How You Revel: Winter Fun in the French Alps
Editor's note: When our friends Shane and Ben said they were heading to the French Alps at the start of the year, we sent along production samples of our Revel IV winter boot and Howser slip-ons to test out. Little did we know the COVID-19 pandemic would upend global travel. So, while bucket-list ski destinations might not be possible this season, here are two shoes we love to pack for powder days and cozy cabin weekends closer to home.
By KEEN fans Ben and Shane Glade-Welch
Each winter season since getting married in 2017, we have made it a goal to try and visit as many ski resorts around the world as possible. A goal that seems unattainable, right? But with passes such as the Epic, Ikon or Mountain Collective now available, accessing a wide range of resorts is easier. Earlier this year, before the global pandemic emerged, we decided to try the Mountain Collective Pass for one reason: Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. This ski destination in France has been on both of our bucket lists for quite some time now.
Our experience in Chamonix felt like a fairytale, beginning with the small two-lane highway winding through French Alps up to the charming city. The highlight of our experience was staying in a tiny cabin tucked away in the middle of the Chamonix Valley with Mont Blanc rising like a mighty giant right outside our front door. Every morning on our deck as we would get our ski and snowboard gear ready, we were met with spectacular views of Glacier des Bossons rumbling just above our heads.
Before, during, and after skiing
Ask anyone who skis or snowboards, and 9 out of 10 people would agree that ski boots are rarely described as being comfortable. The process of getting them on and off alone can be a challenge. We feel the shoe you wear before and after skiing should be anything but difficult and uncomfortable, which is why we absolutely love the KEEN Howser slip-ons. The slip-on aspect makes it a breeze from going to and from your boots, and the soft inside is like a warm hug to your sore feet after a long day on the slopes. The grip on the sole makes it easy for walking across all different types of winter landscapes, from icy ski resort parking lots, to après-ski, to exploring any resort town. If you ever see us pre- or post-skiing, there is a 100% chance you will see us in our Howsers.
Winter hiking meets playing in the snow
When we weren’t cruising down the slopes of one of the six Chamonix-Mont-Blanc ski areas, you could find us hiking and exploring the surrounding French Alps. As first-time Alps hikers, we loved the versatility the Revel IV boots offered us. We could easily go from hiking on dirt to snowy surfaces as the Polar Traction rubber outsole made it a breeze walking on slick compacted snow or trekking through knee deep powder. KEEN.DRY waterproof protection and KEEN.WARM insulation kept our feet dry and toasty as we hiked for hours in the snow. The boots are also adaptable for any mountaineering experience. We carried crampons with us, which perfectly gripped the shellback heel, and we added them to our boots as the icy trail became steeper. We were able to be present in the moment and take in the incredible scenery without having to worry about slipping or having wet, cold feet.
The men's Revel IV Polar Boot has 200 grams of insulation, and comes in Black/Magnet or Dark Earth/Caramel Cafe (not as red as the samples Ben and Shane wore). Also available in a high boot style with 400 grams of insulation.
One of our favorite things about skiing and hiking around the Chamonix Valley was seeing incredible glaciers at almost every turn. After seeing Glacier des Bossons from our cabin every day, hiking up to it and witnessing its majesty face-to-face was something that we will never forget. We even had the chance to live out our Olympic-bobsled fantasy when the trail passed by an abandoned bobsled high up on the mountain. But, if you had to ask us what our favorite moment from our trip was, we would have to say skiing right next to the Argentière Glacier at Les Grands Montets Ski Area. Having only kayaked around or hiked up to glaciers before, this was an unbelievable feeling being able to ski right next to one. For a closer look, we took off our skis and board and hiked up until we had the perfect vantage point. While there, we let our inner kid out and had fun playing and taking silly pictures of us falling—thanks to our trusty tripod and camera’s self-timer.
Exploring Lake Geneva
As it was time to bid au revoir to Chamonix, we headed back down the canyon passing back into Switzerland from France where we spent our final day exploring Geneva. Having never been to Switzerland before, we quickly learned there are several official languages of Switzerland: German, French, Romansh, and Italian. While riding around on the city bus and walking the streets of Geneva, we heard numerous languages being spoken by the locals and noticed various signs saying the same thing in multiple languages. It became a fun game for us to try to correctly guess the different languages on the signs, which, in a way, connected us deeper to city.
The highlight was walking around the shore of Lake Geneva, one of Western Europe’s largest lakes, which is also split between the border of Switzerland and France. The lake also houses the Jet d'Eau Fountain, which is one of the world’s tallest fountains shooting water up to 140 meters high. This fountain is one that Shane had wanted to see in person ever since researching Geneva, and we couldn’t wait to photograph it together. Well, when we arrived at Geneva’s City Center, Ben was hungry and had to find a bathroom (and anyone that has been to Europe knows that finding a bathroom can be extremely difficult). After achieving Ben’s urgent goals, lo-and-behold, the fountain had turned off due to reduced winter hours, and we missed it. Sacré bleu! After accepting that we wouldn’t be able to see it because we had to leave early the next morning, we decided to make the most of our time and enjoy the sunset over the lake sans fountain. To this day, it is still a touchy subject for Shane.
Good and appropriate gear are key to enjoyable adventures. And having only taken the Howser slip-ons and Revel IV boots on this trip, they were the perfect shoe/boot combination for all our winter ski and adventure needs. From the plane, to the slopes, to the glacier-filled snowy Alps and cobblestone streets of Geneva, we were always proud to be representing KEEN on our feet.