Ski Safari

BY Lisa Lindblad

December 3, 2009


Does Pascal smell snowcoming? No, no of course not. Then again I can’t help wondering if he mighthave some sixth sense for Alpine weather.
After a quiet coffeetogether before everyone wakes, he informs me that we will not be taking thehelicopter as planned this morning. But not to worry—he has another spot inmind. Ski safaris in Europe are a little like that. You plan a route and thenthings change. What you do get each day is incredible skiing, even though thenames of the places may be different from the scheduled itinerary. 

We are in Switzerlandtoday, but perhaps tomorrow Italy, and then why not France. In this region ofthe Alps, three countries border each other, so you can find yourself speakingdifferent languages and eating different regional specialties all in the sameday. This makes for much more than just a ski trip. This sort of skiinginvolves a combination of off-piste skiing accessed by the ski lift system andbackcountry skiing where a helicopter drops you off in the middle of nowhere.

Heli-drops here offer achoice of routes from each landing spot including more than 2,000 meters ofvertical descent. And don’t be fooled into thinking that you will only skipowder. Runs are long (three hour descents are not uncommon), which means thatthe snow conditions are constantly changing. The skiing is varied; fromglaciers to forests, untouched summits to isolated descents, stumbling ontocharming, snow-clad cobblestone streets in ancient mountain villages to cap offthe day. 

The Alps in this regionbenefit from microclimates: when conditions are not favorable in one valley youcan find good conditions in another. This is why you might unexpectedly findyourself knocking on the door of an inhabited monastery, only accessible byskis, on the border of Switzerland and Italy. The tea here seems to tastebetter than any you have had before and the adventure is only beginning. It’sat this moment that you admit it—you too have let yourself be seduced byPascal’s sense for snow.
Of course pictures speakmore than a thousand words


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The Albertine