Contrary to popular belief, ski instructing is not an easy job. Its fun but not necessarily easy. First of all, you’re in charge of ten skiers whose aptitudes are unknown to you. There’s one general rule concerning their abilities: if they say they are advanced they’re usually intermediates; if they say they’re intermediate they’re usually beginners; and if they say they are beginners they usually have never put on a pair of skis in their life. Over the next four hours you spend about an hour-and-a-half standing around: someone has lost a glove, someone needs the toilet, someone has the giggles and can’t go on, etc. At the end of the afternoon you have about one hour to ski on your own – which isn’t a lot if the lift lines are miles long. You grab the last cable car to town just in time to get in a happy-hour beer – and that slides you into a coma. You trudge off to the hotel for a quick shower, dinner and a nice book before passing out like a toddler on a road trip. If you’re younger than 27 of course you’ll go out, get wrecked, and pay the price the next day. But hey, that’s your business. I like to sleep at night since I know I have to do the same thing all over the next day.
The busy week is the reason why we ski on Sunday. Sunday is the official day off and no matter how shattered legs and minds can be from the prior week, we rally to wake up early, get the boots on and spend a day skiing – preferably at another resort. So Kenny, Steve and I went to La Thuile: 30 minutes from Courmayeur by bus where the skiing was top-notch. Situated along the French-Italian border in the Aosta Valley, it is a huge resort connected to La Rosière on the French side (just above Bourg St. Maurice on the South-facing side of the mountain). What does this mean? It means 150km of piste as well as some of the most spectacular off-piste in the Aosta Valley (in my humble opinion). You can get a ski pass for both sides (read: the whole mountain) but keep an eye on the weather: at 2650m the top of the Piccolo San Bernard has been known to host zero visibility conditions, strong winds and winter storms. In the summertime you can cross the Petit St. Bernard with hundreds of cyclists looking to imitate the Tour de France racers (the “Grande Boucle” came though last year touching the Grand St. Bernard on the other side of the valley and then the Petit St. Bernard all in one day). Regardless of the season the Piccolo San Bernardo is a great place to hang out for outdoor fun.
Getting to La Thuile is easy: there are numerous buses from Courmayeur and Aosta that go directly up to the ski station or drop you off in Pré St. Didier from where you can take a second bus up the mountain. I would link in the schedules here but SAVDA (public bus system) hasn’t updated them online. The buses run about 30-45 minutes apart. Just don’t travel on Sundays or around lunch time – you may get stuck for a few hours.
When in Pré St. Didier stop by the Tennis Bar (owned by Stefano Amatori). You’ll find it chock full of skiers enjoying an après-ski afternoon/evening/late night and Stefano plays some of the greatest music including Warren Zevon, Boston, and Blue Oyster Cult (well I think it’s great). The Tennis Bar is a good time if you’re on your way out of – or into – La Thuile. We were able to stop there on the last night of our stay in Courmayeur. The video below documents our “fun-day” of skiing without students in La Thuile. It’s nothing more than a neat little film and a good memory I shared with some excellent friends. I hope you enjoy it.