Saturday, June 6, 2020

Bienvenue à Crested Butte

From France to Crested Butte, ski patroller brings his family 13 years later

By Kendra Walker

It’s an evening scene of many families in this town: ski jackets hung at the entryway, snowy boots lined up by the door. The kids sit at the kitchen table working on their homework as the hot water boils on the stove for tea. The brakes of the bus hiss outside at the bus stop as it makes the nightly rounds. Meanwhile, Mt. Crested Butte peeks through the window, reflecting the soft wintry glow of houses and condos below.

The Bry family of Courchevel, France has settled into Mt. Crested Butte for the winter.

Stephane Bry has been working as a ski patroller for 25 years. Based at the Courchevel Tourisme ski resort, he was first introduced to Crested Butte in 2004 through the ski patrol exchange program, living here and working on the mountain for a winter season. He returned to Crested Butte for a second exchange in 2006. Thirteen years later, he’s come back to town for the third time and brought his family along for the ride.

“It’s a great job and I love it, which is why I decided to come back,” he said. “I wanted to show the mountain and the community of Crested Butte to the family.”

Stephane, his wife, Severine, and their kids—Elfy, 5, and Noe, 7—made the journey from Courchevel to Crested Butte in November. As part of the exchange program, Stephane has traded places with Crested Butte patroller Huston McMillan, who is spending the season working ski patrol in Courchevel. The family is living in Mt. Crested Butte, conveniently located along the bus route, which Stephane says has been helpful for him to get to work on the mountain and for the family to get to school and town.

Elfy, in kindergarten, and Noe, in second grade, are attending Crested Butte Community School, while continuing their French studies in the meantime so they stay in tempo with their school back home. Both have enjoyed their teachers, making friends at school and on the snow.

While the family typically speaks French among themselves, they are doing their best to speak in English while they are here. Severine spends a lot of her time learning and practicing English. “For us to improve our English is a good thing,” said Stephane, explaining how so many guests at the ski resort back home speak English.

When not brushing up on their language skills, Stephane and Severine can be found exploring the nearby backcountry terrain, and have enjoyed skiing around Snodgrass and Red Lady.

And of course, the family skis together on the mountain.

Stephane loves the characteristics of the snowfall here in Crested Butte. “There’s a different quality of snow. The weather here is dry. France is more oceanic,” he says.

The terrain is also much different here from that back home, he explains. “Here it’s more technical and steep,” he says of Crested Butte. “The skiing in the Alps is more open, we ski above tree line,” and everything feels much more connected between ski areas and towns.

Stephane also notes that Courchevel has much more of an international and touristy feel, while Crested Butte emits more of a communal ski town vibe.

Stephane can be found skiing around Crested Butte’s extreme terrain, and International is one of his favorite ski runs for “its sun in the late afternoon.”

Coming back to Crested Butte and sharing it with his family this time around has been a rewarding experience for Stephane. He’s also had the opportunity to connect with old friends from his first exchange to Crested Butte, as well as getting to see Crested Butte ski patrol friends who met him during their past exchanges in Courchevel. “Everything is great with old and new friends,” he says.

He also recognizes the knowledge and expertise of the ski community here. Everyone’s always ready to deal with a problem, he says.

And his favorite part of the job is “to be outside and to try to keep the mountain safe, and to provide help when people need it.”

Stephane recalls the friendly atmosphere of the Crested Butte community from his first visit, which hasn’t changed, he says. “On the bus and the chairlift people start talking to you, which is pretty unusual in France.” Since moving in, the Bry family has felt a safe and relaxing atmosphere both in town and on the mountain. “No stress,” says Stephane. The family also loves listening to KBUT and seeing all the costumes everyone wears around town.

The Brys are here until the end of April, and are planning a spring road trip to several national parks before returning to France, including Zion and the Grand Canyon.

“The exchange adventure goes on!” says Stephane.

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