There are certain things about France that don’t cease to amaze me. One is the incredible skiing in the winter. I’ve skied in a number of the more popular resorts in the French Alps (Courchevel, Val Thorens, Méribel, etc.) and of course the conditions were great and I had a great time. But what’s more interesting – and fun – are the resorts that people don’t know about. Les Karellis is one of those. Nestled away in the Valley of the Maurienne (about an hour’s drive from Chambéry to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne) you’ll find the slopes pretty empty and nicely groomed. We went last Saturday and the tourists either leave or arrive on the weekend and thus don’t get out on the slopes much on the weekend – but this was amazing. Except for a few locals (and I mean locals from Savoie, not locals from Paris) it felt like we had the mountain all to ourselves. There was great snow in the morning and the off-piste was spectacular. We sat around a few picnic tables at noon to eat lunch with Combe de Savoie cheese, ham, tea, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches (supplied by me – my French companions did not appreciate the American delicacy). Not only was the weather perfect, but so was the company: Lucile is an old friend of mine who organized the trip – this was the first time we got to ski together. She’s from the other side of the valley from Les Karellis and knew all of the surrounding valleys and peaks. She also pointed out the local fauna that were grazing just above her house. Natasha is a student in Geology and works with the local mountain guides; Céline hails from the North, but prefers the mountains and changing atmosphere of Savoie; and Patrick is half-Venezuelan, half-French and is a mad driver (especially when he stuffed four people and all their kit into his Peugeot to take us safely back to Chambéry). Towards the end of the day, we sat around Lucile’s house and ate crêpes, drank hot chocolate and tea and chatted about the enviromental issues concerning the Maurienne valley. A great day and a great way to listen to the concerns of the local Savoie youth, who are just as concerned for the mountains and the environment as are many of us who enjoy the outdoors.Thanks to Lucile and the rest of the gang for your hospitality.
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