Scarpa North America Blog

Zoe Hart: Winter Wonderland in Chamonix

Feb. 28th 2012

Zoe Hart is one of only four American women with a UIAGM/IFMGA guide certification, but that barely begins to touch on her alpine accomplishments. After traveling the world, Hart settled on Chamonix, France, where she now permanently resides with her husband. We caught up with Zoe Hart to find out how her winter in Chamonix is coming along and we were pleased to find out that’s she been getting after it (at a slower pace than normal) with a growing baby in her belly.

Last year we lacked snow, and it felt like spring in February. In Chamonix, France that is. This year the snow has been plentiful, dumps of warm fluffy stuff, so much so that the lifts are shut and driving the roads is epic adventure. And now, there’s no spring here, in fact the Baltic winter is here with a vengeance. Two weeks of -20 degree Celsius weather has had the valley up in arms.

I, myself, have suffered from frozen pipes in my apartment, a frozen waste pipe in our laundry room that resulted in a few feet of water backing up on the floor, and a spectacular event of frozen diesel right in the middle of a round-about at the end of the highway. I sat there, prisoner in my car, cringing as each ensuing car sped right up my rear end almost slamming into me and honked, as if I had just stopped there to check my voicemail. I began to develop a strong disdain for winter.

But alas, my car restarted, I made it to work, and I took the Aguille du Midi up to 3,800 meters for a wintery -30 degrees Celsius day high on the glaciers with a keen group of young Swedes. They were hoping to learn the ins and outs of glacier travel and ski mountaineering. They were keen and smiling despite the frosty temps and they melted my heart a bit as I remembered my “learning days” in Chamonix, and wished I had been so smart to hire a guide to teach me at least the basics before hurling myself down the slopes in complete ignorance of the risk I was taking.

The snow was not nearly as bad as I had imagined, but rather a squeaky, skied, neve, and the sun eventually warmed us for a short while. Long enough to bury a pair of skis and practice crevasse rescue. And despite my disdain for the cold temps, and my struggle to find motivation to go to work for the day, I was satisfied and tired at the end of the day and slept well that night.

With all the snow and cold temps I’m happy to be on skis this year, and missing almost nothing in the alpine world. With a belly getting fuller by the month, 6 months pregnant, yep it must be in the water (SCARPA Ambassador Caroline George just gave birth to a healthy little girl on February 13th), I feel lucky with each day I squeak out in the mountains. My ski mountain goals this year are different. Mini-Max (that’s our name for him for now, after Maxime Turgeon, my husband) likes to ski, he doesn’t like to climb, he gets smooshed when I try to lift my legs to find a small nub on mixed climbs or to find a good place for a foot on steep ice. But he sleeps when I ski and he dances at night, happy after a day out.

So while I learn to accept the changes in my body, in my life, in my motivations, and in my days in the mountains, I am just grateful for each day I squeak in, without ego or goals or ambitions. Rather just the idea to leave and come back safely, without falling, and having spent the day in the fresh air. I’ve explored numerous new tours and had numerous days out with good friends, inspired by Caroline George who ski toured gently, listening to her body, carrying her little girl in and out of the mountains in her belly, right up to her birth. I hope to be as lucky!

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