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"Enough talk; let's hit the slopes," suggested an impatient-to ski Fifou. "There's a great little couloir nearby that drops us right where we want to go. It's just over the ridge. Who's up for it?"
Turned out the "little" couloir was a rather steep, exposed exercise in precision-skiing that didn't appeal to the whole group. While Fifou, Jean-Phil, Serge and I attacked the precipitous — and in some places sluffed-to-ground — gully, the rest of the party chose a more casual path to our destination. And yet. And yet. The snow had just softened enough — the top layer was just grabby enough — that the ski down was like a kiss from the angels. Spring corn at its best. And my smile was tickling my ears by the time we reached the valley.
"It was a really weird winter," explained Jean-Phil when I asked him about all the to-ground avalanche debris around us. "Until late in December it was so warm outside that we were still having picnics on the grass here. Then the snow came. And it dumped and it dumped and it dumped! But the ground never got a chance to freeze. So when the weather turned warm again a few weeks back, well, you can see the results. Everything just let go..."
Indeed. And maybe the others hadn't been so crazy to choose the long way round. But the sun was shining, the stunning Dents-du-Midi massif was bathed in glorious light and I was in the company of like-minded crazies who loved the same things I did. Still, I made sure to keep my antennae well tuned to the ambient conditions as the sun warmed up and the day progressed. No need for extra excitement.
I know it's not that big a deal. But for me, skiing from one country to the other still has a magical appeal. Call me romantic, but I just love the idea of touring from village-to-village, grokking on the unique buzz of each mountain valley along the way. And nowhere is that easier to do than in Portes du Soleil's twelve linked resorts. "Let's head over to Champery," suggested Fifou after a few (more casual) runs in the French quarter. "I know where there's still some good snow on the Swiss side. It's all north-facing. Could even be some powder left over...."