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Sugar Powdered Mountains

I woke up an hour earlier than I was supposed to. The alarm clock presented its deep, red glow at 4:30 in the morning and I was wide-awake. This particular time, especially in Barcelona, is the time to be dancing unconsciously in the black hole of a discoteca or, for the older crowd, sleeping deeply in their rem cycle. This is an ungodly hour and no one should be as awake as I was.

But today, well this early morning, I was not in Barcelona. I was in Lyon, France. Lyon was not the reason I laid silently with eyes wide open in princess pattern sheets. No, today I would finally be squeezing my feet in a pair of ski boots and hearing that click and snap when the boot locked into the marvelous, long strips of laminated, stamped steel wood that would later glide me down a snow covered, granite monster. Today I was going skiing.

Being raised in Montana I have always been surrounded by mountains, valleys and the like. Once I mastered the art of walking, I was locked into a pair of skies and was pushed down what I thought was Mount Everest. Pizza pies and yard sales, that’s what I thought skiing was at the age of two. Now, skiing has changed dramatically for me. Instead of trying to make it down the trail without falling and making my dad proud, now I see how fast I can weave through a thick wall of trees down a steep mountain face, praying I make it down before the rest of the group so I can crack open a cold one and make my friends feel old. I have a list of places to go and mountains to ski. This is a Montanan’s secret to-do list he or she may or may not even know about. We are nature junkies and want to breathe the crispest air and make our own trail on the world’s last, best places.

Since I had moved to Barcelona I realized this would be my first winter without any snow, to me, this was unfathomable. I couldn’t believe instead of seeing snow covered mountain caps; I would be seeing a city skyline. Instead of breathing in crisp, mountain air, I would be breathing in the heavy city air that only a city can produce. Talk about climate change. Though I do not mind a sunny, 70-degree day in January, I noticed I didn’t feel right. It was if my body was going through with drawls, I had no mountains and I had no snow. This wasn’t right for me. So, when my crazy, French cousin called and asked if I wanted to tag along on a skiing trip, I was already packing. When he mentioned French Alps, I had to ask again, I never thought I would have the opportunity to introduce myself personally to Le Grand Massif and the other steep, French mountain faces that were apart of Europe’s greatest mountain chains.

So back to the princess pattern sheets. I was out of those and already in car, next stop, Samoëns, France. This ancient, little mountain village, located two hours from Lyon rests in the hearts of every French individual who has visited the area. With it’s historic stonemasons and gourmet shops that produce an aroma of mountain ham and famous, French cheeses that leave your clothes smelling inviting and delicious, you will begin to understand why this little town is the pride and joy of many French hommes and femmes.

Though the food and the charm of this French, medieval, mountain town will be something I will never forget, the skiing is what made my heart sing. Le Grand Massif, with is 265 km of incredible pistes, cast a spell on me. I will never forget how my heart felt when I went down those steep faces; the overwhelming sensation literally took my breath away. I kept thinking that these mountains are going to break my heart when I have to leave. I wanted to ski every patch of powered sugar snow without tracks I could find that day.

So, here are eight reasons why you must go!

1. The village dates back to 1167 A.D. with a healthy tree that still stands in the village called the, “Great Lime Tree.” The tree was planted in 1438!! Amazing.

2. It takes about ten minutes from the village to get to the 4th largest skiing area, Le Grand Massif.

3. It’s the French Alps. Come on skiers!

4. The hot wine, the cheese and the steaming, mountain ham that waits for you at the bottom.

5. 46 km of cross-country skiing

6. 15 snowshoeing trails make for a good time with friends and family.

7. The seven, beautiful peaks that surround the village. Cuidex, Vigny, Folly, Oddaz, Bostan, Chardonniere, Freterolles and La Vullie. When snow covered, these peaks produce a stillness in the village that you will remember.

8. Can’t forget the open-air market, one of the largest in Haute-Savoie.


Profile photo of Bronte Wittpenn

Hello all,My name is Bronte Wittpenn and I am a photojournalism student from The University of Montana in Missoula. I was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia into an incredible, big family and am currently living in Barcelona, Spain for a study abroad program. I have an addiction to meeting people and can't help but look for a beautiful photograph in every setting I come across. I enjoy the outdoors and keeping my heart rate up. I love to cook and spend time with the ones I love. I hope to touch the people surrounding me with my work and one day be able to travel, photograph and write about people and cultures from all over the world. Cheers!

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