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Boston and Back: French Connection 3
Ian gets "Chamified" in the final leg of the tour
Words and photos by Ian Reynolds l STE Contributing Editor
Chamonix, France is like no place I have ever been. It bleeds skiing, I went to school in Burlington VT, lived in Alta, and have traveled to places like Whistler and Telluride; Chamonix is a class all its own. With a rich history in mountaineering, winter sport, and skiing, it still writes the book when it comes to mountain culture. In "The Ordinary Skier" Kye Peterson mentions a term, "chamified", which essentially means being completely and totally, soul deep, entranced by Chamonix, and the surrounding mountains.
Chamonix is no stranger to ski mountaineering. Seth Morrison repelled from this very bridge in The Ordinary Skier.
While the idea of being 'chamified' can be translated to any deep experience had, in any mountainous environment across many sports, the feeling of being in Chamonix is in a class all its own.
Much like in Salt Lake, you walk out of the Geneva airport into a very bland view, with very little snow, and dense fog and board a van. The moment the van starts driving the experience changes, you cross the swiss-france boarder with relative ease, and begin traveling along highways that wind along the banks of massive peaks. The road travels through mountainside tunnels, and across large causeway's hundreds of feet above the valley floor.
Entering into the mountains
As you climb higher, the snowbanks rise, and the peaks grow. You pass through what feels like the mouth of a different world, around a bend and into Les Houches, the first town of the canyon. Mont Blanc towers to your right, with the Auguille di Midi, one of the longest tram lines in the world, just west of that. You suddenly feel small in your surrounds, like you have very little impact over the world around you.
The towns are quaint, quiet and sleepy. The local's are friendly and welcoming, and the food phenomenal and unique. With bus transportation throughout the valley, moving from town to town is a social affair, people chat amongst strangers, skis are a mainstay, and snowpants often a necessity.
Most importantly, the skiing is phenomenal. With ski lifts walkable in either direction of the apartment, skiing is just outside the door. This isn't the slopeside condo, or the resort room with access to 27 restaurants and bars, and 15 nightclubs, its just an apartment like any other in a town like any other country town, quiet and friendly. People share their stashes with friends, provide valuable advice on where to ski and when, and do it all with a smile.
A quick in bounds hike for some solid shred
This leads to stashes of waist deep trees, challenging steeps and sunny pow fields. With runs up to 8000 vertical feet, you get plenty opportunity to take in the view. There are no crowds, and no liftline's. The lift attendants actually enjoy their jobs and the customers flowing through their turnstiles.
Moving into the backcountry people are more than happy talk line choice and welcome you to their group. They actually suggest lines, and provide direction into other choice areas around the resorts and surrounding peaks. They share what they have spent their lives finding, without a wink of hesitation, as they know there is plenty to go around.
Some things are just like home
While a resort, or region can capture your soul, there is no place like Chamonix. Being chamified happens quick and quiet, it doesn't spark with the shredding of an all-time line, like other resort experiences, it starts when you get off the plane, you just haven't realized it yet.
The author, enjoying the summit of the Auguille di Midi