After 13 hours on the road in a car cramped with restless passengers and over-sized luggage, the peak of Mont Blanc was a welcome sight – only an hour to go.
We arrived at the Les Contamines Monjoie resort in the French Alps blanketed by darkness. Dusted by falling snow, we dragged our baggage up to our fourth level flat, nattering excitedly about the imminent day ahead.
Rising early, our group of four suited up; hats, goggles and sunscreen adorning our puffy eyes and weary heads, ready to heave our kit to the mountain’s edge. Boots clunking loudly, we clambered aboard the gondolas, clumsily squeezing in.
Whisked into the morning’s rays, it was not long before our focus was drawn away from our fatigue and to the village we were leaving behind; a carpet of sparkling crystals covered the valley below. Bleached by the thick, fluffy, fresh snow, the majestic mountain’s vast slopes were begging to be indulged.
Our knees at our chins, the next five days were a blur of piste-carving and powder-bashing, leaving us with legs like jelly and arms of lead. In conjunction with our trip, a group British Army soldiers were also on the mountain, competing in friendly competition for a place on their regiment’s team. From various chairlifts, the whoosh of whizzing skiers commonly accosted our ears. Below and in the distance, a bullet of colour would flash by zooming down a slalom course or downhill race.
Breaking from the sport, our lunches were spent atop sun drenched patios, reclining in creaky chairs with a cold refreshing can of pop in one hand and a squashed home-made sandwich in the other. After refueling and resting, it was back to the white stuff for us all.
Nursing our drained physique and tortured limbs, we’d dine each night amongst the historic restaurants found littered within the village. Next to open log fires we’d dabble in rich cheese fondues and guiltily gobble foie gras. A never ending supply of fresh bread and sumptuous wines left our bellies bursting at the seams.
Lightening our load, we’d venture to the ‘Stella Bar’, the only bar in the quaint resort town. A tiny room of dark oak beams with vintage skis hung about the place, precariously balanced among the aging ornaments, it was the ideal place to round off the day with an evening of ski-bum banter. As the night went on and the drinks kept on coming, the soldiers would make an appearance, bringing the bar to life with an après ski atmosphere worthy of Zermatt’s infamous party vibe.
A hybrid of historic French culture and an adrenaline junkie’s haven, the picturesque resort of Les Contamines Monjoie has never looked so good.