Bulgarian firewater, Swiss pickaxes and French cuddly toys - another great season on the slopes...

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Europe » France » Rhône-Alpes » Meribel
March 10th 2012
Published: December 10th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Ski season 2012 saw me cram in 3 trips to the slopes, with Bulgaria, Switzerland and Meribel on the hit list.

Bulgaria was the first trip of the season and Chris had kindly allowed Steve, James and I to join him in his apartment. The long transfer time from the airport meant that we arrived in the early hours, and I don't think that the “pastry roulette” that I played at a service station en-route was hugely appreciated at breakfast time the next day!! (The random meat fully encased in a pastry bun unbelievably got left alone for the whole trip!)

We'd decided not to book board hire this time, knowing the expensive prices and long queues down at the main hire place. This time we simply wandered down the road and discovered our Utopia. An incredibly friendly hotel/bar/ski hire place that not only was incredibly cheap; the equipment was decent quality, they showed English football and they even gave us free shots of the local firewater to “pep” us up each morning before hitting the slopes (OK – maybe this wasn't such a good thing!). Safe to say we always had a post-slopes beer at their bar when dropping off our boots and picking our shoes back up!

Unfortunately, the upper half of the Bansko resort hadn't been opened up so we were restricted in the number of slopes we could use, but we were only there for three days and the snow conditions were excellent so it didn't prove an issue. My boarding skills had improved to a level that meant I didn't hold up anyone on the slopes – the only problem was the usual skiers gripe about how long it took me to get strapped in each time! I was going as fast as I could – honest!!

Post slopes we actually ventured further than the tourist town and found some cracking restaurants which generally did a good helping of some cooked meat with a slab of potatoes and veg on the side. It was either a sign that we're all getting old, or a sign that we are now more dedicated to our snowsports, but I definitely don't remember the crazy party times of our last trip to Bulgaria!! How mature!

We were getting on so well with the hire place that for the final day I managed to switch my board for a set of skis with no problem, and for the first time in three years or so I was back on the twin planks. It genuinely felt like riding a bike it was so natural to be back – even better was the fact that as it was our last day we had got up super early and actually made first tracks on one of the slopes. Brilliant!!

James and I had a huge amount of fun bouncing over mogul runs and taking on the super steep and pacy black run. It may have only been three days on the slopes, and it certainly wasn't as boozy as previous trips, but we were out early and back late so we crammed in a huge amount and had an absolute blast! Cheers guys!

Next up was Switzerland, and again we'd managed to convince Family Freitag to lend us the chalet, but this time we were trimming the trip to a four day fly/drive experience. On arrival the first four of us (Chris, Steve, Mandi and I) realised that the car we'd hired just wasn't going to be big enough for four people plus luggage, Steve's skis and
Amazing photobomb from the man in the dinosaur suit...Amazing photobomb from the man in the dinosaur suit...Amazing photobomb from the man in the dinosaur suit...

...Dick's tea bar after sports night
shopping. Some skilful/lucky negotiation meant that by paying a small extra price to upgrade to the next size, we got upgraded to the largest people carrier they had (the main reason being that down in the car park the bloke didn't have a key for the size we wanted and it would have involved him going all the way back to the airport terminal – so he just gave us the key they had available which was for a giant people carrier!).

On arrival the chalet was buried deeper than I'd ever seen it, and given that we'd need to clear enough space in the car park for two cars (Sara and Nicholas were going to be following on a later flight) there was a serious amount of digging to be done. It even involved getting the full complement of hoes and pick axes from the shed as the ice was packed solid! Luckily there was no repeat of my previous year's fainting episodes and the car park got fully cleared while Chris cooked us up a top dinner!

With the great snow conditions we had a lot of fun, heading to a different resort each day with Schonreid probably being the overall favourite. In fact it snowed so much that one day after returning from the slopes we couldn't get the lumbering people carrier up to our space and so after a full team effort (I had originally ineptly moved it to a temporary place that I just couldn't get it out of) we managed to “abandon” the car overnight, in a spot further down the road and luckily no one seemed bothered that we'd nicked their space.

Like in Bulgaria, after a couple of days I switched from board to skis, but this time my own equipment felt so blunt and shoddy compared to the Bulgarian hire gear that I didn't feel I had as much control or fun on the skis as before. When your gear is much worse that the cheapest of Bulgarian hire shops then I think its a sign it needs to be replaced!

There were no slope based injuries this time around, but I did manage to slip on ice on the chalet steps and smash my forearm against a small wooden post. The pain was excruciating, and I had genuine fears that I had broken my forearm. These fears seemed possible when after having a shower I actually fainted and collapsed downstairs, managing to knock an ironing board onto me that meant I also couldn't get up. Hearing the crash downstairs the guys shouted down to make sure I was OK and hearing nothing in response they assumed that I was – cheers guys!!

Luckily the arm wasn't broken, just badly bruised – another example of me being a big girl's blouse in the cold weather!!

The Snowmans 2012 trip to Meribel looked for a while that it was going to be a bit of a non starter. I had dug out the e-mail of what we got the previous year in Les Arcs and we didn't seem able to get anywhere near the quality or price. That was until we somehow managed to cobble together the best of both worlds. We (Sam) found a private, but fully catered, chalet that was available the week we wanted it, and Shaun managed to sort out some Easyjet flights that were out first thing on a Saturday morning, but also returned last thing the following Saturday – giving us 7 days on the slopes instead of the usual 6.

On arrival the chalet was absolutely amazing, and our host from Zimbabwe and turned out to be an absolute blast and a michelin star standard chef! We were set-up in the chalet by Saturday lunchtime and the ultra keen beans even went and got an extra half day pass to cram in more time on the slopes.

I was very much of the view that 7 straight days was enough, and so spent the first day with Liam sunbathing on the terrace with a beer or three and watching the premiership football!

Despite the previous paragraph, as the standards of our snowboarding improves, and we all start to get older, the Snowmans trips seem to be focusing more on the boarding and less on the big nights out boozing...! This was accentuated on this particular trip when half the “creatives” had pressing deadlines for work and so seemed to spend more time buried in their laptops than in the deep powder!!

As last year in Les Arcs, one of the cheesy highlights of the trip was our “sports night” drinking session. We battled over bowling, pool and god knows what else and somehow the scores appeared to be level at the end of all this. The only machine we seemingly hadn't tried to use was the kids machine where for a euro you can use the grabbing arm to try and grab a soft toy!! We ended up being dab hands at this, so the stakes were increased to say that whichever team was first to grab a pink toy would be declared the winner!! Someone definitely did grab a pink toy and win Sports Night for their team, but I've no idea who!! We merrily stomped onwards to Dick's Tea Bar to party into the early hours with our cuddly toys as mascots!!

One of the big highlights for us all was the “DC Area 43 snowpark”, (http://www.zapiks.com/dc-area-43-meribel-mottaret-1.html) a massive purpose built area with great combinations of kickers and rails that were always well groomed and had a handily placed chairlift next door which meant you could ride them over and over. A group of us were easily taking on the green and blue kickers, and the red kickers weren't proving too much of a problem although completely committing to them did take some bravery. A personal highlight for me was a run down 3 or 4 consecutive red kickers culminating in the biggest air that I had ever got, followed by a reasonably convincing 180. I thought it had gone pretty well, and this was confirmed by Sam as unknown to me he had been riding past in the chair lift and viewed the whole thing!!

While the red jumps were certainly within our grasp, the blacks jumps (as you might see from the video) were just a step too far for anyone to try. Perhaps next time....


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