Skiing the Italian Alps – Part Due

Part two of two, (or due of due – pronounced ‘doo-ay’ – two in Italian) of our ski adventures! I know it’s been a few posts since part one of two, but perhaps you can understand? I had an epiphany along the way, and rather than leaving it to percolate in my drafts folder for ages then lose the zest for writing it (which happens quite often), I decided to write about it when the inspiration presented itself. Success!

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Day 3 of skiing saw us try out new trails. When you buy a Courmayeur lift pass for 3+ days, you can use it at other resorts close by. We went to the La Thuile resort further down the road because a few people had recommended it to us, and because it had an interesting feature: it shared space with La Rosiere resort in France. I’ve skied in two provinces before at Sunshine Valley (BC and Alberta), but never two countries!

Skiing in two countries – source
The day started early as we caught an 8:15 am free skibus out to La Thuile. We were on the mountain and ready for action by 9:30 am but had to get away from the explosion of British tourists huddled together at the base of the mountain. We felt pretty confident going into our third day of skiing in a row, after a successful second day at Courmayeur. We stuck to the morning break, lunch, afternoon break routine, and covered a lot of ground in both La Thuile and La Rosiere along the way.

We also saw the Italian Alpine Military, or Alpini, going through some exercises:

It also seemed as though the scenery that day was a painting. So surreal!

La Thuile had great snow and groomed pistes, but some runs had flat sections that actually went uphill before joining with another run. Quite frustrating to deal with at first, but once you got to know the pistes more, it was easy to adjust then tuck and speed!

Just before lunch, we skied over to La Rosiere.

And encountered this on the way:
Welcome to sunny France
 Once we reached our destination, however, we were treated to this beautiful sight:

Welcome to dramatic France
From our hill top picnic lunch view point, we were able to see the French Alpine Military, also known as Les Chasseurs Alpins, doing some exercises as well! Although you can’t tell, their outfits were much more stylish. We later saw a few of these guys alpine touring, that is, hiking back up the mountain with wider, alpine touring skis, with skins on the bottom (a seal skin like cover you put on the bottom of your skis, which grip the snow and allow you to walk up the hill with your skis still on).
 
We skied a few more runs at La Rosiere, then took the longest chair lift possible back up to head back to Italy and La Thuile.
I’m convinced it was at least a mile long

The only down side of that day was as the skiing was coming to an end: we’d gotten off the chair lift and we skiing on a relative flat to a black diamond run. I was physically tired from three days of skiing, and after a long day, was also mentally tired from the long day. So much so that the simple task of skiing a short, flat piste was too much. My mind got distracted from focusing on the side-to-side movement, and my tired legs decided to not work in sync, letting my skis crossover. I fell forwards, hard! So hard, I braced myself with my arms, got snow all over my face and head, and gave myself a small case of whiplash. It sucked and also shook my confidence that I had worked three days to gain. To make me feel better, Pat bought me this smooth, rich and decadent hot chocolate.

 

Thursday, day 4 in Italy, was a much needed but difficult to take rest day. We had toyed with the idea of skiing the Vallée Blanche: taking the cable car closest to our hotel up to the mountains above; no resort, no groomed runs, nothing. Totally quiet, totally raw and totally beautiful on a clear day. With a guide, it’s off-piste skiing on a glacier, all the way to the other side of the mountain to France, in Chamonix. Once the ski day is finished, you also get transportation back to Italy. Really, the experience of a lifetime! Something to add to the Pros of #ThisBody list. Unfortunately, it was overcast and rainy, so no Vallée Blanche 😦

Instead we went into Courmayeur to shop and eat.

We also had a Grolla, a very interesting and strong hot, alcoholic Italian beverage. It was made of coffee and Grappa, a very strong Italian alcohol, with hints of orange and sugar. It’s served in a carved wooden vessel that is made for sharing, and Pat was intrigued by this! It’s a combination of his favourite flavours, so naturally had to try it.

It was very intense and strong in flavour, as indicated by my face!

I also had this delicious and rich crepe of ‘crema pasticcera, mele e canella,’ or creme patissiere, apple and cinnamon….. pure heaven.

 

That evening, we had a very traditional, home-cooked meal at the restaurant next to our hotel (which also offered deals of a three-course meal for €18). It was fantastic, and tasted like something from an Italian grandma’s kitchen. My starter was a simple but incredibly satisfying, and huge serving of vegetable soup:

The main course was lemon chicken with creamy fennel and the best fries I’ve ever had!

Tiramisu #2 for dessert, and yes I was stuffed. We went to bed with bellies full of nourishing energy, ready for our last day of skiing in Italy.

We wanted a good day of skiing on our favourite runs, and hoped that the previous day’s bad weather would blow over. I also wanted to eat lunch at La Zerotta, a cafe at the bottom of the Zerotta chair lift at Courmayeur.

Every time we passed it going up the chair lift, it was heaving with people sitting on the patio and deck chairs, soaking up the sun and eating some pretty delicious looking food. I was sold. After reading an Italian menu and ordering in Spanish (using all my language abilities!), I was brought some hearty, spicy and delicious goulash with some nice crusty bread. Again, very homemade in taste, like grandma’s cooking, and I got to enjoy it in the sun and snow.

Our last day in Courmayeur 😦

Like my new fleece?

At Courmayeur, rather than using racks to lean your skis against, people just pop them off and leave the poles and skis flat in the snow. Easy for putting back on really.

 

After bidding the mountain a final adieu, we dropped off our ski rentals and walked into Courmayeur for an après-ski drink at Cafe Della Posta, the cafe where we had that interesting Grolla the day before.

Although very nondescript from the outside, the Cafe Della Posta was a very fancy rustic-decorated (oxymoron?) bar, whose large menu was mainly of (expensive) alcoholic beverages with just a bit of food. I ordered a Kir Royale (blackcurrant-flavoured creme de cassis and champagne) and Pat had fancy beer. All the snacks pictured half-eaten below were complimentary with the drinks. All of them. I truly loved this place.

A shot of the interior, complete with older Italian man photo bomb.

We strolled through the streets of Courmayeur, soaking every last bit in, including all this delicious produce!

Then headed back to La Piazetta Ristorante Pizzeria for one last pizza and taste of tiramisu before we headed back to the hotel to pack and prepare for a long travel day home to Scotland the next day.

I loved this trip in so many ways: I got to ski some big mountains for the first time in four years, we enjoyed the rustic cuisine of the Italian Alps, and met many friendly and helpful Italians along the way. Although neither of us speaks Italian, we were able to understand the language with our knowledge of French and Spanish, and were able to communicate and get by quite well. I also found that towards the end of the week, I was beginning to do a lot of gestures like Italians do when they speak! I would definitely return to Courmayeur and our hotel as this was one ideal holiday that was an experience of a lifetime.

It is back to work for me after two blissful weeks off of work, eeek! Hope you all have a great week, and good luck to all the teachers in Scotland going back to work.

4 thoughts on “Skiing the Italian Alps – Part Due

  1. Pingback: 2013: The Year that Was | I Eat Therefore I Run

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