Lance Armstrong & the Tour de France of Ski: Chamonix & the Aiguille du Midi

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on July 19, 2009 9:09 am

The blurred picture that was the 2009 Tour de France just got crystal clear.  The featured photo is not of Lance Armstrong, but his teammate Alberto Contador of Spain.  The week-long Shaq-Kobe, who’s the leader of this team, ended on Sunday as Contador blew away the field and Armstrong in the Alps to emphatically grab the yellow jersey.

Armstrong conceded the overarching meaning of stage 15, saying he would be content to be a “domestique”, cycling lingo for backup rider.  With 3.5 miles left in the race, Contador broke away from Armstrong and other pre-race favorites.  Armstrong finished 1:35 behind his Astana teammate and now clear-cut team leader, Alberto Contador.

There are three stages of the Tour de France in the Alps.  Tomorrow is a rest day, a chance to check out the most legendary ski area in the world and its incredible tram, the Aiguille du Midi.

The Tour de France of Ski: Chamonix and the Aiguille du Midi

A rest day for the tour’s competitors, and it’s just an hour drive from the finish of stage 15 in Verbier to Chamonix.  The French ski resort of Chamonix has been cryptically dubbed, “the death-sport capital of the world.”  The history of Chamonix is beyond deep.  The very first Winter Olympics were held here in 1924.  Greg Stump’s cult-classic “The Blizzard of Aahhhs”  captures Scot Schmidt and a young ski-punk about to become really famous named Glen Plake invading the French mountains of Chamonix.

Nothing but respect and awe is duly given to Chamonix.  Its couloirs with 50 degree pitches and hidden crevices demand it.  Mock Chamonix and it’ll be your last laugh.  Cham will win every time. 

Mont Blanc above Chamonix sits at 15,780 feet.  The highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe.  It’s the baddest mountain at the baddest ski area in the world.  Mont Blanc is such an intimidating face that its incredibleness is matched by the incredibleness of there actually being a tram built into its face.  And folks marvel at the construction of Stone Henge?

Built in 1955, the Aiguille du Midi is still to this day the highest vertical ascent of any cable in the world.  An ear-popping 9,100 feet are covered in 20 minutes flat.  Built into the shear-rock face, the top station has an elevator in its interior that rises 13 stories to the different look-out terraces.  It’s the top of the world, from the top of the world’s greatest ski area, Chamonix.

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