Génépi: The Traditional Drink of the Alps

Génépi is a high alpine plant. The silver branches of this wormwood are found at elevations above 2,000 meters and are harvested in late July and August.  These aromatic branches are then steeped in pure grain alcohol for forty days. The contents are then filtered and fit for consumption. This drink can be taken straight at room temperature or chilled. It can also be added to coffees or desserts. Génépi filled chocolates can be found throughout the region. Génépi is also a commonly used ingredient in a Grolle.

Making Genepi

Making Genepi

The taste is unmistakable and unique in itself. The closed taste comparable to génépi is perhaps chamomile paired with a freshness reminiscent of spearmint. Before it became a pick-me-up for skiiers, this drink was believed to have medicinal qualities. A deep inhale of this brew will certainly clear your sinuses.

A mature bottle of génépi varies from light gold to light green. Many commercial varieties are a bright green due to added food coloring. Génépi is available at most bars, restaurants, and markets in the French/Italian/Swiss Alps. Most local families have their own special place for collecting génépi. This plant only flowers once a year and, like most high alpine plants, it does not survive well in high traffic, overpicked locations. So do not expect any locals to give up the location of their génépi spots. And if you ask a local how to make génépi, they will simply say forty-forty-forty.

40/40/40 Savoyard

40 branches of génépi

40 grams of sugar

40 days of steeping

In a liter of pure grain alcohol

The composition of this drink is comparable to absinthe. You’ve been warned.

French Alps

French Alps

The Highest Snow Polo Tournament in the World

Skiers zip down the hillside along the edge of Courchevel’s short and dangerous airport, but today they stop and sit in the snow banks. The History Channel ranked this airport as the seventh most dangerous airport in the world, but for three days it is fenced and groomed for the BMW Snow Polo Master’s Tournament. This is the highest snow polo tournament in the world at 2700m.

Courchevel is located in the French Alps and it is part of Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys), the largest ski resort in the world. During the polo tournament, avid skiers and polo lovers alike stop to watch these athletes slam mallets, take off in bursts of snow, and send that special red polo ball sailing in the air.

BMW Snow Polo Tournament

BMW Snow Polo Tournament

Snow Polo in the French Alps

Snow Polo in the French Alps

These teams play in 7 minute sets with 3 minute breaks to change horses. Each match is 4 quarters. These athletes travel from all over the world. They had recently played in China prior to coming to the French Alps.

Now, how do these horses run and turn on a snow packed airport in the Alps without falling? Each horse has heels and toes plus pads to prevent snowballing. To those unfamiliar with this, picture your typical horseshoe. There is a metal lip on the top of the shoe (the toe) and two metal studs on the ends of the shoe (the heel). This gives these ponies traction and digging power on packed snow. A rubber pad is placed between the hoof and the horseshoe. This prevents snowballing in the sole of the hoof. When the horse’s weight is taken off the hoof, the pad will flex and dislodge any snow accumulated.

Snow Polo Warm-Ups

Snow Polo Warm-Ups

The sport of snow polo has some modification. A large inflated red ball is used as opposed to the traditional small white ball. In addition, there are 3 players per team instead of 4 and the field is a bit smaller.

The 2014 tournament in Courchevel ran from January 30th to Feburary 2nd. There are no announcements for 2015. Watch here for updates.

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