The Most Scenic Drive

The acclimatization camp in the Goms Valley was an awesome success.  It was sunny everyday but one, and that day it began to snow in the early morning and didn’t stop until mid-afternoon, dumping about 30cm of fresh snow.   We stayed at the Ahorni hotel in Oberwald which is at the very top of the valley. For most of our work outs we would ski down the valley and if we were feeling a little adventurous we would take loops that branched from the main ski trail that runs the entire length of the valley.  One day we did try something new though, we skied the entire length of the main trail which took us about an hour and 20 minutes, where the plan was to simply hop on the train and get a ride back up to Oberwald.  It would have worked that simply but we mistimed our arrival at the train station and missed the train by 10 minutes.  We were then forced to wait close to an hour for the next one, but luckily the train arrived with Swiss timing precision.  Because there were so many amazing aspects of our stay I’ll just list them; the food, the trail conditions, the make shift biathlon range, the accommodations and the chocolate, the live sports feed on Eurosport.  There are many more I’m sure but those are the ones that quickly come to mind.  But like they say “all good things must come to an end.”

The camp was over and it was time to drive from Oberwald, Switzerland to Bessans, France.  We had no clue how long the drive would be but the rough guesses were around seven hours.  The team piled into the rentals and set off at exactly 8:34 on Sunday morning.  The car that I was in also had the two techs Ian and Bruce, Biathlon coach Celine and Jody.  We settled in and were doing quite well.  If there was ever a scenic drive, we were on it!  It began with the Swiss mountains and the so far unexplored regions (for me) of the valley.  The landscape then changed just slightly, it was still mountainous but the foliage changed.  It no longer was just forests or grasslands, it was vineyards.  To me it seemed that anywhere a Mountain goat could walk they had planted grapes.  This continued for miles of the autobahn.

After the “vineyards of wonderment,” the theme of the remainder of the drive was to visit as many famous places in Europe.  First the Grande St. Bernard pass, driving up we had our last scenic view of Switzerland, driving down on the other side we were in a very steep valley, and suddenly without warning we were in France.  With this being my first time in France, I can now check it off my list.  This took us to just after 11:10 and most in car were beginning to think the same thing- lunch.  It was just our luck that the next town was bond to have some good restaurants, because that town just happened to be Chamonix.  The best way to describe Chamonix, is to picture Whistler; on steroids!  We found a great little pizzeria and sat down to a lovely lunch.  After lunch we wanted to spend some time to look around.  But again it was just our luck that two shops down from the restaurant was a bakery. Oh yeah!  We all agreed that one of everything (each) would work, but found some self control and only bought a few things each.  I chose a Framboises Fraiches, translation, the best raspberry tart EVER.  With our tummies full and more breathtaking scenes along the road we set off again.  The next place of interest was the Mont Blanc Tunnel or well Mont Blanc itself was there too.  Though our route would not include driving through the tunnel it was neat to be right there at the entrance.

With Chamonix, Mont Blanc and its tunnel behind us it was time to have another theme to the drive- the Olympic past.  We were very close to Grenoble, France and drove through the outskirts of Albertville, France and then along with Chamonix, France.  So three Olympic cities within minutes of where we were driving, can’t get any better than that.  In this last little section of the drive we saw some amazing massive castles, high up surrounded by sheer rock walls on three sides, they were just beautiful.

Suddenly right in front of us was … the sign welcoming us to Bessans.  We had arrived; it was just before 4:00 in the afternoon.  It was much colder here but the snow conditions looked great.  That was where the arrival stopped being great . . .

To Be Continued . . .

Mark


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