On Friday, Estelle and I woke up around 10:00 am to get ready to ski at Monts Jura in France. All week, Estelle had been checking the weather to determine which day would be the best to ski. Prior to me arriving, she decided that Friday seemed to be the best option with clear skies. For a beginner like me, clear weather would make the experience more enjoyable and the views all the better!
Now, I am sure you are wondering why Estelle would take me to France to ski when Switzerland has mountains. Switzerland is an expensive country to live in and to travel to for a vacation. A “cheap” sit-down meal is 17 Swiss Francs, which equivocates to roughly the same price in U.S. dollars as the exchange rate is almost 1:1. Geneva is also a 15-minute drive from the French border and the Swiss typically will cross the border to grocery shop or to ski to save some money. Going to France is normal for the Swiss just like driving to another state in the U.S.
We loaded up the skis, boots, coats, and the food we had purchased from the day prior and hopped in the car. The border crossing made me laugh because all there was to signify we were passing into France happened to be a building.
Soon after, Estelle and I arrived at Monts Jura. We both suited up in ski pants, jackets, helmets, goggles, gloves, and ski boots. I awkwardly followed Estelle with my skis and poles in hand to the window to purchase our ski passes.
Once we each had our pass tucked into our jacket pocket, we walked through the turnstile with our gear and hopped onto the gondola to head up to the runs.
Estelle and I hopped off the gondola once we reached the top and the teaching commenced. She taught me how to snap my skis onto my boots, how to position my skis to “break” or “speed up” among other things. Most importantly, though, Estelle told me to be patient. She had gone through three years of ski school as a young child.
When I felt ready to give skiing a go, Estelle instructed me to grab onto a moving rope, which would take me to the top of a beginner hill where I could practice going down. I fell down numerous times and got back up again. Every. Single. Time. Estelle had to sometimes assist me in getting up because if you do not have ANY arm strength (like me) pulling yourself to your feet with ski poles is HARD! My ski instructor of a host sister continued to give me guidance until I finally started to get the hang of things. I had to really concentrate on maneuvering my hips and angling my knees together. Once I had those movements down and they felt more natural, I was going down the beginner hill and performing turns without any issues.
Once my instructor deemed me good to go, we moved onto the larger beginner hill. I had apprehensions about going down because
- The hill was significantly larger
- There were more people going down the hill and I did not want to run into anyone since my coordination was still not 100%
Well, I gave the hill a go and guess what? I wrecked and got back up again. Estelle continued to give me pointers and I would go down the hill again. Pretty soon, I had the hang of skiing. I cannot even begin to describe to you how accomplished and triumphant I felt for learning how to ski in less than 2 hours. There is no better feeling than pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and coming out on the other side with improvement. If there is anything I can encourage travelers to do is to simply say ‘yes.’
With that, Estelle asked me if I was ready to eat. Falling down and learning a new skill is hunger-inducing! After eating, I could decide whether to go down a run or go back down one the lift to practice on the beginning hills again.
Estelle and I hopped onto the lift and headed up. We took off our skis and found a nice rock to eat our lunch. The fog had melted away and we had a perfect view of the Alps.
After lunch, I decided I was ready to give the downhill slope a go. Estelle led the way and continued to coach me nearby. I fell down and tumbled more than once. However, there were moments where I made numerous wide turns and went down the slope pizza-ing so hard and felt nothing but exhilaration and euphoria.
With the Alps before me, disbelief filled my head. At 21-years old, I had learned to ski in France with my Swiss host sister overlooking the Alps. If I never would have gone on exchange to Australia and my family would not have opened up their home that same year to an exchange student, there is no way I would have found myself on that slope with an open mind ready to experience the world.
After completing run number one, Estelle and I went up again in the ski lift and did two more separate runs. By the time I finished up run three with Estelle, the ski resort was closing up for the night. We loaded back onto the gondola to head back down. I felt sore and exhausted, but happy and joyful at all that I had accomplished.
Estelle and I stripped down to our normal clothes and headed back to her house. She gathered up her volleyball gear and I grabbed a few things before we headed out the door again.
I was eating with Jana and her family again for dinner as I would not be able to see them on Saturday since they were heading to their chalet to snowshoe. Estelle dropped me off at the tram station and I took the tram to Jana’s apartment. There, I met up with her and Enrik and we walked to the nearby bus stop to pick up her husband, Emmanuel, who had returned the night before from a business trip to Spain. Enrik and I played with Beyblades and the four of us sat down to dinner laughing and talking.
Jana, Emmanuel, and Enrik dropped me off at Estelle’s house where we said: “See you later!”
I sat down at the dinner table with Colin, Timotee, and Jean-Marie who were wrapping up their dinner. We chatted and Estelle arrived home soon after. The five of us ate some Swiss desserts Veronique had purchased.
Pretty soon, I headed off to bed and fell asleep sore and exhausted from my eventful day of learning how to ski.
Leave a positive impression,