Archive for the ‘Skiing’ Category

Annual Trip to See the Snow?   6 comments

End of January means my annual ski trip treat. Just a long weekend this year as TJS wanted to try it but can’t take a week out of college so I thought it a bit harsh to go for the full week while he stayed home.

In truth not best skiing trip I’ve ever had. The runes were bad after a journey to the airport involving a puncture, a closure of the M1, getting the flight time wrong in my head and me making my flight with only 10 mins to spare (exaggerated a little for effect – the flight was 30 mins late so that bought me some time) There has only been two major falls of snow in the Alps this winter and slopes were amazingly bare and thin. Looks like there is plenty of snow from the photos but trust me this is bare by Alpine standards. It surprised me greatly to see such a change in the usual conditions. Perhaps global warming is to blame but my Uncle Donald in America told me that’s just a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese so it can’t be that

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We did have some nice sunny days though and even if the skiing wasn’t as good as it could be it was still great fun. Clear skies and winter air is always a treat and any day spent away from work is a good one

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This does of course leave more time for convivial eating and lunchtime drinking in the sun

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My camera had another fit and went into strange mode for the next few pictures. Not exactly representative of the views at the time but an interesting effect

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A nice sunrise before a cloudy day

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It even rained on my last day – skiing in the rain is even more miserable than walking in it. I’ll leave you with my abiding memory from the trip. The Le Red Wine bar which is now my spiritual home. Gave us a decent excuse to go shopping as its next door to the supermarket. If Carlsberg (or Grimbergen in this case) did supermarkets……

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Winter Wonderland – Six Go Mad on Ben More   2 comments

Another day and another superb clear blue sky morning. Hopes were high that the sun would stay with us all day and deliver a classic. More Ski Mountaineering was on the cards so we ramped things up a notch and decided to tackle Ben More, the highest of the Southern Highlands at over 3,800 feet and a “serious” ski route according the guidebook.

Downside was a low start that involved a long trudge up the forestry tracks to reach the snow in Coire Chaorach. The heavy packs (carrying skis) and heavy ski boots on the feet makes for hard work but the views and awesome weather kept us going

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When we finally reached the open corrie and the snow we were indeed walking – or rather – skiing in a winter wonderland. Ben More beside us and Stob Binnein ahead

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Skis on and it was a sheer delight to slide effortlessly – well not effortlessly but you get the idea – over the perfect snow under a deep blue sky in blazing sunshine

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The perfect winter day with many stops to take in the views across the Southern Highlands, Lochaber and the Cairngorms glinting in the distance

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We reached the ridge and the views were just immense. Distant mountains and the light making waves on the sculpted frozen snow.

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It was full winter conditions, hard packed frozen snow dominating. The NE ridge of Ben More has a couple of steep rocky steps, far too steep for skis so we switched to crampons. You can see one of the steps in the photo below

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I found this especially tough. Steep snow in very heavy boots with an awkward and heavy sack and I was left way behind. As I trudged, wearily up the easier slopes you can imagine my “disappointment” as most of the group started off again just as I reached them rather than let me catch my breath. I was bloody furious. Luckily MM, who is a very kindly soul, waited for me to recover (and have a serious rant) and then walked with me to the point where we could put skis back on and I’d calmed down a bit. Once back on skis I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t a day for temper tantrums and I was soon back in the groove and “at one” with the mountains again

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The views were still sensational and the final slopes to this high summit were a delight

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As we celebrated the summit with some of our other friends who attained the summit the old fashioned way on foot, it looked like the weather might be selling us down the river again. Clouds gathered and for a while we had some rather moody views

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It was short lived though and almost as soon as the cloud appeared it seemed to vanish, We left the summit to a group camping there for the night (must have been a chilly night!) and started our ski route down

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It was tricky descent, steep, with a serious drop off to the left and mix of ice and rocky slopes. A couple of the group tried to head straight down and ended up having to remove skis and climb down. Me and JC headed right and found a decent route down (scarring my skis on the bare rocks) and down to the col.

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The plan had been to go over Stob Binnein as well but I announced that my climbing for the day was done and I intended to chill in the warm sunny col and top up my tan before what looked like a magnificent cruise down Coire Chaorach. Reports from other walkers seemed to indicate the slope to the summit was hard and icy making a ski ascent very difficult. GM decided to join me a more leisurely way down. In fact the others only managed to ski up a few meters before the rock hard icy slopes forced them to revert to boots and crampons and climb to the top on foot

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As an aside, I’ve always referred to GM as, well, GM (Geordie Munro). ED has pointed out that he is neither a Geordie or Scottish and as this is self appointed moniker we felt he needs a new one. ED provided several suggestions but seeing as GM is now growing an appallingly daft looking beard and has a appetite for plain boring oat based biscuits then The Hairy Oatcake seems more appropriate and will remain his identity on the blog until I come up with something funnier or more annoying, or hopefully both

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So, after an extended scoff of goodies me and THO headed down. The corrie wasn’t steep but it was completely plastered in snow and was a truly magnificent easy cruise down on perfect untouched snow. The earlier descent almost meant we were in the sun the whole way down.

I reset the exposure on my camera to a more average setting, hence the much brighter shots from hereon. I think I prefer the lower exposure ones from the first part of the day

You even get the added delight of some photos of yours truly looking like the hard mountain enthusiast he is

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The skiing brought many shouts of delight as we cruised down without a care. One of the finest hours I’ve ever had in the Scottish mountains. Wonderful skiing, blue skies and bright sunshine

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I like this photo for the rather bizarre fork-like shadow that THO seems to have created

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One of the fun parts of Ski Mountaineering is picking a route as the snow starts to thin out. We had a great time weaving in and out of snow filled peat hags on ever patchier snow, desperately trying to find the last possible spot to take off the skis. Eventually you end up on slopes more grass than snow with patches only a foot or so wide in places.

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All the while the views and the situation were unrivalled in recent memory

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When at last we decided skiing on boggy grass would be rather foolish we reluctantly took off the skis, fixed them to the pack and set off for the long trudge back to the car. Despite the weight and the distance to go we were all beaming smiles and feeling pretty damn good. Could we finish the day off to make it even more perfect? Hell yes:

  1. We managed to hitch a lift all the way down the forestry track with one of the guys working on the Hydro Scheme in the valley.
  2. We were back early, decided on a cheeky beer before we went back to the room to change and ended up staying a couple of hours (and several beers later) chatting with a group of very friendly locals in the bar
  3. When everyone else was back we enjoyed a fine evening of great food, more beers and  tales old and new with friends and friendships going back 30 years

That was a great day!

Winter Wonderland – Ski Touring in the Tarmachans   4 comments

Our winter trip to the Southern Highlands has been a fixture now for 10 years. In that time we’ve had a few days of sunshine and a couple of days of proper winter conditions. We’ve never had both together and the weather has always been mixed although the weather has never been a complete washout.

This year, our 11th, the forecast looked promising with high pressure and cold weather following a snowy spell giving much hope for a great conditions. Drawing back the curtains on the Friday morning gave substance to that hope.

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Lots of deep fresh snow equals a chance for some ski touring. I abandoned TBF to the tender mercies of the Sheffield Boys while we headed to Lochan na Larige for a high start. We had park below the reservoir as the road was blocked by snow and ice.

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Spoilt for choice with the mountains plastered in snow above 500m, and after much debate we settled on Meall Nan Tarmachan.

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The weather and views were just breathtaking. How often is it you’re glad you remembered sunglasses on a day out in Scotland. We ploughed our trail up towards the ridge that carries the baggers path to the summit

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Alas the Scottish weather nipped at our heels as a bank of grey cloud drifted in and started to cloak the higher summits. We were even treated to the almost unheard of sight of MM struggling with tiredness (he had just flown back from a business trip to Brazil!)

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By the time we reached the summit it had reached us as well so it was the briefest of stops, tinged with a little disappointment that the fine start to the day had petered out.

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Luckily skiing downhill is great fun even in the cloud. This descent enlivened by my attempt to ski an extremely steep gully badly broken by deep footprints and with boots not adjusted properly. Ratio between ski and fall about 20:80! 🙂

We skied down to the track and then back up to the ridge for another descent back to the car. The fickle Scottish weather turned again and the sun came out

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Not sure what I did with the camera settings but they came out rather dark and broody looking but still capture the essence of what was a cracking ski descent

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The snow was a little heavy but fluffy enough for some wonderful easy turns as we picked a superb route through the crags and gullies

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I seem to have lost the ability to keep a camera aligned to the horizon as I’ve got older. However this particular shot seems to be best yet. Pretty sure Loch Tay would empty rather quickly at that sort of angle. 🙂

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The patches of blue and the sunlight on the mountains, backed by dark clouds was just magnificent

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This shot of GM in action is my favourite from the day

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The descent went on all the way down to the dam and the massive water pipe that pops out from the base

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For most of us climbing under the pipe was the only time we took skis off all day. MM made a very brave effort at trying to limbo underneath without taking them off. A then made it look easy!

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Blue skies, a ski munro, two cracking descents, and ski to/from the car on excellent snow with great company. Does a day get better than this? Watch this blog to find out.

Fun in the Winter Sun   10 comments

Back to late January for some rather nice photos of mountains, snow, selfies and over-indulgence

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For the first time I went for a whole week’s skiing when fresh snow never fell. Not great for off piste powder skiing but rather good for cruising in the sunshine and topping up the tan.

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Obligatory selfie

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Ski bums

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Blue skies

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Cold beers

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And some skiing

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Snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see

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A proper mans drink and a ladies tea cup

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Blazing sunshine

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The roof of Europe

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Yet more food

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And we even squeezed in a little more skiing

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Mountains galore

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And a slideshow with video footage thrown in for free…..

Boys (and Girls) Weekend – Uphill and Downhill on Meall Ghaordaidh   6 comments

More snow and more skiing. Well more rain and more skiing to be honest. Courtesy to GM for a good number of the photos, a deserving chance to see me in action again for a change, again I’m the short-ar5e in the green jacket

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

A grey and dreary day with the promise of deterioration does not make for an enthusiastic breakfast. Still, snow down to relatively low levels is a rarity in Scotland in these globally warmed times so best make the most of things. A bit of ski touring was called for and a combination of a new Munro for Mad Malcs and some route planning by JB picked out Meall Ghaordaidh. The fact that it’s also a new Munro for me of course had no bearing on my decision

Downside is the start in Glen Lochay is low and Meall Ghaordaidh is a pretty big bugger. The snow wasn’t down as far as the road so some spirited walking in the damp drizzle was called for to get to the snow. Problem with ski touring in Scotland is you often have to walk up hill to get to the snow. This has two main disadvantages. Firstly you have to wear ski touring boots, a combination of downhill boots and plastic mountaineering boots, which despite the marketing blurb are deeply uncomfortable to walk in. Secondly as is obvious from the photos and any degree of thought, skis are cumbersome and heavy, making for a heavy pack when combined with winter gear.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Not a an ideal start, heavy pack, sore feet, and drizzle. But here’s the thing. In the right conditions ski touring is a very fine way to gain a summit, especially when the snow is deep, heavy and soggy on a day like this

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

We stopped to slap on skis after 45 mins slogging up from Drumcroisk but from there progress is so much easier and swifter.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Skis take the uncertainty out of the terrain and you can set into a smooth climbing rhythm. Those heavy skis and uncomfortable boots are suddenly a bonus. It’s still bloody hard work, don’t get me wrong but you get a much better return for your efforts. I’m pretty sure in heavy wet snow there is no way we’d have got to the top. In fact we were up and down in around 5 hours.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

There is a certain pleasure even on a miserable day like this in the steady progression skis give you. On foot this would have been a real grind, a grim relentless rigour of exhaustion and wet feet. My recollection of the climb was of hard work laced with good humour and enjoyment.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

We had a swift lunch under a boulder, surmising quite correctly that the summit would be unpleasant. A chance to capture the grim cheerfulness and take some very suspicious selfies.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

We pressed on to the summit, into the cloud and the weather turned truly nasty. It was amazingly swift how the wet and slushy snow turned to rock hard ice on the summit ridge (a warning for all as to just how swiftly conditions can change)

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

The summit was blasted by icy winds and spindrift, barely time to pat the cairn, recognise the tick before changing to downhill mode.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

And here’s the other very obvious good reason for ski touring. Coming back down is swift and FUN! The icy summit slopes in a white-out proved interesting as did trying to ski in the snow equivalent of porridge.

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Laughs and thrills were had by all as we picked a route through the snowfields, arriving at the bottom of the snowline precisely where we’d started. No better way to descend a big Scottish mountain than on skis

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

By now the snow of high up had turned to rain and as we de-skiied it rained with a real vengeance. I haven’t been that wet returning from a day in the mountains in some years. Actually I tell a lie, I was this wet after last years walk up Ben Venue but you get my drift.

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I was soaked, my feet hurt and my shoulders ached. Was it a good day, you bet your ass it was! And Munro 215 to boot. Wins all round especially as we passed the parked cars of the other party still out on the mountains in what was now pretty much torrential rain. Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing 🙂

Boys (and Girls) Weekend – Downhill at Glencoe   4 comments

Late February/Early March brings with it our now traditional get together of a group of friends from the past 30 years. Before we all gather on the Friday night, me and a select group always head up a day early to make a day of things and providing there is some snow this normally involves a day’s skiing at Glencoe Ski “resort”

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

The past few years haven’t been terribly successful. We’ve had not enough snow, too much snow, white-out conditions and broken lifts. This year however, all the lifts were running, the snow was good (you could actually ski all the way back to the car park, rare at Glencoe) and the weather whilst not exactly glorious was not too bad.

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

Any day skiing in Scotland when you’re not in a white-out is considered a good day!

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

We even had some fleeting glimpses of sunshine, although there were some pretty nasty squalls of snow to make us feel more at home

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

So a few photos and video of a fun day out.

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

I’ve managed, through the marvels of SD card readers and cloud storage been able to grab a few photos from GM from this day and others in the weekend so you get the unusual privilege of seeing me in the shots. I’m the short one in the green jacket if you’re interested 🙂

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

Back to our fine hosts at Suie Lodge (via a cheeky beer at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel) to meet the gang. The weekend was off to a grand start

On the Slopes in France   9 comments

My annual ski trip to France and back to the same place as last year in Mottaret. I think we’ve found our spiritual home for our ski trips.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Some new pals this year. TBF who started skiing before I did came along for the ride. Equal measure of enjoying some time away from the day-to-day grind of mum and housewife and a love of the mountains in winter. Like me she loves the cold clear air of the high alps and the felling of warmth from a mountainous blue skies. Not entirely sure that she completely shares my passion for unsafe velocities on snow but there is hope

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Also joining us was The Yorkshire Gardener. Like TBF she started skiing many years ago after spending some time in Colorado. She hasn’t been for many years but seeing as, like me, she’s approaching the half century milestone, decided to treat herself. Spending a week cooped up with me and Uncle Fester is debatable as a treat but it takes all sorts

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

As always we had a fabulous time. We were a little worried a few weeks before the trip. The Alps up to then had one of the worst snow seasons on record with several resorts suffering badly from a lack of snow. Even in the week before we went the slopes looked bare and rocky. Before and while we there though the weather delivered what for a skier is a perfect mix of regular snowfall intermixed with blue sky. By then end of the week there was metres of the stuff. Luckily we’d seen it coming and moved the car underground. Would have taken us a couple of hours to dig it out had we left it outdoors.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Having some new members of trip was rather nice. It was especially nice seeing TYG enjoying her first skiing for 20 odd years, it really was a special treat for her, although I’m hopeful that she’ll be able to join us on a more regular basis – she gets the croissants in the morning for a start! 🙂

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

TBF was less enthusiastic as she needed some lessons.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

We hired a guide/instructor for a couple of days, the skilled and friendly Rab Macnab.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

We split each day into a half day for TBF to try to get her up to Intermediate level and a half a day for me and UF.  TBF found the learning a little frustrating but by the last day all the tips were starting to click and things were progressing nicely. Now that both our kids are older, again, I’m hoping she can join us on a more regular basis. Whilst she sometimes got a little down on herself, she improved markedly from the start of the week and I think she enjoyed the week – at least I hope she did

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Me a UF had a day on-piste with Rab to help us improve our own technique. UF has had a few lessons over the years but I’ve had just one half day, having been pretty much self-taught. Rab was very generous in his praise after watching us ski but you could see the “but” coming in his assessment from a mile away. Let’s just say I still have a long way to go. Our second half day was off piste and Rab took us to some new little known corners and into one terrifyingly steep drop that we both bottled out of. It was a cracking afternoon though. Rab comes highly recommended and I think it’s a given that we’ll be seeking him out again next year

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

The rest of the week was a mix of blue sky and heavy snow but we got out every day for a full day which is the main thing.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

 

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

 

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

A trip to remember for all the usual reasons but also this time for the different vibe we got from having some new people with us to share the fun. If only I go skiing every week 🙂

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