Argentière, France

1Arguille du Midi Panorama SEB

Yep I’ve been hugely slack and haven’t put anything here for quite some time. We’ve been having a ball, we’re now in Portugal but you’ll hear about that later, expect pictures of food and Segways.

Every now and then you get a pleasant surprise when heaps of good stuff falls into place and better stuff ensues. That was Argentière.

This spot hangs off the side of Chamonix Mont Blanc in the French Alps, (in fact it’s entirely a part of the Mont Blanc area), but it’s a little smaller and retains the typical alpy charm without being overpopulated with tourists. I was a little hesitant in that we were heading there in March (the back end of the snow season) and we’d just been spoilt with great conditions in Japan and Canada, so in the back of my mind was the fact that it could turn into a skiers paradise (ice) rapidly. But we were catching up with some good mates in Ryan and Hannah (as well as their new addition Harry) and making new ones in Huw and Kylie.

What happened was nothing short of rad to the power of sick as we copped the most snow thus far and rode some of the best mountains I’ve ever seen. The first run of the trip at Argentière was a sensational start, about 20cm of fresh powder and nobody on the slopes except Me, Ryan and Huw (and one other bloke from the US) until around lunch time which set a precedent for my expectations of the following couple of weeks, it didn’t disappoint.

France is up there now as one of my favourite places to board now for one glaringly obvious reason (when you’re there at least) that the vast majority of Frenchies just don’t ride off piste, particularly the skiers. It’s ridiculous. They just mogul up the groomers and leave  the soft stuff to those of us who value the integrity of cartilage. There’s still plenty of people hitting the powder but nowhere near as many as there should be, and skiers still get in the way at every turn.

It’s hilarious, the weather forecast predicted huge snow storms for the following week and when I asked to buy a six day lift pass I was met with an, “Are you sure? The weather is terrible for the next week.” 70cm of snow for the first two days and 10-40cm every day after that… I was sure.

Not only is there heaps of untouched snow, it’s stunning… everywhere.

We spent most of our time in another area of the valley called La Tour which undoubtedly provided the best powder conditions and spend a fair chunk of the couple of weeks over there up to our waist on steep but variable runs. Huge open powder bowls everywhere and really technical tree runs when you wanted it. It was perfect. So that’s snowboarding, it was spot on. Good chance it was the best session on the board of the season actually although it’s hard to know how good a time I’d have had in Japan if were boarding as well there as I am now after three months straight. I need to find a chance to edit the GoPro footage I took and put together a montage as there really aren’t that many photos of us on the snow since it’s a bit hard to get the camera out. Consider that a work in progress.

Other delightful activities included daily boullangerie visits providing pain au chocolates, pain au raisins and croissants in bulk which absolutely contributed to my current girth shape, that’s your fault Huw. I like to think that I’m currently sporting a rubenesque body shape centred around the mid section.

We took the gondola to the top of Arguille du Midi, one of the highest points in the Mont Blanc area and I’ve never been so cold in my life. Minus 30 degrees and blowing its ring off was less than comfortable no matter how much sunlight was around. It didn’t help that it was at over 3,800m above sea level so the altitude was doing its best to simultaneously keep our heads spinning. That’s the coldest I’ve ever been without a doubt, to the point where I actually thought I was getting frostbite on my right hand even while wearing two pairs of gloves. In saying that, amazing spot. A lot of skiers (not so many boarders) head up there and ski down the glacier which would have been sensational to do apart from the super sketchy hike to the starting point. Next time I’m there I’ll get a guide and do it though, looks pretty fun.

Loz and I also took a train up to look at Mer de Glace (sea of ice) glacier. It’s the largest glacier in France at about 7km long and up to 200m thick. It’s pretty damn impressive, particularly when you venture down about 5 million steps and walk through the ice cave at the bottom. There’s a sweet shot of Lauren below somewhere inside the cave to give you an idea of what it’s like. The ice is the purest, clear blue and looks like it’s been sitting there for centuries, because it has.

Apart from that we just generally had heaps of fun. We’re already missing the good company and the soothing sounds of Hannah pumping but each day is bringing us something we’ve never seen or experienced before which is 100% irreplaceable.

BT

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