Alpine Mummy

A new life in the middle of nowhere

And yet more snow!

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snow tree

This post has been a long time coming but I’m discovering quite how time-consuming it is living in the mountains in winter.  And winter has certainly arrived – we have nearly a metre of snow in our garden, it’s currently about -13°c outside, and our driveway is covered in ice.  I think I must have been singing “Let it Snow” just a little bit too loudly; someone up above appears to have heard me…

So, yes, winter is here!  Woo hoo!  It has snowed so much in the last two weeks (up where we are at least); when planning to move here we really couldn’t have hoped for anything better.  The snow is beautiful: muddy, ugly fields have been magically transformed into lakes of white – with waves of snow lapping wooden fences and droplets of ice sparkling in the sunlight.  When we wake up, the first thing we see is snow-covered mountains (unless we happen to be stuck in a snow cloud.  Again) – they seem proud to have finally grown up and become “real” mountains, like their big, high-altitude brothers.

A sea of snow

A sea of snow

The crisp crunch underfoot as I walk to the village is a sound I’ve been dreaming of for so long – this is why we’ve uprooted our family and moved to the middle of nowhere, I remember now!  The look on Alpine Boy’s face as he throws himself into metre-high snow piles; or as he crawls into the snow-house his Papa and uncle have lovingly crafted for him (well, for themselves, really…); or as he slides down a slope on his skis for the first time ever, that look says it all.  This is a good place to be.  A really good place.

waist deep in snow

Alpine Boy, waist deep in snow

We have to be careful what we wish for though – such scenes of perfection come at a price…  For example, our driveway is on a slope, and on several occasions over the past two weeks it has snowed over 40cm in one night.  We go to bed with a nice clear driveway and wake up completely snowed in.  It takes us two hours to clear the drive to get the car out.  Two hours.  I’ve already mentioned that it takes me three hours to get ready in the summer.  Add two hours’ drive-clearing to that and it’s really not worth going out (though, annoyingly, I still have to clear the drive!).  And I certainly don’t make appointments for the mornings any more.

I’ve found muscles I didn’t know existed, and am becoming an expert snow-digger.  We have to do it every day, and in fact I sometimes get to the top of the drive, huffing and puffing with muscles aching, only to turn around to admire my handiwork and see the snow already settling at the bottom.  If Sisyphus had lived in the Alps, no doubt he would have been clearing Zeus’ snowy driveway, not messing around with boulders on hills.  Luckily at the moment I can share the chore with my brother who is staying with us for a month or so but, when I’m on my own again in January, snow-clearing will be entirely my domain.  Great.  The other problem is that I can only really dig when Alpine Girl is napping.  This is tragic: nap-time is my second favourite part of the day (my favourite is gin o’clock), and it feels such a waste to spend it scraping snow off a frozen drive.  Maybe I can encourage Alpine Girl to double the length of her naps to four hours instead of two…

Drive clear, but for how long?

Drive clear, but for how long?

Other “challenges” of our first Alpine winter include:

  • having to pry open the frozen doors and to defrost the inside of the car before we can go anywhere;
  • learning to walk on icy paths without ending up on my backside (so far, failed.  We went for a walk by the lake today and I fell over twice on the ice. I was holding Alpine Boy’s hand and had Alpine Girl in the backpack.  Alpine Boy and I came off worse – I have yet more throbbing bruises all over my knees and bum, and Alpine Boy has a smashed-up nose and scratched cheek.  Alpine Girl stayed fast asleep in the backpack, despite her mum lying on the floor and her brother screaming blue murder.  She didn’t feel a thing.  Wow.);
  • having to blow-dry my hair everyday so I don’t get icicles on my head;
  • lighting the fire with frozen fingers when we come inside from a snowball fight (without setting fire to myself, the sofa, or the cat);
  • learning to put snow chains on (we have put snow tyres on our little car, but to put them on our 4×4 would cost over 1000 euros and, frankly, we’re too tight);
  • learning to drive on icy roads;
  • learning to drive on snowy roads;
  • learning to drive in a snowstorm;
  • learning to drive on tiny, icy, snowy mountain roads in a snowstorm when there are crazy Alpine drivers flashing their lights and trying to overtake me because I’m going too slowly, ie less than 100km per hour).

The list goes on.

But I still think it’s worth it.  So far, anyway (I’ll get back to you in a month or so when I’m sick of the sight of all this white stuff and I just want to leave the house without wearing 12 layers of clothing).  My friend was saying yesterday that you have to listen to the ‘old people’ in the mountain villages – they are the ones who know what kind of winter it’s going to be.  They successfully predicted last year’s bitterly cold one (hey, maybe they just Googled it, who knows).  Anyway, she informs me that this year the old people are predicting…. lots and lots of snow!  Hurrah!  (Better stock up on arnica cream – I predict more bruises before the winter is out…)

snow orchard

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Author: Alpine Mummy

Now an ex-City lawyer, I gave up London life 'just for a year' to spend my maternity leave in a tiny village in the French Alps. Nearly three years later Alpine Family is still here - the legal career is gone but we're living the dream (most of the time) and skiing and hiking our way through life. Walks and fresh air are now the order of the day - bye bye smog, hello mountains...

17 thoughts on “And yet more snow!

  1. I don’t think I’d cope very well at all. Temperature is down to about -8 here and we’ve had a fair few inches of snow … I hate it. I like the cold weather but trying to carry on with normal life with the snow is so hard. It takes hours just to bundle on enough layers and boots to get out of the door. You’re a braver woman than I!

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    • I don’t think I’d enjoy it quite so much if I had to leave the house everyday to go to work. And it’s all totally worth it when the sun comes out and it’s all so beautiful! I’m not too good with the cold though – I really do have about 6 layers on most of the time…

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  2. I admire your positivity, I truly do! While Alpine Toddler is in his element building snowmen, trying to ride his bike through the snow, watching snow ploughs, playing with his luge . . . I am already hoping for an early spring, so that I can get my own bike out again!!! But you are right that the snow is beautiful, and especially on a crisp and sunny day, when you can all head out for a ski and luge! And, despite the monumental effort required just to bundle everyone up to get out of the house to head to the shops, it must certainly beat commuting in London!

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    • The ski-ing makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it? And you’re right – every time I start to get a bit grumpy about how hard it is living here, I remind myself how rubbish it is commuting in London every day in the cold/rain/dark!

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  3. Ha, no more chocolate shop for you unless you’ve got fisherman’s waders! Does gin o’clock start at about the same time as martini o’clock – anything from about midday. On second thoughts – couldn’t you igloo tunnel your driveway and drive your car under the snow. No need to clear the snow again, and plenty of opportunity for nap-time fun! We had great fun our first year drinking hot chocolate in our igloo.

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    • no indeed – I need to get myself some snow shoes to get there (or take the car I guess!). Gin o’clock is indeed any time after midday. Or 11.30 at weekends. (Weekends start on Thursday. And finish on Monday). That’s OK isn’t it…?! Totally normal 😉 I like your igloo tunnel plan – I may leave the actual digging to someone else though… I’d never built an igloo before, so much more fun than a snowman! Hot chocolate inside sounds lovely, may try that! We’ve got candles in at the moment and it looks very homely.

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  4. First, I love your falling snow graphic! How did you do that? I think I would LOVE to have a couple weeks of deep, pure snow, but then I’m not sure how I’d handle it… 🙂 Enjoy your winter wonderland!

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    • ooh I wasn’t sure if it was working! Its in Dashbaord>Settings>General, then you just tick the box at the bottom. Very festive! A couple of weeks might be all I can handle – we’ll have to see how I cope for the whole winter…

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  5. You are coping so well! I don’t think I would have the stomach for that mush snow and having to clear the snow from the drive nearly every day. But on the plus side you will also have very toned legs and bum from hefting through that much snow. At least you will have a white xmas! X.

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    • Weirdly, we’ve had a really warm spell for the last week My post jinxed it all. Luckily there was so much snow otherwise we would really have nothing by now, and it would be a green not white Christmas! I certainly don’t need the gym here, that’s for sure x

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  6. Wow, while it looks very pretty, I don’t think I would enjoy living in it all winter long. If I could magically appear there for a week or so and then magically transport myself to some warm tropical place that would be about perfect.

    Hope you enjoy your very, very white Christmas!

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  7. The photos are lovely – snow can be so beautiful! I also post an article on winter driving tips, since it’s that time of year! http://twentyfourseveninfrance.com/2012/12/10/winter-driving-a-guest-blog/

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    • They’re great tips, thanks. Touch wood we’ve been fine so far (and I’m actually enjoying the winter driving, something I never thought I’d say!), but coming home from ski-ing on New Year’s Day (the ski resort is about 5km along the road above our house) it really hit home to see a car had toppled off the mountain and was upside down, resting on a tree (lucky the tree was there in fact, or they’d have been at the bottom of the mountain instead…). Everyone was fine, but seeing something like that makes you drive more slowly, that’s for sure!

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