Testing out skis — and French language skills

Part of ski resort Le Grand Bornand here in the Aravis in France opened last weekend and included a free ski test area, where you could choose any ski from scores of manufacturers and see how they go on, and off, the piste. I’m up with the lingo: it’s all about rocker systems, reverse camber and wide waists this year. But how on earth do I explain to the ski rep that I want to try a combo of any of those things? The result:

Wendy (in slow French): “What’s that ski?”

Ski rep: “C’est blah de blah de blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. D’accord?”

Wendy: “Okay.”

This resulted in me trying out K2 Misdemeanors even though I used to own their brother, the Public Enemy ski. What a waste of time: I know exactly what it’s like to ski on and it was a pointless test. But I took them out anyway as I was too embarrassed to explain in slow French that I hadn’t understood what he said and that I’d changed my mind.

Roxy Mumbo JumbosAnother instance was the Rossignol S7 ski. Now, two friends of mine have just got these skis and I was keen to try them out. Sadly, I learnt through my French friend who also wanted to try them out, Rossignol staff were very unhappy that three snowboards had come back within the first few hours totally wrecked from the rocky off-piste which has yet to form a decent snow base, and they had decided to take all off-piste skis away from the public too. So, no chance of trying the S7 I though. But then the Rossignol rep pointed to a pair of Roxy skis (pictured) and said they were basically the same. Here we go again:

Wendy (in slow French): “I’d like to try the …ummmm… Roxy ski.”

Ski rep (in fast French): “They’re all Roxy skis…”

Wendy’s French friend:  “The Mumbo Jumbos.”

Saved by my French friend! Apparently, the Rossignol guy had actually named the ski, but my French is still so lacking that I didn’t catch the completely non-French-sounding “mumbo jumbo” in his sentence.

No worries. I have some great skis to try out and I’ll regain the confidence I just lost with my French language skills by ripping these babies up on the hill. Alternatively, they could feel like planks of concrete stuck to my feet that do float off-piste (don’t tell the Roxy rep I took them off piste – I promised I wouldn’t), but are more like two tethered elephants on piste. The Roxy ski rep asked me what I thought of them, and I bet she regretted that. She had to patiently listen to some idiot talking about “more muscle I need” and “not good on piste” without any further explanation as to why. Had she asked me in English, I could have told her about the elephants.


I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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