Chamonix: swim, run, ski

I’m recently home from a ten-day ski trip to Chamonix. Although the trip could be defined as an “active vacation,” I didn’t want the ten days to be a complete break from training. This wasn’t the first ski trip I’ve taken while training, and I have a few tried and true strategies:

  • find a hotel with a pool nearby
  • bring running shoes
  • skiing is an adequate replacement for biking if I do it hard enough

I’ve been to Chamonix several times before and I knew that a pass to the municipal sports facility would be included with my six-day ski pass. Swimming with the Chamoniards was hilarious in a chaotic and typically-french kind of way. By day, my ski companion and I would brave the chaos on the arrete at the top of the Aiguille du Midi, where crowds of old ladies, guided groups, professional skiers and proficient recreational skiers like myself all jostled each other to be first down the mountain face. In the evening, I braved the pool, where there were no lanes designated for slow, medium or fast swimmers and it was just as likely I’d be sharing the lane with a 90-year-old merrily breaststroking in a flowered swim cap or with a lean university-calibre athlete doing an elegant butterfly stroke for 45 minutes. The French are fundamentally socialist, believe wholeheartedly in equality and insist that everyone should have access to the same opportunities. Nowhere was this more obvious than at the swimming pool and on the mountainside. Everyone is welcome.

My running shoes were also put to good use on the trip. I was able to sneak out every morning for a jog along the trail beside the noisy river that flows through town (L’Arve). Ultimately my runs weren’t particularly training-oriented because I was usually laden down by the previous evening’s meal of cheese and wine…However, it was relaxing to move my legs and stretch my lungs first thing in the morning. Skiing in Chamonix can be somewhat stressful. Avalanches, crevasses and seracs notwithstanding, the first stress of every day is boarding the tram. Along with a free-for-all at the pool, the equal-opportunist French don’t believe in orderly lineups. Everyone is equally welcome to push to get on the tram every morning. On my first trip to Chamonix several years ago, the pushiness was met with some consternation on my part and I was constantly irritated. Not this time. My morning runs not only contributed to my ongoing training efforts, but also calmed my mood so that I could approach the lineups and the crowds with a chuckle and an appreciation of the French way.

Finally, the skiing. Skiing is a pretty leg-heavy sport so I decided that our long days spent skinning up the glaciers and skiing back down would constitute adequate bike time.

merdeglace

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