Madness I called it last week, when I wrote about the ascent to Chamrousse in the French Alps. Driving a 1960 NeKaf Jeep. L’Alpine Classique, what followed.
It’s Saturday, way past midnight, boozy voices in the doorway of the multi purpose hall are toned down by the vast layer of freshly fallen snow. The parking lot, the cars, the road down the mountain, everything is covered in white. The NeKaf is one of the few classic cars that made it to the location of tonight’s dinner party at the mountain station. What felt like a victory on the elements before, is looking like the idea of a madman now the descent of that same mountain is in order. Neglecting the encouragements of the jolly crowd, the NeKaf slowly starts moving. Low gears and four wheel drive aside, Yuri Colman and Boudewijn van den Bogaert are moving on thin ice. Literally.
L’Alpine Classique 2018 is everything it promised to be. Great company, everyone in style and an organization that does everything to make this an unforgettable weekend. As you can expect in a winter sports area, the weather gods do their bit. Snow, snow, nothing but snow, 40 cm a day makes for some harsh conditions. For the classic vehicles, but even more so for those die-hards that came here to find out what winter sports was all about in those days. To discover how much change decades of development have brought. What sounds like paradise for winter sports suddenly becomes less appealing when you’re on two times 2,5 meters worth of wooden ski. Not just the skiing technique, but the entire gear is completely different to what we are used to in 2018.
Skiing during L’Alpine Classique is a challenge. And that’s no understatement at all. So, before you’ve managed to direct your classic to the mountain station, some time has passed. This is where things really kick off. An extra layer of clothes, folding the trouser legs into them knee socks the right way, a jacket, a scarf, a cap, a belt here, a strap there and then, just when you think you are nearly there, an inner shoe, an outer shoe, both laced of course, what else. Not too loose, not too tight, it takes some time. By now all these clothes are bothering you to no extend. One more step, the ski’s. The size of the ski’s as well as the leather boots, that offer way less support than modern ski boots and most of all, the bindings. Safely secured to the ski boots, at least, for as long as you don’t fall, because these aren’t safety bindings as we know them today. These ask for more than a little getting used too, these ask for true heroism.
L’Alpine Classique 2018 is a leap back in time. Back to a wonderful era, but at the same time a confrontation with a standard of life we can’t really relate to any more. In 1960 a set of ski’s will set you back 500 D-Mark, that’s about 20 weeks of wages for the average employee. The barren two bed bunker in the Olympic hotel in Chamrousse knows no comparison to the luxury accommodation in Pyeong-Chang. These are different times, a modest ‘salle polyvalente’ becomes a smokey jazz club on Saturday nights, dining is done in evening wear and skiing is for the happy few that have both the money and the guts to throw themselves into the deep. This is travelling back in time in a way that goes so much further than simply enjoying a classic automobile. L’Alpine Classique, a magnificent mad adventure.
Marc GF Zaan