Since 2009, 28-year-old Anna Rukosuyeva has built an impressive list of travel adventures. She has been to Italy, where she visited Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Siena, Rome, and Amalfi Coast. Also on the list is Dublin, London, Paris, Morocco and, we can’t miss sailing the Greek islands. But one of her favourites was the French Alps.
You have travelled a lot. What has been your favourite adventure?
A.R.: My recent trip to the French Alps was amazing! I have only snowboarded at Blue Mountain here in Ontario, so the thought of being on a “real” mountain was very exciting and intimidating. We flew to Geneva and drove to the French side and stayed in a gorgeous chalet a few minutes away from Chamonix. It was three days of intense snowboarding, apres-ski, which is the socializing that happens afterwards, and hot-tubbing while looking at the gorgeous scenery.
What is your favourite memory of that trip?
A.R.: After a few hours of snowboarding, sitting outside on a Muskoka chair at the café on the top of the mountain with a hot chocolate or a beer and enjoying the scenery.
What there an embarrassing moment?
A.R.: The hardest part of the trip was day one. I hadn’t snowboarded for a few years and was a little rusty. Our friends decided to snowboard Grands Montets as our first run. The conditions were perfect for the 11,000 ft peak. My friends had snowboarded the day before, so they had warmed up. Not me! I was not used to such thick powder and steep angle and my rental bindings were giving me a lot of trouble. I spent the most of the run sliding down on my bottom and trying not to get in the way of the skiers behind me. It felt like the first day of learning to snowboard. I definitely don’t recommend going up to the very top of one of the tallest peaks on your first day.
What is your advice for someone heading to the French Alps to ski or snowboard?
A.R.: If you are staying on the French side, stay in Chamonix. It is a cute little town with an amazing view of the mountains. If you’re skiing first thing in the morning, wake up early. You want to get to the line 20 minutes before the mountain opens. There are only one or two gondolas operating and the trip up takes about 15 min, so there is a lot of waiting. Oh, and après-ski is a must. There are tons of cafes and bars at the bottom of the hill. Find a nice spot in the sun, stretch out your sore legs and have a delicious beer.
Where are you headed next?
A.R.: Croatia! If you have never seen their waterfall park, I dare you to google Plitvice Lakes National Park and not want to pack up your bags immediately and go. It is also one of the backdrops to one my favourite shows “Game of Thrones.”
Anna Rukosuyeva was diagnosed with CML in 2009. You can see her gracing the slopes in the French Alps at Anna’s Run.
What you need to know before heading to the French Alps
Best restaurant: “You have to go out for fondue to complete your experience,” says Rukosuyeva. “We went to La Calèche and it was excellent.” One thing to know about the restaurants, though, is that once breakfast is over, they don’t serve lunch for the next few hours. We stopped by a few restaurants while they were flipping their menu and they didn’t have any food to serve us.
The most essential piece of snowboarding gear: Helmet. Everyone wears one in Europe so you won’t be alone. I’ve seen too many concussions happen to really good snowboarders on the smallest hills. Safety first, no matter how good you think you are or how easy you think the hill is.
The one thing I wish I knew: On the last day of our stay we discovered the Montenvers Train that goes up to the ice caves in the Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier. This is on my list for the next time we visit.
Pleasant surprise: We used AlpinResorts and paid 80 euros for three days of equipment rental. That’s about $100, compared to Blue Mountain in Ontario, which costs about $45 per day.