Opinion » Alta States

On the road again; exploring France's lesser known resorts



"Live dangerously"

- Friedrich Nietszche

We were on the last leg of a lightning ski trip to Andorra — a 2,500-kilometre epic to the Pyrennean principality that had me reeling with fatigue — and I was already fantasizing about the comfy bed waiting for me back in my home base of Thonon. Not that I was sorry we'd gone or anything. To me, exploring new mountain locales justifies all the discomforts one might experience along the way. Still, I was drained. Dirty. Hungry. A hot shower in my own apartment seemed like just the ticket for my aching bones. But it was not to be. My travel companion, Serge Dupraz, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

"Let's stop for dinner at Aix-Les-Bains," suggested the wily Savoyard. "There's a friend there I want you to meet."

We'd been cooped up in his rented truck for nearly ten hours straight. We'd gone from palm trees and Mediterranean breezes to yew and pine and a brisk alpine wind. I was ready for a break. Besides, it would be a much-needed opportunity to stretch my travel-folded legs. I mean, the spartan nature of the truck's cab made a third-world bus seat look luxurious in comparison...

"Are you suggesting a real, sit-down meal," I asked with just a squeeze of irony to my words. "At a restaurant and everything?" It seemed we'd been eating truck-stop sandwiches and drinking bad coffee for weeks.

Serge laughed. "Mais bien sur," he said. "You know I have your best interests at heart."

So we stopped in Aix. Lucky we did.

The man I was about to meet was legendary snowboarder Dédé Maszewski. A former world champion and one of the smoothest freeriders on the planet, Maszweski had grown up at La Clusaz – the same mountain town that nurtured such French skiing luminaries as Edgard Grospiron, Candide Thovex and Seb Michaud. And yet – though his riding pedigree was as golden as they come, the man himself was as easy-going and approachable as the kid next door.

"So glad to meet you, Michel," said the still-youthful forty-something as we joined him at one of the lakeside restaurants this classic spa town is famous for. His smile reached out and pulled me into his orbit. "It's a real pleasure, you know," he continued. "I've heard so much about you."

Say what? Me? But I didn't get to explore that subject much further. Because Dédé had already pulled out his laptop and was regaling us with tales of a killer powder session he'd had earlier that day with his 13-year-old son, Timo, at their home hill of Les 7 Laux. There hadn't been any new snow in the Alps for weeks, he explained, and this late in the season most riders had given up hope. But the powder gods still had a little spring magic on offer and the mountains had received a 40-centimetre dump of cold winter snow the day before. "It was just amazing," he said. "Some of the best riding of the season."

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