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Published: October 10th 2011
Eat my awesome powder!!
So me, Dan and Phil left Jersey harbour to make our way by boat to St Malo in France in order to drive roughly the 600 miles to Chamonix for a week of skiing and boarding in the Alps. The drive down to Chamonix was great with Phil taking the reins all the way to Chartres on the first day where we stopped for the night at a Mercure Hotel. Before bed we decided to watch a quick bit of TV before getting some well needed rest and happened to come across an old black and white movie. This would normally make one immediately turn over in boredom. However, it happened not to be your average black and white movie as it was some man probing a woman with a 12ft long branch with a maniacal glint in his eye and a smile all over his French face which was somewhat of a surreal way to end the first the day.
The next day we got up early, grabbed some breakfast and headed off with me taking the first shift of the driving for the day. This was a day of firsts for me with the first time
Beauty of the Mountains
Every time I have some moment on a seashore, or in the mountains, or sometimes in a quiet forest, I think this is why the environment has to be preserved. Bill Bradley
driving a 4x4, first time driving outside of Jersey, the first time on a motorway and the first time driving over 100mph. Getting accustomed to road, car and speeds didnt take that long and was certainly a refreshing change form Jersey and its 40mpg maximum speed limit and narrow roads. Here the motorways well wide, long and in good condition meaning 100mph didn't really seem that different from 30mph.
Dan took over the driving next and we continued on our way making some stops on long the way for petrol, food, cigarettes, coffee etc. We happened to pull in along the freeway at a stop and coincidentally bumped into the other group who was making their way up, being Paul, Ana and "Archie". So we had a quick chat with them and grabbed some lunch and again headed off with Phil taking the final shift. For pretty much the whole journey we had been breaking the speed limit so it was only a matter a time before something happened. Out of nowhere there was a Gendarme beside us on his motorbike pointing at his speedometer and just a quick as he was there, he was gone speeding off rapidly
On the Road to Chamonix
Trying to look scared, seemed funny at the time.
at probably double the recommended motorway limit.
Les Houches 7/10
Les Houches is a great resort to find your ski legs as I hadn't ski'd in over 10 years. The majority of runs are easy going and the area is kept in fairly good condition despite the lack of snowfall. Its most famous the 'Kandahar' which is a Men's Downhill World Cup Ski Championship race which actually happened to be on the weekend we arrived which is fortunate. However, me, Phil and Dan were so anxious to get on the slopes that we spend the Saturday hitting the slopes and not really taking in much of the Kandahar race.
I was doing extremely well for my first day and was by the end carving quite nicely at a good pace and then on the last run and final corner I wiped out in spectacular fashion. I think I caught an edge and lost balance falling down to my left which didnt feel so dramatic at the time until I hit the snow, or should I say hard compacted pretty much ice, snow. I felt a heavy crunch in my left shoulder felt the impact of the snow on
my chin and neck as it took my weight and then slid down the slope a bit, coming to a stop with my face buried in the snow. I was pretty disorientated and was unprepared for the questions of a polite skier who had decided to bring me my missing ski which I only realised when I saw it in her hand. "Would you like a tissue?". I could taste the blood from my lip. "yes please". "Would you like two?" she asked. "How bad is it?!!" I asked. "not so bad". She then gracefully skiid off as I was left surveying the damage. Turned out it was a grazed chin, cut nose, bust lip and bruised shoulder which hurt a bit for a few days after.
Needless to say the "incident" kindly reminded me of my limits and I eased off a bit for a few days. On the Sunday, Phil and I decided to do another day of Les Houches, completing all the runs we had left to do and also finally getting some views of the guys doing the Kandahar. Watching a skier launch himself through the air at mesmerising speed down a black run reminded
Chartres Stop Over
Statue in Chartres
me of how wank my measly attempts at speed, poise, control and skill were. Still, I was here to have a laugh and theres no fun quite like bouncing down a 50 degree slope on hard pact ice at over 40mph. The funny thing is my employment insurance only covered me for on piste so if I did happen to zig instead of zag and hit a pine tree I would then have to drag my sorry ass back on to the piste and say I hit a pylon or something, yes I thought this through. However, due to lack of one of the fundamental components of skiing, i.e. snow going off piste wasnt really an option.
La Flegere 8/10
La Flegere was a great day and a great piste to ski on. Sun facing throughout the day, it has long and relatively steep slopes to keep you on your toes and with the current icy conditions the sun was welcome to soften up the slopes a bit, not that this was much of an issue for a skiier but icy conditions reek havoc with snowboarders................ much to my amusement.
It was La Flegere where we had a
run which was just about the right steepness to go flat out without taking any turns and without the possibility of laying a brick in your pants. Although, as it did join up with another run there were a couple of moments, where at full pace I thought I was going to get intimate with a couple of unknown skiers.
La Tour & Brevent 7/10
The rest of the lads had already been to La Tour and raved about it so Dan, Phil and I decided to have a go to see what all the fuss was about. What was nice and I think appreciated about La Tour was the long, wide, intermediate slope that takes you right down to the bottom as sometimes its nice just to carve for a decent amount of time before beinged crowbarred into the next chairlift by some impatient European.
Les Grands Montets 7/10
Huge area with a nice park to play around with and we ripped that up real nice. I reckon I got a foot of air at one point, at least thats what one of my awe struck friends said.
Its a nice place ti ksi but in the
Chalet Le Moraine
shade and with a lack of decent snow fall the benefits of this particular piste were found wanting and so it was a bit of let down.
However, I could imagine that with a good covering of snow the place just opens up and really comes into its own. One those pistes where there are no definable lines and you can just go where you please with a sense that your almost off-piste. Theres always next time!
Okay we screwed up this day and earned "cock of the piste" an apt title given for doing something stupid. In this case it was arranging tickets for getting to Italy as its cheaper to do it before, but we actually paid at the toll booth as well. This happened because I didnt understand much French and thought it was one of the pay booths and not the actual border control.......so Phil and I paid (again) without engaging our brains......Muppets! It was strange suddenly being in Italy where attitudes, prices and atmosphere all seemed quite different/fun despite being just next door. All in all great weather, great people, better prices and the slopes were long, wide and varied. They had
plenty of cannons set up and so it felt like there was relatively good cover and the boarders seemed to appreciate.
Switzerland! and another sunny day on the pistes, Verbier has some great slopes and a great atmosphere with a cool little park where your able to hear tunes being banged out which was a refreshing change and we all had a couple of attempts at getting some air (see video) but my shins at this point were really feeling the pressure of skiing all week and every movement was painful and hitting the ramps made it much worse and you get the feeling that they may snap like tooth picks at any point but some times you have to man up right.
There was a funny moment where skiing on one of the easiest flat sections I managed to do the impossible and stack it. Somehow I left a ski behind and was continuing to coast along with a quizzical expression upon my face before deciding to deliberately bail, as getting back to collect the single ski would have been an absolute chore, but I do wonder how long I could have continued to mono
Preparing the Board
Bindings were a bit awkward to put on the first the time.
ski down that particluar slope before biting it. Another thing was the cable car, not sure whether the "operator" was doing this deliberately but he seemed to be working up a good pendulum action. So when we came to the top there was this huge swing before coming to a stop which made a couple of people scream in fright, but I'm sure thats just the way it works...........
The trip home was a long drive into the night, with tiredness setting in and attention spans waning. Its always good to check your ego and admit that your knackered and should stop for the night. So we stopped off at some town to bed down for the night, not before trying to mount a foot high concrete bollard that stress tested the front right wheel of the Koleos, and I have to say she represented because it felt like we just created a tri-car.
The next day refreshed and ready we did the final leg to Dinan which was actually a nice way to round off the trip being a very idyllic town on the coast of France and Phil, Dan and I decided to grab some
has 1 international black run, 12 red runs, 5 blue runs and 4 green runs.
lunch and head round the old city for a quick look before heading back to the boat for Jersey. Dinan seems trapped in a bygone era and oozes atmosphere and history seeming the type of place that would be used for a Harry Potter set and everywhere seems to be a good photo opportunity.
Before going on the boat we managed to find a supermarche and loaded up probably with three times the allowed amount of food and wine (stress testing those axles again). I was slightly nervous going through customs but we didnt get stopped and we were home and dry............until the next adventure.
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