Our second ski trip of 2009 was a week in Meribel with N's brother, sister-in-law and their 4 kids (aged 3 - 11). Meribel is part of the Three Valleys (Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens) - apparently the largest linked ski resort in the world. However, the 600km of piste was not enough for us (I know, greedy, greedy), so we organised two off-piste days.
The first was well planned (or lucky...), as it was a particularly windy day. For the entire day, only the lower lifts on the mountain were open. Turns out it was a great day to get away from the resort and the large crowds around the few working lifts in the resort. The only small flaw in this plan was the start of the day, as we ended up having to walk UP one of the pistes. I was pretty glad:
(a) it was only a blue run and so not too steep; and
(b) that the lifts did not open when we were half way up (would have been pretty annoying to suddenly have heaps of people skiing past).
Once we made it to the top of the run, the 'planned' part of
the walking started. N had his skis secured onto his backpack so that he looked like a human helicopter - no such technique for the board, just had to carry it. We walked/traversed for about an hour (man - I find traversing sooo tiring on the board - need to work on getting that balance right) and then it was time for skis/board on and some fresh tracks action - awesome - especially as it had been about 5 days since the last snow, so I had been expecting everywhere to be tracked out.
We had a great run down into a secluded valley halfway down the mountain (apart from an incident where I found myself stacking into a bush... not a great plan....). We made our way to a 'refuge' (aka hut) - used as summer accommodation for walkers, but a lunch spot in the winter. Surprisingly there were quite a few people there, about 50/50 skiers and snowshoers - but no other boarders!!! There was one dude doing all the serving and cooking foe everyone and a pretty good job he did of it! Apparently he pickles all his own pickled stuff and makes his own snags
Accommodation is only 10 - 20 euros a night - a cheap option for a ski holiday if you don't mind snowshoeing for over an hour back to your accommodation after skiing all day!!
We took N's 11 year-old nephew on the second off-piste day (yes, he is a pretty good skier). The weather was pretty terrible, snowing and really foggy, so we did not stray far from the resort. It was bizarre in the fog, you could not tell where the sky ended and the snow began, making dealing with bumps difficult. We managed to tire N's nephew out like never before - the off pasta powder proved difficult for him to deal with. Luckily, N also fell a couple of times (an unusual occurrence), which made Ben feel better. Just when he was starting to lose confidence, we made it to the trees. Skiing through the trees was fab, not only could we finally get our bearings on the snow, it was also incredibly peaceful and beautiful. I love skiing through trees!
At the insistence of the kids, I tried skiing for a day. My start was incredibly wobbly - I just could
not seem to keep enough pressure on the skis to keep them both pointing in the same direction. Clearly, the kids found that hilarious. However, it did not take me long to get my ski legs back and feel a bit more confident. N was obviously very happy, he would prefer me to be a skier (mainly so he no longer has to pull me/lend me his poles on the flat bits), until I went back to boarding the next day.
I got to do my first proper practice with the transceiver. Don't worry! Not in an avalanche situation - there is a transceiver training ground on the slopes where they have some transceivers permanently buried so you can practice.
Tried a proper Swiss fondue, boarded a few more couloirs.
It was also good to get to know N's fam a bit better.
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