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Chamonix Trek: Skiing in the French Alps

“Powder snow, champagne, HBS classmates and hot tubs? Does this sound too good to be true?”-This was the title of the e-mail that Max Coqui (NB) sent out to a few of us a few months ago.

When all was said and done, 10 first-years plus seven friends were in the ski chalet in the village of Les Houches, situated in the famous Chamonix Valley, France. In addition to myself and Max, there was: Jan Petzel (NG), Magnus Mattsson (NJ), Niklas Wijkander (NH), Aylin Somersan (NC), Olya Khomenko (NK), Fiona Stoner (NF), Hanna Hofer (NE), and Morgan McKenney (NC). How’s that for international representation: two Germans, two Swedes, a Turk, a Ukrainian, a Brit, an Austrian, and two Americans (including me).

Along with the seven friends (three more Germans, three more Swedes, and another Turk), we all fit comfortably within the chalet for a whole week, demonstrating that even within close quarters international cooperation is possible. In fact, international cooperation was absolutely necessary for the many fine multi-course meals (including the one on New Year’s Eve) that were concocted!

We did establish a rule early on that “whatever happens in the chalet stays in the chalet.” Thank God for this, as I apparently (since I don’t remember) made a proclamation during an ill-conceived game of “I Never” that was repeated back to me all week (and probably will be the rest of my life).

Because he left the protection of the chalet, Niklas’ antics do not fall under that rule when he insisted on “going for a walk” at 3:30 a.m. to somehow dispel the alcohol in his veins. Never mind that the chalet was an entire mile uphill from the village, there was a lot of snow on the ground, and the roads were iced over.

After Niklas had been gone for more than the promised 20 minutes, his Swedish compatriot Magnus struck out after him and walked down to and up from the village, with no luck. Magnus considered calling the police but, instead, chose to wake up poor Jan in order to borrow his car. Wordlessly (I imagine), Jan got up, put his boots on, and drove down to the village with Magnus. (Jan, being a practical German, was happy to put himself through this rather than hand the keys over to a drunk Swede.) Apparently they came upon Niklas (not quite sober) some distance away, happily oblivious to the panic he had caused.

Thus, an important lesson from HBS: don’t let a drunk person go for a walk-alone-after 3 a.m., because more than likely you will be going for a walk shortly thereafter as well.

Another important lesson from HBS (relating to another story that doesn’t fall under the chalet secrecy rule): Germans like to win. Case in point: a downhill ski race between Max, his friend Fabian, Magnus, and Niklas. I won five euros off Hanna betting on Max (and she’s Austrian, she should know better!). I must add, however, that Magnus was in the lead until he took a spectacular spill. Niklas too was in the lead for a stretch, until his skis failed him and he crashed and burned. (Was Niklas really ahead of Max? “Yeah,” Max said. “For about 30 meters.”)
Appropriately, the loser of the race had to buy two rounds of drinks for the other competitors. I won’t elaborate on who that was except to say that it was the person who got the most drunk that night. (Hint, hint.)
But perhaps the most important lesson of all is that New Year’s Eve is best spent with good friends. Great food and fine wine help as well, of course, but if Chamonix Trek is any evidence, with the right company you can have an awesome party anywhere!

January 22, 2002
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