i just returned from a weekend skiing in the french alps with my friend john, who is a pisteur or patroller at chamonix. i hadn't skied in five years, so was a little nervous but ended up having an amazing time. although now my body hurts. nothing a shiatsu can't fix.
i've done the majority of my skiing in new england where the weather is cold, the trails cut down into thick forest and the verticals aren't anything to write home about. the alps are completely different -- there are no trails whatsoever except groomed bits that weave through the open snowfields. you can ski wherever you want -- even a closed section is yours to explore if you dare. another thing we lack in the east is powder; what they call "packed powder" is usually crusty manmade snow that gets skied off by the early afternoon. in chamonix although it hadn't snowed in days, the mountains were covered by fluffy bumps, making adventurousness an easier prospect. you are sure to fall, but it doesn't hurt.
my third day we skied the valle blanche, which is a glacier that comes down the side of mont blanc, the highest mountain in europe. this required no less than crampons and ropes but was the most backcountry terrain i've ever done. glaciers rose up on all sides to rocky peaks -- a larger-than-life landscape that resembled a postcard. i could hardly believe i was in it, let alone skiing down.
it seemed like everyone i met was over-the-top adventurous. if they weren't biking across south america with a parasail attached to their back they were scaling some ridiculous peak to ski down the other side. this makes me want to be more of a daredevil too. note to self: have more adventures. of the outdoor kind. i'm open to suggestions.