It's just a few days before Julia heads back to the UK for Christmas and leaves behind the snowy alpine landscape, so off we set for a girls ski tour along with friend Cathy O'Dowd. We piled into the car with a selection of maps and a general plan to get some fresh air and exercise. Heading down into the Rhone Valley from our wee mountain village we swung right and in the direction of Bourg St Piere in the Swiss Valais region with the intention of heading up to the world famous Grand St Bernard Monastery. This is where the St Bernard dog has its roots and where the breed was first associated with mountain rescue. The monks at the monastery, which is on a high col at over 2,400m, were fundamental to the establishment of the St Bernard as a rescue dog. It all began with Barry who seemed to be very good at sniffing out bodies buried in the snow by avalanches, and sort of grew from there....if you want the full story you need to join us for a night at the monastery!! We can snowshoe up via a col or summit and then spend the night in this historic hospice and snowshoe back the next morning.
Anyway, I digress! Today we were not so lucky with the weather as on the way up the conditions were decidedly 'Scottish' though not enough to put the three of us off. After a couple of hours the welcome sight of the monastery came into view. For over a thousand years the monks here on the pass have welcomed weary travellers and today was no exception! In winter the only way to reach the monastery is on ski touring skis or snowshoes which gives it a wonderfully isolated feel. I must say that the cold was soon banished with a bowl of soup prepared by the 'Brothers'. We were then greeted with blue skies and sunshine as a small weather miracle seemed to have occurred while we were enjoying the soup! We finished our day with a ski down to the car, enjoying wonderful views and a very atmospheric afternoon with mist still drifting around the tops.
We can't quite believe it, but the snow has arrived well ahead of schedule and the conditions for snowshoeing and cross country skiing are fantastic. Julia and I have been out on the cross country ski tracks over the last two days and have been having great fun perfecting technique. We spent a great day today introducing Kimberly and Thomas, two American friends, to the world of cross country. We spent a day on the tracks at Argentiere in the Chamonix Valley and had a real giggle trying out technique and sliding around. Julia has some tricks up her sleeve to make it all fun and we even had the equivalent of a three-legged race on skis. Julia and I managed to win and I have to admit there was an element of 'competition' to the race. We were in reality recording a webcast for you to listen to so that you can get an idea of what it's like to join Julia for a day on the tracks. I am hoping that within the next few days I will have edited the material and have it loaded onto the site for you to enjoy. We really want to make our site interactive so that even before you come on holiday with us you can experience in a 'virtual' world what it's like to join us for a cross country ski day out.
Well winter has definately arrived here in Chamonix. Over last night and this morning we have had at least 2 feet of snow fall at our front door here in Finhaut, at 1340m! This added to an already good base. Today I woke to a very quiet, magical, snow drenched village. Each year it's hard to not be impressed with this amount of the white stuff. I will be getting out in a while to enjoy the snow falling on my snowshoes! This week i've already i've been out on my cross country skis in Argentiere, France and Val Ferret, Italy where the tracks were in great condition, freshly pressed and barely a soul about. But you definately get the feeling that Christmas and the winter season is just around the corner as the shops make their final winter scenes and The Hotel Belvedere in Val Ferret (where we base our Italian ski weekends) yesterday were opening their doors for the first time this winter - cappucino and cake all round.