Saturday, 19 February 2011

From Bambi Beginnings to a (more or less) Elegant End

In case my last post gave the impression that I spent my week in the mountains seething at the rudeness of my fellow franciliens, I should hasten to say that I actually had a great time. Understanding Frenchman and I booked our trip with the UCPA, an association that organises sports holidays for the under-40s. You stay in hostel-type accommodation and everything is included: ski pass, equipment hire, lessons and three fabulous meals a day. Skiing is never cheap but the prices are about as good as it gets: as little as 350 euros a week out of peak-season. It’s also a good way to go on holiday on your own because it’s very sociable and easy to meet people.

We went to Les Deux Alpes, a pretty village in the Isère department not far from Grenoble. After a crazy start to the winter, the snow has actually not been great this year and some of the lower pistes were closed when we arrived. I was actually too hot on Sunday and Monday, as well as suffering from the realisation that while you never entirely forget how to ski once you’ve learned, you can feel pretty stupid in the time that it takes to come flooding back to you. The exertion of descending the easy slopes badly, coupled with the fact that my ski boots really hurt, made the first couple of days feel more like hard work than a holiday but by Tuesday, with a fresh fall of snow and new boots, I was having a great time.

Mont Blanc

On Wednesday, the sun came out and from the top of the station, at 3600 metres, there were stunning views of the Parc des Ecrins and the rest of the Alps, stretching all the way to Mont Blanc during clearer moments. On Thursday, we took a half day off skiing to go for a ramble in the snow and visit the ice cave under the glacier at the top of the mountain.

Ice Sculpture

By Friday, I had skied down a couple of red runs, played in the powder off-piste, learned to ski backwards and only fallen off a chairlift once. All in all, it was a good week.

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