Alpine Life – our reality of living in the French Alps

We seem to have become more adapted to living in the Alps.  Les Aples Françaises have been our home for almost four years now (plus 4 years about a decade ago), which is a while – and seems like a really long time for our kids. Alpine life has definitely changed who we are, and as we are in the last week or so of what is our last ski season here, I’ve realized how different things used to feel.

Alpine life here means you can go from green grass to 30 or 40 or 50cm or more of snow – in the course of a day. Growing up on the Canadian prairies we were used to snow slowly accumulating over months and months – a few cm’s at a time.  Here it’s more like 0-60 in 18hrs. Then instead of lingering around for months, the vast quantities of snow often are gone in just a few days. We can easily go from green grass in our yard to sledding down our hill, back to green grass within the same week.  The kids have learned – if you want to play in the snow – you better do it now.

It means that we have about a 15-minute drive from our house to the chairlift at the ski station at the top of our hill.

It means some days when kids are coming to school, some cars are wet with rain, and some have 30cm of snow on them – all coming from our village.

It means the kids go skiing every Wednesday with a group from our town – ski de mecredi. They also go skiing with school. There was a stretch a few months ago where Micah was skiing 4 days a week  – not bad for an 8-year-old not on holidays!

It means there is rain in Grenoble 15 minutes from our place, a skiff of snow in Uriage (2.5km if you walk straight down trails from our place) and you need chains to get up our road.  When I say ‘need chains’ this is coming from someone who learned to drive in a part of the world where you can have snow on the ground 6 months of the year. I’m not some Parisienne on a ski holiday – I’ve spent half my life driving on snow- and we have good snow tires!

my new chains. pretty exciting stuff, non?

One time I stopped in our small grocery store to pick up something on our way home from skiing. Not only was I not out of place walking into the store wearing ski-pants, but – no word of a lie – there were about 6 other people in there who were also – and only one person in the whole store was not wearing ski-attire.  (I’ll assume he had already gone home to change)

It means skiing – literally from our back door, in the yard.

It means that sometimes the weight of all that snow knocks out the power – so the wood stove becomes not only heating for the house but also the only way to warm up some dinner.

It means there is a chateau just below the kid’s school, that you can see from the park where the bains thermal (hot springs – with all their healing power) are.

It’s not all skiing and snow chains in these parts. Our region of France is actually very temperate – and summers in Grenoble are downright hot. Well, at least it seems warm to me, who grew up in a part of the world where there are more days recording -30° than there are +30° (yes – there really is such a thing as -30°. And yes – it feels as bad as you could imagine)

It means wildlife in our yard

It means there is a dairy farm across the valley that makes their own raclette cheese and sells whole milk into glass bottles that you bring yourself.

It means road signs – and the corresponding roads – that tend to be rather twisty, narrow, and steep.

It means having an acute sense of elevation  – as it has such a strong determining factor in many things – like the weather. The weather forecast is not complete without knowing the isotherme (the elevation where 0° will fall – so you know where the rain ends, and the snow begins.)

We have grown to love this place – and we will definitely miss it.