Thursday, March 18, 2010

La Thuile (It) and La Rosiere (Fr); New Adventures

Here is Carol's Thursday report. Be sure to read on as we also have a post with photos from Claudeen. The good news is that by reading the reports we can share most of the experience without the calories.

Thursday in Espace San Bernard, which encompasses La Thuile (IT) and La Rosiere (F), completely unknown treasures! Claudeen got a tip from our hotel owner’s sons that we should NOT miss this ski area less than 30 minutes from Courmayeur; La Thuile, translated by French-speaking Michelle as “The Tile”, as in roofing tiles, which are huge slate slabs hereabouts. We began the morning with a dead battery as Dietmar, our Austrian bus driver, intended to warm the bus for us. The Italian version of AAA drove up in his mini-Fiat with two batteries and jumper cables and we were off. Dietmar made up for the delay with heroic hairpin curve driving skills, getting us to the gondola through what we concluded was a pedestrians-only passageway just inches wider than the coach. Bravo, Dietmar!

The group split into a half-dozen crews heading in every direction from the tramway exit, with everyone deciding independently to lunch over the border in Le Rosier, France. It seems that we were all thinking “French Fries”, but not until we were able to comprehend and enjoy the size and scope of this gigantic open area that wasn’t on anyone’s list of Must Ski. In fact, we liked it so much that most SkiMasters will go back tomorrow on the public bus, since Dietmar has his formal “day off”” on Friday. As we are staying in an actual town with hotels, he
doesn’t have to spend his off-time in the slide-out mortician-style drawer accommodation which his default sag wagon. He is a gentleman of substantial stature, so it cannot be his favorite option.

This bus driver gig is interesting, and as Dietmar speaks idiomatic English, your reporter was able to pump him for details. He drives for weeks at a time all over Europe, with his customers providing his accommodations wherever they stop. He has driven for rock bands (the name he dropped was Madonna) and ski exhibitions, various special interest tours (geologists, anthropologists, WWII vets from all armies, some of them traveling together to their former battle sites) and groups like ours who want to go into impossible places to park. The good news is that we can always get onto the bus if we come down from skiing early, as he is sitting at the wheel with his laptop or his book. He always has enough cold water and beer for us when we board after skiing, and so far, hasn’t lost patience with any of us. Yet. OK,
should anyone think we are enchanted by our bus driver, think again. But it COULD be an interesting retirement job!

Tonight is the first time we have figured out how to work the SKY television system in our room, and we are surprised to discover that, apparently, nothing has happened in our week away from the USA. CNN featured an interminable Rose Garden daily news conference in which the current mouthpiece (uh, spokesperson) said Nothing over and over. The lead item on FOX TV was a mother and child missing in WA with the Thurston County police phone number listed. We’ll be on the outlook for them; the kid has a Mohawk so he should be easy to spot. MSNBC is blathering on about CEO compensation. BBC reported that the US Medicare system will be bankrupt by 2017 so we are all considering having our hips and knees replaced soon.

The local Italian news channel had an amazing report on a blind skiier’s downhill race in Vancouver, with Guides leading Racers down the course, shouting directions over their shoulders as they flew down the course. No kidding. It was all in Italian, and we wondered if it is being reported in Seattle. There was a big US contingent at the bottom with flags (not seen by the skiers, for certain) where the racers finish. The blind skiers look better than many of us on the slopes.

Another TV news item reports that a cruise ship departing from the east coast of the US was forced to return to port after a breakout of Norovirus, and we have had a mini-version of our own. Two of our compadres have missed ski days, Larry and Robin, with symptoms of some sort of GI distress followed by fever and exhaustion. They were together the first day on a trip with a guide in Courmayeur, but another of our group who skiied with them is unaffected, and so far, no one else has any signs. May it be so!

Images are promised to the group by various photographers at the Italy/France border, all of our lunch stops, which, miraculously, happened to be simultaneously reached by most of the SkiMaster Variable Speed Cells that depart from the bus with unlimited destinations. We think that there may be some special SkiMasters magnetism at work!

Tonight's dinner started with "Local dried meat, oil and walnuts" which, though unappetizing in description, was a paper-thin arrangement of air-dried beef drizzled with virgin olive oil and dusted with ground walnut meat. There is no way to duplicate this back home, unless Mario Battali's father, ex-Boeing engineer Armandino Battali makes it at his Salumi in Seattle. AMAZING. Two soups and a light version of lasagne followed with main courses of lamb, veal and ham, served with winter vegetables (potato and turnip slices, sauteed nicely) and an improving
cheese trolley preceding the dessert selections. A bright green pistachio torte would have been more appropriate last night (St. Paddy's Day) when we were more likely to voluntarily ingest unnaturally green food.

The spoon passed from Ed to Linda, who apparently commented in public that she very much enjoyed her ride on The World's Longest Poma Lift. No protests were heard from the other Spoon Contenders, who were mostly in the ranks of Forgot Gloves, Trolling for Women with Unzipped Pants...random normal stuff. Thus our week in Italy winds down; tomorrow, we expect increasing clouds and the specter of packing to
leave for Solden. Ciao from Courmayeur!

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