"The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good."
- Bertrand Russell
It had been a busy ten days. From the Andorran Pyrenees to l'Oisans, from l'Isere to Haute Savoie, I'd managed to hit five different mountain resorts that I'd never visited before. And I'd been able to enjoy the only powder cycle the Alps had received since early February. I was feeling mighty satisfied with my European sojourn so far — if still a bit sleep-deprived.
But my host wasn't finished with me yet. "I've got a real surprise for you," said Serge Dupraz, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "A group of my friends are having their annual reunion this weekend at Avoriaz. And you're going to be the guest of honour. Be prepared for some serious fun."
And then he really scared me. A gathering of Le Club des Longs Pieds, explained Serge, was not for the weak of heart. Nor for the weak of liver. The members of the club, he went on, had all been ski instructors at Avoriaz during their student years. And while they'd gone on to become doctors and pharmacists and dentists and architects, the hard-charging group of fiftysomethings loved nothing more than to gather in the mountains to relive the madness of their misspent youth. "You should fit in just fine," he told me with a straight face. "They love to ski hard and they love to play hard." He paused for a long beat. "And Manu, our host for the weekend, boasts one of the best wine cellars in all of Haute Savoie. I'm sure you won't be bored."
Considered by many as the jewel in the vast Portes Du Soleil ski domain, the village of Avoriaz is something of an acquired taste. Built on the snowy rump of a massive cliff at nearly 2,000 metres of altitude, its many-coloured B.C.-timbered buildings are like nothing else in the ski world. It's almost as if Dr. Seuss had been retained to design the architecture. There's something about the village that seems off-balance somehow — eccentric, out-of-place — like it's just waiting for the right storm to blow it off its precipitous perch. As for the lifts, they wind their way through the village's towering apartment buildings, offering intimate views (sometimes too much so) of vacationers' interior activities. Both voyeurs and exhibitionists are well served.
Fortunately, said Serge, we wouldn't be staying in the village. "Manu bought a beautiful old slopeside chalet some years ago just a few hundred vertical metres below Avo," he explained. "And he completely redid the interior. He's got enough beds for the whole gang there. I think you'll find our lodgings quite satisfactory."