Epic Race Mountains 19 & 20 – Orelle & Val Thorens – Les Tres Vallees, France

Well, Hydle slept in his clothes last night. I guess even rockstars hit a wall sometimes! Rhinehart got everyone up at 8 am, and was antsy to get going, since we knew this was going to be a big day covering lots of terrain to check off our two mountains, Orelle and Val Thorens for the day (about a 1.5 – 2 hour commute from Meribel via lifts. But hey, if you’re gonna be commuting, on skis on a lift isn’t a bad way to go!). We got organized, I ran across the street and bought a few groceries for breakfast while the guys looked at the maps, and then we got on the road toward the gondola area in Meribel.

We jumped on our first gondola of the day (one of maybe 8 gondola/trams that we rode. Most resorts in the US have one or two token gondolas. Les Tres Vallees seems to have like 20, but don’t quote me on that).

Not much eventful happened other than the unstoppable breathtaking views of the Alps nonstop from every peak we reached, but we had a big commute of “lift/run/gondola/run/gondola/transfer to another gondola/” etc, so we were just skiing to lift after lift to get our mountains checked off for the day.

About an hour and a half into the skiing/lift riding, we made it to the base of Orelle, where you actually have to ride a gondola DOWN into the valley town of Orelle. I think in good conditions you can ski into the valley floor, but the coverage isn’t great there so far, so we had to download the gondola which was a pretty long ride, maybe 15 minutes, into the town of Orelle to get our stamps at the tourist office.

We ran into a brother sister team of epic racers there, as well as another team of a Grandpa/Son/Granddaughter (who is 9 years old and epic racing!!! Dang. I think I got to ski for the first time when I was like 12, can you imagine getting to ski 26 resorts through the US and Europe with your Dad and Grandpa when you’re 9? Lucky!!)

We rode the gondola back up with the brother sister team, Jannah and Jeff, and of course ran into Adam Warot there again because we run into him everywhere!

We decided to get lunch at the restaurant at the top of Orelle, and went through a lunch line where we had to order food from the lady at the end. The menu was entirely in French, and when we asked the lady that we ordered from if she spoke English, she quickly said “no”. I’m not sure if she didn’t speak English, or if she didn’t feel like trying, but the next lady that was serving the food could speak English so I’m not sure why she couldn’t have offered to ask the lady next to her to help us out (although I have heard the French are not friendly with speaking English so it was expected I guess.)

We ordered Spaghetti because it was the only thing on the menu we could understand (and Rhinehart ordered meat and potatos because he is gluten free, and basically all he has been eating here in Europe has been meat, cheese, potatos and wine, poor guy).

We had a nice lunch on a sunny deck overlooking the Alps and the Orelle Valley, and then branched off again to start making our way back to Val Thorens and eventually Meribel.

In Val Thorens we didn’t do much other than ride a sweet magic carpet tunnel up into the town and go to the information office. The town of Val Thorens is pretty sweet, the ski runs kinda run through town, and there is a whole scene going off, après ski, snow parks, people cruising around, nice hotels, etc. It definitely seemed like the cool spot to stay if you’re into après ski/being right in the scene. Obviously a couple clubs were thrown into the mix too because that’s how they after party in Europe!

We met up with a couple more epic racers, Nick and Sean, and headed back toward Meribel since it was getting late. We ripped it up on the runs back home which was fun, and the guys went through a park again.

Once we made it back to town, we ran into more epic racers, Jay and Wendy, chatted with them for a while, and then grabbed our skis and hiked back toward our hotel. Right when we got back to the hotel, Hydle decided he wanted to explore the town a bit more to prepare for the race. But first, he wanted to teach me how to carry my skis better. I brought my big powder skis, the VJJ’s with me, so they are big and heavy and wide and tough for me to carry/handle especially considering I didn’t grow up skiing and don’t have great skills in ski management.

So Hydle decided to run some drills for me, teaching me how to hold my skis over my shoulder, how to switch shoulders with one hand, etc. This was fine, but then he decided he wanted to explore up a staircase/escalator. It’s a good thing he did because we realized this escalator takes us straight up to the slopes which we can ski into the gondola instead of hiking, and if we figure it out tomorrow, we can ski right back to our hotel, so that’s good. But then he wanted to run drills with me. This was like 5 pm. I had been skiing and in my ski boots all day, and all I wanted to do was take them off, but he decided it was drill time for me to learn how to manage my skis, pop in and out of them quickly, learn how to turn around on the snow quickly, and learn how to pick them up and put them together and throw them over my shoulder quickly (because Friday is the real race day and every second will count then!). I’m fine with drills and actually appreciate them, but I was not in the mood, but I was trying to hang with it, but was losing my patience also.

It was pretty funny because he was testing my patience too for some reason (I knew he was testing my patience because “everything is a test” he always says!).

Finally Rhinehart decided we should head back and shut Hydle down so we got back to the room, took off our boots where Rhineharts socks smelled up the whole room (apparently he has worn the same pair every day so far in Europe!) haha. Then we walked across the street to grab some stuff for dinner, headed back and I cooked up some chicken, rice and veggies while the guys edited and worked on their computers.

Another fun day in the books, although it was a long one. Things should get a little easier (commute wise) from now on until our big day on Friday! Can’t imagine how sweet this mountain would be on a powder day. It must be insane since there is just unlimited terrain…France!

Rhinehart’s Video – Orelle

Hydle’s Video – Val Thorens
Rhinehart’s Video – Val Thorens
Cooley’s Video – Orelle
Cooley’s Video – Val Thorens