Spring Break in La Grave, France | St. Lawrence University

Spring Break in La Grave, France

Annika Hamilton
2019

In February of 2017, an email from St. Lawrence's Outdoor Program appeared in my inbox and it contained a link to a YouTube clip that would leave me captivated and drawn in by the melodious French music, majestic peaks, and endless powder. One month later, I was standing 13,068 feet in the sky, atop the imposing peak of La Meije, overlooking the quiet mountain village of La Grave, France. This backcountry skiing mecca contains over 7,500 feet of lift access ungroomed, off-piste terrain. For the next week, I skied with five other St. Lawrence students, the Outdoor Program coordinator, and our guide, Jorgen.

Our trip began with days of cloudless, bluebird skies and meters of snow. The vastness of the Alps was surreal as we hiked over the ridge of Glacier de Girose. The beauty surrounding me made it easy to forget the danger lying within the crevasses, shoots, and fresh snow. However, we learned how to use avalanche transceivers, to check for slabs of snow that might slide and create an avalanche, and how to properly use our other safety equipment such as shovels and probes. One of the great things about St. Lawrence is that learning can take place on a glacier in France as much as it does in a classroom in Canton, New York.

Although I have always loved the outdoors, my trip to La Grave opened my eyes to the outdoor community at St. Lawrence. Being pushed out of my comfort zone interested me in other ways that I can challenge myself and share my love of the outdoors with others. The Outdoor Program offers classes and trips that promote outdoor education and leadership. I am currently taking an Outdoor Program course, Guide Training. This semester long experiential learning course is an opportunity to improve upon outdoor technical and leadership skills and eventually organize and lead trips for other SLU students. This outdoor and experiential learning exemplifies how I have been able to personalize and balance my education at St. Lawrence.