For President's weekend, a few friends and I decided to go skiing in Courchevel, in the French Alps. Courchevel is made up of four villages in Les Trois Vallées, one of the biggest linked ski areas in the world. We stayed and skied in Courchevel 1850, the village that sits the highest on the mountain (1850 is the altitude, I believe) and had an amazing weekend — the skiing was perfect, the food was incredible and we learned some important lessons.
Lesson 1: The Alps are more beautiful than the mountains in North America. This is a fact that I didn't believe until I saw for myself. From the drive up the mountain to the skiing itself, the views are unparalleled, particularly when Mont Blanc is in the background.
Lesson 2: Gondolas are much, much more annoying than chairlifts. While they shelter you from wind and snow, removing you skis every time you need to take a gondola is annoying, and walking in boots up to the gondola takes a lot of energy. By the end of the day, we found ourselves cursing gondolas and wishing for chairlifts. However, I will take a gondola any day over a button lift — a rather torturous form of rope-lift that, luckily, are being phased out in 1850.
Lesson 3: Alpine architecture is exactly as portrayed in film/photos. Disney-fied versions of the buildings look basically exactly like the real buildings. I thought for sure that things would look slightly more... modern? But the woody, Swiss-style alpine buildings are quite charming, so I was rather pleased overall.
Lesson 4: Do not leave your car windows open overnight. Snow drifts can become astonishingly large in the backseat of a car (photo is post-shoveling). You'd think we could have learned this in the U.S., but apparently, it took a trip to France to learn this one.
Lesson 5: Tire chains are much more difficult to put on than they appear. YouTube videos, German instruction manuals and French locals are not helpful in this pursuit. Avoid chains at all costs. And if you absolutely must employ them, make sure that you have a fluent French speaker handy, so that you can ask for directions for the mécanicien when the chains get stuck in your axel. Also, know the local bus schedule / taxi number, for when such a situation arises and you are stuck at the base of the mountain.