Out of Season

by Brendon Robbeloth
Contributing writer

Where have those long, frosted winter nights gone? They have disappeared, in seemingly only a matter of days. It is as if someone had finally said, “enough,” and washed them with the last cold rain of the year, then pinned them up to dry in the cloudless, April skies. They shrunk like a favorite pair of jeans, and it will be remarkable if they even fit next year.

And those winds that used to pierce through even the most expensive coats? They have retreated back up the mountains. The ground quickly thaws out behind them, and furry little critters crawl out of their holes, stretching and rubbing their bleary eyes. Birds return from political exile. Streets of the city come abuzz with a weird, nervous energy of crowds. People are not sure what exactly they want to do, but they know they want to be outside to do it.

There are some, though, like myself, who feel an embarrassing twinge of remorse that the cold, intrusive weather is moving on. We do not speak about it, not in public. And it is not like we do not appreciate the beauty and excitement of spring. We can and do. It is just that, we always dread the annual, “putting away of our skis and snowboards.”

There are some winter sports enthusiasts for whom the beauty of a lush, flowery hillside fails to compensate for the fact that it is impractical to even try to sled down the side of it in toeless sandals and plaid shorts. One will not go far, and even you do, what about all those sleepy critters in your way? They have not enough wits about them to get out of the way just yet.

Luckily, though, there is no need to start cramming one’s boots and boards spitefully into the closet, knocking your family’s coats onto the floor. The town of Amneville, France, is a community of sympathizers, and anyone willing to make the hour and a half drive from Kaiserslautern, through the Lorraine countryside, to the industrial town 20 kilometers north of Metz will find one of the world’s longest indoor ski slopes.

Snowhall is the largest indoor ski hall in France. The main piste, or run, is more than 600 meters long, and with an altitude of 90 meters, it is enough to blow even seasoned skiers’ hair out of their eyes. Beginners and children will find a smaller run to hone their skills before heading over to the big one. Instructors are onsite too, and offer beginning, intermediate or advanced lessons on weekend mornings.
Snowhall is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Snowhall is open until 8 on Sundays.

Parking is not an issue, as the hall has ample onsite spaces, and should one want to make a trip there part of a weekend in Metz, a bus runs from the city right up to the front door.

Rechargeable cards must be purchased and “points” uploaded on to them. Fifteen-hundred points will get about two hours on the slopes and cost around €17 (€13 for children). The points are only used up, though, when actually on the slopes. So, a family or group can stop for lunch or dinner at Le Chalet restaurant overlooking the skiing area without worrying about their time elapsing. And you will want to stop, too. The smell of brick oven pizzas emanating from the cozy little living room-like restaurant will prove too delicious an obstacle to overcome.

The ski rental is beside the payment area, on the left as one enters the building. You may rent equipment or bring your own. Wednesdays are family days, one will notice from the sign hanging in the main entrance area. Any adult who brings a group of children skis free. While pondering whether to have the kids bring some friends along next time, you walk past La Station, a bar overlooking the slopes.
“Or,” you will think, “perhaps a trip with just the guys.”

You see the sign indicating the bar is open a couple hours after the slopes close on the weekends. You glance quickly back out to the bus stop as your mind starts ticking. You smile and jump aboard the lift.