La Guêpe Ride is an annual event held in La Clusaz which sounds a lot like Gay Pride to French people. Apparently, this is another one of their plays on words, but nobody really understands why, since the event is a telemark ski weekend! Festivities include a parade of telemarkers bombing it down the slopes of l’Etale, at least one person dressed as a wasp (“gûepe” is French for “wasp”), booze, freebies, and the chance to try telemarking with a ski instructor for free, along with all the special equipment. Last year, the “telesnow” (a snowboard with telemark ski bindings attached) made an appearance, but I didn’t see it this year.
I did, however, see a girl in this rather ugly Burton one-piece. Yes, it’s yellow and black like a wasp, but I’ve seen her wearing it all season when everyone else was in normal gear She’s a great skier and I have a lot of respect for her for that, but I just can’t see how that justifies the outfit. She was there to match telemark skis with people’s abilities. Sure enough, she had a chat with me about a ski I was just about to try. She knows her technical stuff and she was very amiable, but I just kept staring at that outfit. She spoke quickly in French. I got that the brand new, next year’s model Black Crows skis I was about to try out might be a bit snappy for me due to the wide nose on them. She went on, but I missed most of it, trying to concentrate on understanding her French but failing dismally and staring at the furry hood and the yellow zigzags.
Anyway, she was right: I felt like a beginner telemarker all over again, wobbling with every turn and feeling the skis take me where they wanted to go. I took them back after one run and said they felt like shovels on my feet to the yellow-zebra girl, but I’m not sure if she understood my French. No worries: all the staff and the other telemarkers hanging around are very accepting of ‘etrangers’ (foreigners and non-telemarkers), so I didn’t feel that my bad French was a problem for this lot. In fact, telemarking is a bit like owning a VW camper: you’re part of a special club and you give others in the club a special wave when you pass them. I switched the Black Crows for a pair of K2 Work Stinx and fell in love: they coped with the springtime superslush but were still forgiving of my dodgy ability and let me stay in control. After a few more runs and some burning thighs, I jumped back on my own telemarks and burnt my thighs some more before the parade of wasps could catch me and hassle me with their club-hand-wave to stay.