When western Europe and elsewhere in the world were facing heavy snowfall and dips in temperature deep below zero, we, John, Nathan and myself, and John’s second son Kenneth with his four friends, headed for the ultimate adventure of the winter season: the Alps, in the region of Haute Provence, France. It turned out to become an incredibly beautiful experience.
Having lived about forty years in south and southeast Asia, India and Thailand, I always avoided the winter season when visiting my family and friends in Europe. This time, prepared for the cold and attracted by the unicity of the Alps, I was rather looking forward in taking a jump into this snowscape. John had organised this ski vacation for his sons and friends, rented two apartments in Barcelonnette, for the two different groups, and everything worked out perfectly well, as everyone found inspiration in this magical setting of white mountains.
Although we planned cross-country skiing for Nathan, the weather changed from quiet overcast to frequent snowfall, and we decided to go for daily walks, first by free shuttle buses that take you to the various ski pistes and from there exploring the area on foot. Of course, Kenneth and his friends, who are teenagers, had come exclusively for skiing and snowboarding and they enthusiastically stuck to that, for the whole week, between five to seven hours per day.
No need to do activities in order to enjoy the Alps. Walking through this snowscape triggers an as exhilarating state of being. Somehow there was no sense of cold, but the experience of oneness and wholeness, as the purity of the Alps is uplifting and spiritually nourishing.
The cozy town of Barcelonnete is situated in the region of Haute Provence, about 1100m high, with the immediate surrounding Alps at 3000m high, which is perfect for skiing. The higher Alps are above 4000m, with the Mont Blanc at 4808m above sea level. At 3000m one can speak of eternal snow, as you will find snow there also during the summer season.
In France, schools have two weeks of winter vacation at the end of February and beginning of March, and that means time to enjoy the pleasures that winter can bring. The diversity of the French landscape and climate are most obvious at the Côte d’Azur of which Haute Provence is part. From the coastal city Nice one can see the snow peaks of the Alps while enjoying the sunny weather that comes with the Mediterranean region.
Free shuttle buses will take you to the higher ski destinations around Barcelonnette, but we also took the opportunity to explore the direct area of the town, which inspired as much with its snow covered land. The town is situated in the Ubaye valley with the Ubaye river running through it, formed by the melted snow from high up.
After six days in snowy heights, now again at home in Marseille, when going to sleep at night, I see peaceful snowscapes when closing my eyes. Never thought that the Alps would have such an impact on my well being, within and without.