By Ptor Spricenieks
LA GRAVE, France -- It’s that time again. Cold and rainy, cool and sunny. Falling yellow larch needles. Nobody in town. Nothing open. It makes me reflect on why I love it here. So, here it goes.
I’ve always been a bit confused about my place here on earth. I was born in Canada, a stolen land. Growing up amongst the hypocrisy of that British Crown Corporation, I nonetheless experienced a considerable cultural mosaic. Every ethnicity was around and so multiculturalism and tolerance was the norm. I went to school with the Italian mob, there was a German delicatessen down the street, and places like "Little Jamaica" and "Bramladesh" were not far away. Then there was also the remnants of my parent’s ethnic culture, Latvian.
As I got older, I traveled the world and began to see the other sides of life and the effects that the creators of the society that I was born in were doing to other people. At odds, I eventually considered my place back in Latvia, the land of my blood heritage. However, after visiting, I found out that like so many other places, it didn’t really exist any more. The Soviets had successfully diluted Latvian society. More recently, Latvia has been fully subdued by the banksters sending Latvians once again scrambling away from their homeland. I guess the "Templars" have their revenge for their humiliating defeat in Riga back in the 1400s. Besides all that, Latvia has no mountains.
So now I live in France. But why? Aside from its healthcare, it’s no better than any other "puppet run" phony republic. Today, the world over, modern culture is but a fallback to good old feudalism, kept in line by the slack noose of its money temples and “behind the scenes” black sorcerers. With respect to any kind of real ethics, there is not much difference between countries. It’s already been awhile since I realized that my “spirit-having-a-human-experience” was actually an “outer-national” native. More importantly, beyond any passport paraphenalia, I know that my tribe is the ski tribe and it exists in many places--transcending borders and traditional cultural definitions. So having the fortune of dual citizenship, I naturally emigrated to my favorite ski place… because I could. La Grave.
People here in France are puzzled when I say that I moved here from Canada because for them, it would be their dream to live there. Yes, yes, it’s that greener grass over there. I could go on about the similarities and differences between “here” and “there” for many many paragraphs but it’s my local ski tribe that understands me explicitly--because they are here in La Grave for the same reason. It’s still basically a lift-accessed mountain environment more than a ski area, and it repels modern resort stuff like wet snow on fresh Goretex®.
La Grave actually always had a mountain culture that has been present for some 700 years and still pretty well has nothing to do with mountain sports. Much of that independent and permacultural spirit lives on today and intertwines with how the ski/sports mountain culture can exist. Like all the small mountain communities in the French Alps, it wasn’t until Napoleonic times that they began to be unified by roads and the French language. People that lived a mere 100km away from each other could barely communicate. From those times, a staunch pride emerged that permeates each successive generation. Few people know that the original construction of the Telepherique was actually bombed. It would be inappropriate to label this particular brand of localism as xenophobia. It really has less to do with nationalism or even France than the more popular notions of anti-multiculturalism in Europe today.
Granted, every ski tribe has their own style and set of values, and as such individuals are attracted to the ski place that suits their own taste. Personally, I think it’s a haggle when you are up on the top of the mountain and the patrol comes to boot you off, just because it’s "sweep" and you’re not supposed to be up there after-hours. That just doesn’t happen in La Grave. If you want to wait for the absolute deepest part of the day, no problem. In fact, since the advent of super high-powered headlamps, night skiing has become totally in vogue here. Beyond that, any kind of device you want to use is acceptable if you don’t hurt anyone while doing it. There are no restrictions on paragliding, speed-riding, sit-skiing, uphill skiing, snowboarding or any other way to enjoy the mountain. My favorite thing these days is paraskiing, where I take off with my paraglider on skis and fly to somewhere untracked. At the end of the day I can fly across the valley and land on the mountain behind my house and ski down to my doorstep.
I love waking up in the morning when it’s dumping and not hearing bombs going off. Here, the mountain is not subdued for the instant gratification of the ski community. Beyond exceptionally dangerous days when it’s probably better to stay home and drink coffee anyways, the skier always has self-determined access to all the mountain’s features in their natural, albeit sometimes rather tracked-out, state. I am also addicted to 2,000m runs. Aprés ski I have only four bars to choose from, which is plenty. Or if I want, I can have a beer on the street and ride my bike without a helmet.
When I say stuff like, I like having to avoid stepping in cow or goat dung while walking down the street in my village and enjoy having the neighbor’s chickens running around, it’s obvious that I prefer the archaic in life. With the way the world is changing these days, less is more than probably more. It seems that the other factions of the ski tribe just need to come down off their "sophistication" trip. As such, I like heretic thoughts like Michel Beaudry’s ramblings on how ski areas should improve themselves by taking out lifts and getting rid of all the superfluous crap. As the "Templars" whittle away at the middle class, shouldn’t ski resorts be going minimal to provide a cheaper and more elemental experience, especially with the current renaissance in backcountry skiing?
There’s many awesome mountain places to live in all over the world. Crazy how some of us are born into having a choice of where we can live and for some it’s more restricted. Wouldn’t the world be an even better place if everybody could live happily where they really wanted to?