas, and even villages, but it wasn’t easy to say farewell to Avoriaz. Sure I have checked another resort off my list, but I feel like I barely even scratched the surface.
Á plus tard!
Until next time!