It started with one ski season. A job working as bar manager at bar restaurant Le Pontet at the bottom of the Gorge télécabine. “But of course I had such a good time that first season that I had to come back and then I met my girlfriend, who was born and raised in Les Contamines and is very much a Contaminarde and then I couldn’t leave…” Nearly six years later, Søren Balslev is still here, still very much together with Léa and settling more and more into life in our mountain village.
“It was hard the first two years – you miss your friends, you miss your family, you miss your home environment – but then again of course being together with my girlfriend helped a lot and now I like it also because we have a local community here and it’s really cool.” Over the past few years, you may have seen Søren working at Le Pontet, on the lifts, at the Rhodos bar and at the Clubhouse restaurant in the Parc de Loisirs. He is also a founding member of the resurgent Les Contamines Football Club and, by now, fluent in French as well as Danish and English.
This summer he’s taking another step, opening the Pontet bar and restaurant from the 1st of June for the summer as a place to go for fresh, locally sourced food, breakfast, lunch and dinner. He’s brimming with enthusiasm about his plans to inject some new energy into the place. “It’s not a modern building and we can’t change that in one year, but I want to make it a cool, good place where the service is good, the food is fresh and the ambiance is young and contemporary.” He says there will be supplies for hikers on sale, bike rental and a mountain bike washing station for bikers coming off the trail.
He’s also bringing some trail running camps for Danish running enthusiasts to Les Contamines-Montjoie, which is, after all, in the backyard of the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc. “In Denmark, it’s been changing a lot the last couple of years the way they travel in the summer. They’re looking for beach holidays less and interest in active holidays in the mountains is really growing – we have great weather here in the summer too, we just need the beach and actually, we have one!”
As for Søren himself, he seems to be well and truly Contaminé and committed to building his life here, some 1,000kms or so distant from the buzz of his native Copenhagen. “They say love moves mountains,” he says, “but in this case maybe love moved to the mountains…”
Photos: © Chuck East