We drove to La Grave, France after nightfall. I remember the darkness and the headlights zig zagging through hair pin turns flanked by snow banks as tall as our car. In the morning, I looked out of our hotel window and swallowed my heart in my throat. The sight of the vast untamed mountain scared the crap out of me and tickled the part of the brain that craves adventure.
The day I spent in La Grave challenged me physically and mentally. La Grave has one cable car, and the terrain is all natural. There are no pistes. No ropes. No grooming machines. I remember we stopped for lunch, at a little hut where they served omelettes with bread and wine. We sat on wooden benches in the sunshine and watched skiers descend the slopes beyond. I noted the backpacks scattered about, shovels and probes peeking out. I overheard the conversations about snowpack, winds, the upcoming spring. As other groups began to gather their things I realized that nearly every skier and snowboarder in view wore a harness over their pants. I grew up riding the tame and gentle slopes on Mt. Hood, and here I was, surrounded by people who needed to rappel into the lines they were taking. It was humbling, to say the least.