Imagine you like snow, can stand a bit of cold, don’t mind salty roads and you think you can ski… L’Alpine Classique it is.
What could be more perfect than hitting the slopes in style with your classic? That’s exactly what I thought when last summer I found out about an event in the French Alps, L’Alpine Classique. What that all means you have read in the two articles Marc Zaan published on this great event. How we experienced it is what I will try to explain. Try, because experiencing is a feeling and writing down feelings can be a struggle. Nevermind, I’ll do my best.
The party is on when Boudewijn tells me he wants to join me at L’Alpine Classique. Boudewijn knows how to ski, Boudewijn loves vintage stuff and Boudewijn owns the right gear! That’s how it doesn’t take long for some wooden ski’s from 1937 to surface from the shed. Followed by a 1969 set. Family heirloom, stored for ages. For months we are gathering gear, clothing, ski boots, jackets. The 1959 Nekaf Jeep is prepared. Regular maintenance, sourcing parts in case something will break, the works. Hours, days, nights of scavenging Ebay and other sites. The mailman is my new best friend.
March 16th 2018, following a collective roadside lunch we all reach base camp at 1650 meters. Unloading, meeting, skiing! Everything takes twice the time it normally does. Leather shoes on, inside laces, outside laces. Adjusting the binding. First attempt to ski. It’s truly terrifying. The slopes are steep and it’s going way to fast. A first crash. No safety bindings that will open, scary! Another try. Fear reigns between my ears. Fear for broken bones, repatriating flights home and months of rehabilitation. Oops. Back to base camp, beer, great atmosphere, making new friends.At the hotel we enjoy a good meal and a great jam session by some fellow participants. Satisfied we hit the sack.
Saturday, outside it is cold and grey. These are the Alps. Small flakes come down, turn into heavy snowfall. We drive to the valley to meet up for a welcome hot brew. Driving in the snow with classic cars and motorcycles. It doesn’t get any better. The roads turn whiter and whiter, keeping the Nekaf on the road is an adventure. Braking leads to sliding, coming to a halt means it’s hard to take of again. Four wheel drive engaged and of we go. What fun! The Nekaf doesn’t miss a beat. Uphill is not a problem, the amount of grip of the war profile tires is. At the little brocante in base camp my eye spots a bright red pair of ski’s. Volstra, early sixties, in great condition and with an early model of safety bindings. A quick go-over with a file, some wax and of we go. This is a totally different feeling. I tumble, the binding loosens, my fear slowly disintegrates. Fog rolls in and turns the whole thing into a life or death struggle. I no longer think I can ski! I make it down in one piece, on over 55 year old ski’s, victory!
Meanwhile on 30 cm of fresh snow, the Nekaf is in its element. What an ideal car for winter sports! You simply throw everything in. Strap the ski’s to one of the many hooks and eyelets on the body and just go. No worries for staining carpets or upholstery, or even about loosing your keys, since it simply doesn’t have any. Tonight we have a party, music, good food and everything in style. Nobody here is wearing modern clothes. Everyone is styled to perfection in the ‘latest’ fashion from the 40’s, 50’s or early 60’s. It is as if you have stepped into a fifties jazz club. Just great. In the ice cold night I carefully scrabble towards the Nekaf. It’s really, really slippery. Good thing I didn’t drink, so I can, very carefully indeed, take the car back to the hotel.
Sunday starts of with a char, the hotel’s drive has transformed into an ice rink. It doesn’t take long to fit the snow chains and soon the Nekaf proofs to be the perfect machine to tow other vehicles up the mountain. Once everything has arrived at base camp, it is time for the slalom competition that had to be cancelled yesterday. Boudewijn has the guts to thunder down the mountain on his dad’s 1969 pair of ski’s, carrying a mighty heavy back pack. Coffee, a drink, videos and pictures taken and most of all, good old fashioned fun. The end of L’Alpine Classique is nigh and that means that we all need to pack for the journey home. Everything is still in one piece, we are! The Nekaf has proved itself, it has been one magnificent party. And I’m pretty convinced now, I CAN’T ski on this old gear. Luckily I have the rest of 2018 to work on that.
Photography: Laurent Nivalle