Sex, Snow, and Cocaine: My Life As a Ski Resort ‘Chalet Bitch’
Belle de Neige (“Beautiful Snow”, if you didn’t take French) is a blog about what people who work ski seasons get up to when they’re not fixing snow blades, or delivery apres-ski drinks to Jemima Khan and whoever else goes on ski holidays. The writer just condensed a bunch of her blog posts into a book, so we asked her to condense her book back into a blog post. This is that.
I’ve been blogging about all the unpalatable shit people get up to on ski seasons for five years. And I’d say I’ve covered all the major bases: sex, ill-advised drug consumption, orgies, avalanches, immoral workplace behavior, rich delinquents, Russian prostitutes—everything you’d expect when you mix young people with high altitudes. So wrapping that all up into one snappy article should be easy, right? All I need to do is reel off a few anecdotes involving undignified sexual encounters as a result of British teens exporting British drinking culture, and I’m set.
But the problem is that I don’t want to start out like that, because perpetuating bullshit myths is boring. And because not everyone behind the scenes of Europe’s ski resorts are Harrovian drop-outs or braying packs of Hollister homeboys. In fact, many “seasonaires”—the word for people who work ski seaons up in the mountains—aren’t like that at all. Many of those who I know are laborers, or lost their jobs in the recession.
Angry French Bigots… On Acid!
In early January, a bunch of bigoted French people gathered in Paris’s Bastille Square to celebrate their rage with a “Day of Anger.” About 20,000 of them turned up in the rain to complain about various things. Some were mad at the country’s President, François Hollande, for being too much of a liberal. Some were mad about abortion. A whole bunch of them were mad about gays. And the Jews. Quite a few people were mad about the Jews.
Anyway, our friend Félix dropped a tab, walked around, and talked to all the pissed off people. We hope you enjoy it at least as much as he did.
French Right Wingers Rioted Against Pretty Much Everything Last Weekend
On Sunday, we arrived at Bastille Square in Paris under heavy rain, ready for a protest that had been billed as a “Day of Anger” by the dozens of far-right groups responsible for organizing it. The demonstration had a nebulous array of gripes: They hated abortions, the gays, the Jews, and so on. Most of all, though, they hated the French president, François Hollande and his Socialist Party. Hollande actually become more popular since news broke of his affair with actress Julie Gayet, but his approval rating is still a dismal 31 percent, and that seems unlikely to change no matter how much sex he has.
That isn’t to say that the far right is more popular than he is—Bastille Square was far from full. The organizers claimed there were over 150,000 protesters at the event, but the police said there were only about 17,000, which sounds closer to the truth.
Before a fist had been shaken in anger, about ten members of the militant, frequently nude feminist group FEMEN showed up to protest against the protest. By the time we arrived they had already been bundled into police vans, the crowd chucking shouts of “whores” at them as they were whisked off to the station. Their clothes had been left behind on the street, and we wondered what would happen to them.
Then the march began.
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These French Tombstones Make Dying Fun
Maybe it’s because we just said goodbye to another year, or maybe it’s because I spent the past two weeks gazing into the creases of my grandmother’s face as she tried to remember my name, but I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Not in the half-assed New Year’s resolution way, where I’ll con myself into thinking I’m going to live life to the fullest, while simultaneously reaching for a bag of Cheetos and watching porn. I’m thinking more about the practical side—burial arrangements.
Let’s face it: graveyards are a bummer. And I’m not talking about all the dead mommies, daddies, and babies lying underground rotting—I’m speaking from a purely aesthetic standpoint. Most cemeteries are just a sea of boring gray, crumbly stone with a bit of marble thrown in here and there. At best there might be a statue of an angel crying or a cool spikey cross to mix it up, but generally speaking they’re not an exciting visual experience.
But why shouldn’t it be? When I die, I want my final resting place to be a monument to my own inflated sense of self-worth. And while some people have the fun coffin thing on lock, I think it’s time we paid more attention to what’s going on above ground. Thankfully there’s Funeral Concept.
Corsicans Are Using Bombs to Protest Their Island Paradise
If you’ve never been to Corsica, you really should. The island, which lies just off the Italian coast, is one of the most beautiful places in the world; it’s covered in snowy mountains, picturesque little towns, and luxurious golden beaches. In certain months, you can ski in the morning and sunbathe in the afternoon; it really is paradise (if combining sunburn and heavy nylon jackets is your idea of paradise). However, perhaps its strongest sell is that it is, officially, the murder capital of Europe.
Last year, I went to Corsica to explore the island’s historical predilection for violence. A week before I touched down in Napoleon Bonaparte airport, two prominent Corsicans—a lawyer named Antoine Sollacaro and Jacques Nasser, head of the chamber of commerce—had been shot dead. I was there to try to figure out who did it (and to make a film about trying to figure out who did it). Murder isn’t shocking in Corsica; there have been more than 110 murders since 2008, the majority of them Mafia-style hits. “At the beginning of the week, we think, It’s strange; we haven’t had a killing yet," Gilles Millet, a local journalist, told me. "This society is soaked in death. You call someone to do something and they say, ‘I can’t. I have a funeral to go to.’ Death is part of [daily] life here."
I asked Gilles who he thought was responsible for the deaths of Sollacaro and Nasser. “Normally everyone knows who’s done the killings, but with Sollacaro and Nasser, we don’t know,” he answered. “Despite everybody usually knowing who did it, there have only been four prosecutions since 2008—out of more than 110 murders. There’s a culture of silence here. Nobody talks, partly out of fear, partly because it’s just not the done thing.”
I Lived Like It Was 1996 for a Week
During the past year, magazines have bombarded us with “the return of the 90s.” Clothes, art, music: all of it rolls through the rotating door of style. What’s with this bullshit? Seriously, who would want to return to an era where the only positive aspect is that people from the 80s can remember their youth? I was born in 1993. I don’t give a fuck.
In that era, children played with Pogs, Pokémon cards, and Tamagotchi. The computers were dumber than humans, and the internet consisted of 3,000 nerds. As for cell phones, they existedbut no one had them—apart from your super-modern uncle, maybe.
Twenty-year-olds and teens lived without much: VHS movies, video games, making plans to meet up via their parents’ corded phones, and going to the movies as often as possible, checking the times through Moviefone. There wasn’t anything fantastic going on. What do people miss so much about it, then? This is what I wanted to find out.
I prohibited myself from using all technological inventions from after 1996 for a week. That means seven days. No more cell phone, no more computer, no more internet, no more DVDs, no more iPhone—I’m not going to make a detailed list, but basically nothing remained. I had to force myself to listen to No Doubt. I’d never lived like this. I had no idea what to do with the boredom.
The Syrian Foreign Minister says that as of August 25, 2013, the United States has killed 2,548 people in drone attacks since 2005, based on “clear and compelling evidence.” Syria says it is considering a “limited, narrow act” in the form of a punitive military strike against the US, stating that “failure to respond would put Syrian credibility at stake.”
— Gary Indiana, September Bloodbath
I Spent The Weekend Watching Topless Feminists Piss Off Neo-Nazis
Last Friday, I took the Eurostar from London to Paris to meet the topless feminist protest group Femen. Originally based in the Ukraine, the organization has since spread across the world. The idea was to film the buildup to Femen’s next protest, but I didn’t find out quite what I was getting myself into until I arrived at their headquarters—a lofty space above a theater in Goutte D’or—that afternoon.
The area has a large Muslim population and is dotted with Islamic cultural centrers, so it seems quite a ballsy (or boobsy? Is that a thing?) move to base themselves there considering a large part of their shtick is protesting against conservative Islam. Their last protest action, for example, was Topless Jihad Day—a day where Femen members got their boobs out in various European cities to show solidarity with Amina Tyler. Amina, is a 19-year-old Femen member from Tunisia who was drugged and given a “virginity test” after posting topless protest pictures of herself on Facebook.
When I arrived, the Paris HQ was plastered with banners from previous demos—one that read “Sextremism” in bright red paint covered an entire wall. A few members were trying to decide on the best slogan for the massive new banner, which a girl called Oksana was already decorating with paintings of topless Femen activists. The reason for the extended deliberation was because of a heated discussion over whether “Nazi factions” should be spelled with or without an s at the end. No one’s going to pay you much attention in the protest world if you mess up your spelling.
Ground Zero: Mali
Back in February, the only way to reach the city of Gao in northern Mali was to hitch a ride with the French convoys that rolled through the desert every few days. Along the way, a VICE production crew made friends with some French soldiers and chatted with them about what they thought about this grueling campaign as well as the greatest threat they face: homemade bombs, aka IEDs.
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Sticking to his campaign promise, French President François Hollande and the French state will now pay for 100 percent (!) of the cost of abortions. Not only that, teenage girls between the ages of 15-18 will have the option for free and anonymous birth control.
Prior to April 1st, French women over 18 could receive only 80% of the cost of an abortion covered, an operation that can cost up to 450 euros. This medical change is part of the 2013 social security budget, and France also hopes to increase the sharing of free contraceptives in an effort to cut down the total number of abortions in general — as there were close to 12,000 abortions performed in France last year.
- by Zach Sokol