Once a year or so, like an MP who can’t control himself, I embark on a week long, steamy, passionate love affair. I know it can’t last, she is a cruel mistress and I always end up the one being hurt and left licking my wounds, but I still go back for more, year after year after year….
I am of course, talking about my other passion, skiing. I know that this has nothing to do with cycling, apart from the fact that the cycling is the thing I am cheating on when I head off on that yearly tryst with the snow, but I wanted to write a little report of our trip so you can understand how emotional it is for us (and just because we had such a good time and I wanted to tell you about it!).
We left Manchester on a Thursday afternoon, in the full knowledge that we wouldn’t be arriving in the Alps until saturday morning, but this was OK, because it meant we would be there and able to ski on Saturday, a rare treat! The drive down was a relative breeze, albeit punctuated by stops at French service stations (I will never moan about a welcome break again), and a stop-over at a Formula 1 Hotel in Lyon, which can only be described as a cross between a portacabin and the motel you usually see SWAT teams advancing on in the movies. Needless to say, we got up early and got out of there.
We arrived at our Chalet (www.broski.co.uk) early and since our hosts weren’t ready for us, did our best to leave all our gear in as small a space as possible, get changed and get out of there way…..the pistes were calling!
After a little more faffing and sorting out of ski passes etc, we managed to get a few runs in order to find our ski-legs and rediscover forgotten techniques before heading back to the chalet for our first of many fantastic meals.
The first (proper) day dawned under overcast skies, but everyone was keen to get out there. We had a varied group of abilities so the beginners clomped off to get themselves some lessons while the rest of us went off to discover what the 3 valleys had to offer.
It’s safe to say, that they have a lot to offer, in fact, the terrain available was simply mind boggling, the sheer vastness of the place was enough to make me feel truly insignificant and at times somewhat vulnerable to the elements had mother-nature decided to take a dislike to us.
I won’t proceed to give you a blow by blow commentary of each day as it happened, as it was one of our party could probably furnish you with a flicker-book of the whole week in real time using the number of photos he took (No, seriously, thanks for the memories Andy). I will instead, pick out some of the highlights…
Our slightly ‘ambitious’ attempt to get the whole group down a steep red-run in order to have lunch in Courchevel. This ended badly with one member of the group walking back up to the top restaurant to wait for the rest, whilst another small group of us ended up somewhat stuck and needing to get down any which way we could. Desperate measures were called for which meant trying different methods of carrying Cara down the piste once she had lost any last scrap of her boarding Mojo. We discovered the best way was for the tails of my skis to act as an impromptu life-raft and we skied in tandem for the last few hundred meters of piste. As it turned out, it was hilariously funny and we made it back to St.Martin de Belleville (our home for the week) before the lifts closed. The only casualty of the day was one of my big toes, which had been so forcibly rammed into the end of my boots and bruised quite badly. I summoned up some medical knowledge and used the tried and tested method of heating a paperclip and piercing a hole in the nail to release the blood and pressure, although we couldn’t find a paperclip, but the Chalet host found me a implement that was usually used to mend part of their Gallic vacuum cleaner, which did the trick!
One of the over-riding themes of the week was the unbelievable level which some of the less experienced skiiers amongst us progressed during the week.
The roll of honour has to go to Mr.Robert Swinney who was tackling steep gradients on red runs with positive abandonment by the end of his first week ever on skis.
And special mention must also go to the dream team that was Nicci and Ian, who between them only had a couple of weeks experience, but somehow simply had no fear and were hitting speeds that were simply ridiculous given what most people should expect after only one holiday. As well as these breakthrough moments, my other half Zoe found new levels of speed previously not experienced, and even my own mother had a new found confidence after the purchase of some new skis!
After a huge dump of snow on our 3rd night, Wednesday found ourselves up to our knees in powder, and the more experienced among us slavering like rabid dogs to find some off-piste action. And there was so much to go at, we didn’t really need to stray very far from our base in St.Martin to find so much powder that we could easily spot safe routes which would lead us back down to a piste and therefore a lift back up, it was an incredible days skiing and one I will remember forever.
The evenings were spend eating great food cooked by Servane and Luke (how they’ve not got a michelin star on the door I don’t know!), playing silly games, enjoying good conversation or a dip in the spa-bath (well, you’ve got to enjoy the luxury of it haven’t you?).
On Friday, Myself and the other Rich decided to take on a challenge, and we had heard about a circular route around the 3 Valleys called ‘The Escapade’ which takes in all the furthest reaches of the area and if you push it can be skied in one day.
We were up for it, and after waiting like teenage girls in the queue for a Robbie Williams book signing, we managed to be the first people on the lift in the morning. There was no stopping for lunch, we were fuelled by a couple of energy gels and a frozen Pain-au-Chocolat each. We took as direct a line as possible from one lift to another and there was more than one moment where each of us reached speeds touching the edge of our abilities, but we made it! – We had covered some 14,000m of elevation over 28 lift journeys and I still haven’t worked out how many km of actual piste we covered, but after 7hrs 4mins we got back to our starting point, tired, frozen, but elated!
I could write about the holiday for hours, but I fear I would lose your concentration eventually. Needless to say, the love affair had to come to an end sooner or later. I am now back in England and back to real life.
We had an incredbile time with friends and family, but now we are back down with a bump…fortunately, I’ve got the comfort of the familiar embrace of another passion to return to, now where’s my bike….