Alta States 

Action from Mondial du Ski 2005

By Michel Beaudry

The village isn’t all that pretty. A schizophrenic mélange of the last half-century of ski town architecture — from traditional Oisans farmhouse to flat-roofed cubist atrocity; from modest ’60s A-frame design to gaudy post-modern romanticism — the resort of Les 2 Alpes lurches across its narrow valley floor like a lazy drunk on a Saturday night. But on this Saturday night, this mile-high French resort seems to be the place where everybody wants to party.

Welcome to the Mondial du Ski. Fall Bacchanal. Consumer trade show.   Industry forum. Media schmooze fest. It’s an early winter gathering of the various French ski tribes. A celebration of the new ski season and all its new toys. What’s hot. What’s not. And what’s probably going to be in your quiver in a few years’ time…

But it’s more too. It’s skiing at 3,600 metres surrounded by some of the steepest, most beautiful peaks in the Alps. Getting in some early-season turns; testing all the new gear and feeling that familiar rush of adrenaline when you first point your skis downhill. It’s seeing the imposing slopes of Mont Blanc to the east; the jagged spires around La Meije directly to the south. Big alpine faces that drop precipitously to forest-clad valleys. Serious terrain for serious mountaineers. And it makes the first week in November seem like the middle of the ski season...

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s 3:30 in the morning, and I’m desperately trying to get home to my hotel. But the Avalanche Disco is so full that just getting to the door is a near-sisyphean exercise in futility. I swim through a seething mass of sweating, swaying, dancing, lurching bodies. Do they have fire marshals here, I wonder idly as I wiggle through a fast-narrowing gap only to get dead-ended by a group of drink-sodden ski stars clad only in string underwear and cowboy boots. One of the stars is handcuffed to a young woman who does not seem to understand what’s going on. It appears they don’t know each other. Only in France? You said it…

I finally fight my way to the exit only to be gob smacked again. Outside the door is a crowd easily as big as the one inside. The lineup for the club stretches all the way down the block and around the corner. And everyone standing in it expects to get in. And they probably will. After all, they’ll keep the party going till dawn around here. I can’t help but laugh. I wonder what Mike Varrin would do with a place like this…

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