In Grenoble they do winter very well.
Just now, the city can’t help but cry out “Winter Wonderland!” at every step, “White Christmas!” at every corner. Of course, far into January, it’s a little late for the sleigh bells to start chiming, but the view from my window still rings of Christmas card landscapes.
It might be here, then, to dedicate this post to forays into skiing: that sport so dear to the Grenoblois. Indeed, many of the older people I meet here don’t live in Grenoble at all, but instead build their homes in the picturesque, little villages of the mountains. The country is a great vantage point for skiing, while older people don their snow shoes for mountain treks.
On campus, skiing is a surprisingly affordable sport, heavily subsidised by the council and the local resorts. Plus, I came to Grenoble with the ingrained belief that, for an Erasmus student in the Alps, skiing is somewhat of a necessity.
Having never skied before, the prospect of this sport was fascinating and slightly
dreadful in turns. Preparation for my first day out involved repeatedly squeezing my feet into over-tight ski boots and watching youtube videos on how to actually attach those boots to my skis.
There’s certainly a note of festivity when going out on a ski trip with the students here. Everyone gets up painfully early and walks in the dark to the bus outside my residence. Once on, it’s time for a nap as the bus winds its way along narrow mountain roads and past white, icy lakes into which the snow oozes like sand.
Our local ski resort, Deux Alpes, is a mix of peaks and glaciers all interlinked by a dozen or so cable cars and ski lifts. This was somewhat of a wonder to me on the first day, although I stuck staunchly to the beginners’ slope at that point, stomping around in my skis as if they were overgrown boots.
First ski lessons are always rather scary. In all other sports, beginners go slowly and carefully at first. In skiing, on the other hand, beginners take off at super speeds as they can neither turn, slow down nor stop. Suddenly, the possibility of doing a rather unelegant “Bridget Jones” seemed very near. Somehow, on my first day, I learnt to turn left, but couldn’t turn right. Therefore, skiing from the top of the beginner’s slope, I would make a skilful turn left and continue left, cross a frozen stream off the slope, continue on and bury my skis and legs in a pile of powdered snow.
Oonagh, my competent friend from Edinburgh, having come to visit and given skiing advice, I have improved a little. Green slopes don’t seem so scary now, while the blue rest a nightmarish dream. However, I’m still working on that great, unattainable beginner’s goal: the ability to stop. Leaving my class behind as I plough down an Alp, there’s a very long way to go.