For those who may not know, there is a virus going around. I know this will come as a shock to most of you because you do not watch the news or look at any sort of social media.
A couple of weeks ago, M and I took a trip down to a lovely place called Annecy. We went there to take advantage of their much drier and snow free trails and get in a longer run. Annecy is a town near Switzerland that has been around since the 1300’s. According to what I have read, beginning in the 1400’s, Swiss royalty used Annecy as a vacation spot. Like Kennebunkport, or Mar-a-Lago but with history. The older part of Annecy has cobbled streets and a Venice-like canal (only with clean water) running through the middle of the village.
There are also some churches featuring beautiful stained glass, cool architecture and an M, although that last feature was only temporary.
M and I had a wonderful time running in Annecy. We even managed to bump into Hillary Allen, a famous American trail runner, while we were out on the trails. M and I were taking a break (that means trying to figure out where we were and where we were going) when I looked up and saw Hillary coming down the trail toward us. I said, “Here comes Hillary Allen,” rather loudly so she would know that we recognized her. Her response was typical of Americans on European mountain trails. “YOU SPEAK ENGLISH!” For Americans who do not speak French, it is always a treat to come upon a fellow countryman and not have to worry about how to communicate.
While M and I were in Annecy, the virus shutdown was instituted here in France. Since Le Tour, where we live, is a ski area, and all ski areas were closed, M and I expected the ski area parking lot to be empty when we arrived home Sunday afternoon. As we drove up the hill towards our village, we could see that not only was the parking lot not empty, it was jam packed! People were skinning and hiking up the mountain and enjoying a beautiful spring day. French authorities quickly realized this could be a problem. The authorities worried, and rightly so, that people could get hurt on the mountain and require emergency services that were needed to aid sick people. French authorities then put out a new rule that forbid any activities at the ski areas. At first, many people ignored this order and were still skinning up the various ski areas.
In order to prevent people from disobeying the new rules, police were stationed at the base of the mountain to prevent people from going up. The police presence began to work and people were staying off the mountain. However, the police cannot be stationed at the base of the mountain all day, every day. Therefore, not everyone heeded the new rules. A few people were sneaking up the mountain when the police were not around. This leads to the title of this blog.
About one week ago, M and I were in our apartment, following our normal quarantine routine. This means that M was working, and I was focused on my most demanding task of the day, breathing regularly. Sometime in the afternoon, we noticed that a helicopter was flying endless laps across our valley. Picture Le Tour as a big upside down “U” with the village being at the open end and mountains making up the straight parts and curve of the “U”. The helicopter was flying back and forth, back and forth, for quite a long time. It is not unusual to hear helicopters in the Chamonix valley as they are used for lots of jobs in the mountains. It is unusual to hear one doing laps above our village when the ski area is closed and there are no tourists about as there are in the summer. M and I decided to go for a walk to see if we could determine what the helicopter was up to.
As we ascended the hill towards the base of the lift station, we noted that there were no police present at the base of the ski area to prevent rebellious skiers. M and I made our way up to the base of the lift station and stood looking up at the mountain. We watched the helicopter fly back and forth for a bit and noted the large amount of melting that had taken place on the ski runs. Suddenly, M and I noticed a lone skier coming down the mountain. We watched him descend for a few minutes, noting that he eventually skied very fast across the mountain towards the Vormaine. The Vormaine is directly behind our apartment and is what Americans would call a bunny slope. It is used for beginner skiers and boarders and ski school classes during the ski season. During the winter, M and I would typically access the main ski area by starting at the Vormaine and skinning across from the Vormaine over to the main ski area. Access to the Vormaine is well away from the base of the main ski area lift station. I describe all of this so you can now picture how the skier got away from the police.
As it turns out, the helicopter was doing a random flyover of the mountain to check for skiers out having illegal fun. When M and I walked back down to the parking lot from the base of the lift station, two policeman were walking up towards the base of the lift station because that is where skiers typically end their ski. The police had been called by the helicopter pilot to come and catch the evil skier! Due to the lack of urgency in the policemen’s walk, M and I determined that they were not excited about busting the rabbel-rouser. Even if the police had been more willing to catch the skier, it would not have mattered. The skier’s clever plan to ski across the Vormaine meant that he was at least a quarter of a mile away and possibly already back in his home, if he lives in Le Tour.
So to answer the question in the title of this blog, the skier got away. Since that time, there has been no more high adventure here in the village, although we did see three local teenagers sledding at the Vormaine the other day. Rebels.
M and I hope you are all in good health.
Don’t let the virus stop you from going out and being consistent, in a socially distanced manner.