Archive for the ‘Downhill 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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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 – 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 🙂

Annual March Gathering of the Clans   25 comments

It was that time of year for ageing ex-students from the 80’s to heed the call of the wild and head to the Southern Highlands. It’s been a tradition for nearly 10 years to get together in early March and the weekend seems to go from strength to strength.

 

This year TBF joined the gang and the both of us collected GM to head up on the Thursday to make a longer weekend of it. Our home of the past few years, The Suie Lodge Hotel, welcomed us late and looked after us with their usual relaxed hospitality.

Like the previous couple of years we went skiing for a day at Glencoe Ski Area. Last couple of years there has barely been enough snow. This year there was loads of snow, tonnes of the stuff, meters deep. In fact too much. The tops lifts weren’t running as they were completely buried.

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

Still, the skiing was ok and we had some glimpses of blue sky but all in all it was pretty wild, windy and cold and by 3pm we’d had enough for one day. TBH said she “quite” enjoyed it. Scottish skiing is something of an acquired taste 🙂

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

Me a GM did a little impromptu off piste touring to bag a small bump near the piste and escape the crowds.

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

The runs were not open all the way down to the bottom but they were the best of the day. While everyone else downloaded on the chairlift. We had an empty run with some nice views as we emerged from the cloud. A 10 minute walk through the bog at the bottom was a price worth paying

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

We headed back (via a beer at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel to celebrate) to meet with everyone else for beers, food stories and catching up

The following day (according to MWIS anyway) promised to be a cracker. I have never seen a mountain forecast in Scotland with the phrase “severe risk of sunburn”. I think you can guess the punchline……

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

Despite the promise of some blue sky as we left the car for a ski-touring day, it rarely appeared again

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

We were hoping for a grand tour across the Ben Lawers range and had left a car at the far end. Once out of the nature reserve and onto the snow the conditions were great and we made swift progress up to Beinn Ghlas.

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

By the time we reached the summit the only severe risk was frostbite. Complete whiteout, high winds and spindrift. The ridge looked nasty and corniced. Spotting a cornice at walking pace is hard enough, spotting one at skiing pace was deemed far too risky so we cut our losses and went for a descent down Core Odhar. It proved to be a fine and long descent, my only regret not being close enough to GM to see him hit a wall of snow at full pace. Some people have no sense of theatre. We toyed with the idea of another ascent but the weather was pretty miserable so we headed back to the hotel. We ventured out for a stroll along the disused railway lines behind the hotel at the end of the day. GM recovered his sense of theatre by grabbing an electric fence and getting a nasty shock, much to my amusement (that’s what friends are for I believe)

Another evening swapping jokes and stories and catching up with old friends some of whom I only see on this weekend

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

For our final day we headed south to tackle Ben Venue. I’d never walked much in the Trossachs and I was looking forward to the walk as Ben Venue has often caught my eye.

Ben Venue

7.6 Miles

The weather forecast wasn’t great but the sun was out when we parked up and the views along Loch Achray were grand.

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

It’s quite a long walk winding along by the Achray Water and through the desolate forest – desolate now its being cleared

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

At least you get to see the views now

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

These two remaining bare trunks caught my eye – looked like the place had been hit by a nuclear blast. Lets hope it recovers its former glory in years to come

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

Where the made path ran out and turned into the usual sloppy mess that passes for a path in the Southern Highlands we decided to head straight for the summit. As we climbed the snow both on the ground and in the air grew thicker and we were in full blizzard on the summit

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

Time for  brief summit photo and then off back down. The walk along the rocky ridge was interesting and I’m sure its a fine high level traverse in clear conditions but it was pretty grim this day.

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The bad weather promised had really set in. As we descended, the snow in the air turned to heavy rain and the snow on the ground turned to wet slush and then sloppy bog. It turned into a bit of route march back down the way we’d come up and it was absolutely tipping it down by the time we reached the cars. Goodbyes were brief in the rain, everyone wet and tired and ready to start the long drive home. Another weekend over, another one to confine to the memory banks, another one to remind you do it all again next year

Winter Playground – Meribel-Mottaret Skiing   9 comments

My annual “Slide” trip to match my identity. The usual end of January boys trip for some skiing in the Alps. This year was back to our favourite area, the Three Valley’s in France with its huge ski area and modern efficient lift system. We stayed in the middle valley in Meribel Mottaret for the first time in a lovely apartment right on the slopes.

There was blue sky

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There was time for eating (Steak Americaine on the slopes here)

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There were snow-capped mountains

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There was skiing

 

There was more blue sky

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There was some cloud

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There was more eating (afternoon waffles and beer became a mainstay)

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And there was more skiing

 

There were awesome atmospheric days

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There was a whole heap of sunshine

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

There was always time for beer

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

And amazing views from the apartment balcony

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

More sensational views

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

And lots of partying – by others – we’re all too old for such things. This the is La Folie Douce in Val Thorens, famed party spot throughout the Alps and always kicking in the afternoon

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

Time to reflect and take in the scene

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

That included Europe’s highest mountain

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

The views just kept coming

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

And the sunsets were breathtaking

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

And whilst overindulging were common-place

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It was the skiing that lives long in the memory

 

We enjoyed one final day on the slopes before heading home after a an amazing week

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens

Skiing in Les Gets, Portes du Soleil, January 2013   8 comments

I’m back! Not posted any stuff for a month or so. Call it a lost mojo or the fact that I’ve been busy tinkering with my ever-growing collection of gadgets, editing videos and, well, being out and about generating stuff for the blog. I’m way behind as a result and have lots to catch up. A couple of walks in the Black Mountains and Brecons, a superb day out in the mid-Wales mountains near the Elan Valley and a trip to the Southern Highlands of Scotland with the lads. But before all that a little report of my annual skiing trip to the French Alps. Slight diversion from the majority of my walking relating posts but you can’t have a blog with “slide” in the title without doing a bit. At least the photos were nice

Les Gets, Mont Blanc, Portes du Soleil

Uncle Fester and Mont Blanc from Mont Chery

Les Gets, Mont Chery, Portes du Soleil

Uncle Fester in action on Mont Chery

There were supposed to be 5 of us but due to some family and work-related problems it ended up just being me and Uncle Fester. For anyone who’s interested we always fly out on a Friday night to get a full 8 days skiing in, flying home the following Saturday night. After a trouble-free QuesyJet flight from Bristol to Geneva and a night in a hotel in Annemasse we headed to the resort of Les Gets for our weeks skiing in the Portes du Soleil. It claims to be the largest ski area in Europe and it certainly does give you a sense of travel as you move around the dozen or so separate resorts. Most of the resorts are very pleasant and the skiing for the most part is superb and uncrowded. The tree-lined runs are top notch and there is everything from easy beginner slopes to some seriously steep stuff (Avoriaz has “The Wall” reputed to be Europe’s steepest marked run). There is a huge choice of slopes but there are several disconnects where you either have to walk, take a bus or do both. Our other favoured area is the 3 Valleys where there is none of that tomfoolery. I’d certainly go back to this area again but in all honesty the range of skiing in the 3 valleys and super efficient, well-connected lift system and slopes is far better. Nice to try somewhere different though and we had a great weeks skiing. Our apartment was also rather splendid (apart from the slippery access road with its entry barrier halfway up an icy hill!) and particularly spacious as it was sized for the 5 of us!

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Our Apartment in Les Gets

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

View from my bedroom window

The first couple of days were, clear, sunny and cold on wonderfully groomed pistes, great for getting back into the swing of things and just enjoying the simple pleasures of swooping through the sunshine and adrenaline rush of high-speed activity that I love.

Les Gets, Mont Chery, Portes du Soleil

Nameless Peak from Mont Chery

Les Gets, Mont Chery, Mont Blanc, Portes du Soleil

Les Gets and Mont Blanc from Mont Chery

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Trees in afternoon light

We spent most of the time in the immediate area of Les Gets itself as we just didn’t feel the need to explore. The first video collection I hope captures the mood.

After a couple of days we got what we wanted, an overnight dump of fresh powder.

Ranfolly, Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

West from Ranfolly, Les Gets

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Cloud and Powder

When I was learning to ski I was a speed junkie, enjoying freshly groomed slopes to whizz down at unsafe velocities usually ending in a spectacular fall that became my trademark. After a lesson on powder skiing I was hooked and nothing beats floating through deep untracked powder after fresh snowfall. This day was as perfect as it gets, champagne powder and after an hour so the clouds parted to reveal sensational views across the Alps to Mont Blanc.

Les Gets, Mont Blanc, Portes du Soleil

Mont Blanc above the cloud

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Uncle Fester emerges from the trees

Ranfolly, Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Ranfolly, Les Gets

A cracking lunch and a large beer outside in the sunshine at our favourite cafe completed a pretty much perfect morning. An afternoon cruising around the uncrowded slopes, dropping in and out of the powder finished the day off to a tee.

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Clouds and Mountains

Les Gets, Mont Blanc, Portes du Soleil

Mont Blanc framed by clouds

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Evening light

One of my best ever day’s skiing and I hope the next compilation supports that elation I felt when I got back to the flat.

To say we had all kinds of weather during the week is an understatement. After a couple of days of cold clear weather and a day of fresh powder we had what every skiier dreads – rain. The lower slopes turned to mush and it was raining as high as 2000 metres.

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Here comes the rain

Les Diablerets, Portes du Soleil

Les Diablerets

The video clip below is taken from an afternoon of solo skiing as Uncle Fester took his leave and sensibly spent the afternoon in the flat. I’m far too tight to waste my hard-earned and very expensive lift pass so I stayed out and spent a happy couple of hours getting some alternative shots in the cloud and rain. For the uninitiated these shots were taken from a chest harness rather than from a head-mount hence the lower angle and regular views of hands, poles and skis.

Nice thing about a rainy day is that the slopes are deserted so I had the resort pretty much to myself. I did discover on my last run to the flat that what was light fluffy powder the previous day was now porridge causing a rather spectacular face-plant that I managed to capture. The rain also had the rather interesting effect of turning the hard compacted snow on the estate road into watery sheet ice. Very hard to walk on in ski-boots and pretty much impossible in trainers as I found out when I went to do the shopping!

What did we get next? Well it rained all night but at some point it stopped the skies cleared and all that heavy wet snow turned to ice.

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Early morning icy slopes

Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil

Avoriaz

The runs were absolutely rock hard the next day, although the sun was out. Uncle Fester wasn’t at all happy and quickly took his leave of me again. I took off on a solo tour of the area. I don’t mind skiing the icy slopes. It’s much less taxing on tired legs (skiing in powder and heavy snow is hard work) and the runs are slick and fast, ideal for a speed junkie like me.

Les Diablerets, Portes du Soleil

Les Diablerets

This final video captures that solo day and I’ve left the sound on the clips so you may be able to hear the sound of the skis carving across the ice.

The rain returned the penultimate day although rather than the light drizzle of before it was now a ceaseless downpour that even I wasn’t keen to experience. We did venture out after lunch on the assumption that surely it would be snowing higher up. It wasn’t and Uncle Fester left me to it after a couple of runs and went back. I stayed out to make the scientific and clearly obvious discovery that skiing in heavy rain is deeply unpleasant. Skiing gear is designed to be windproof and warm, not to keep you dry in a downpour. As I sat alone on a chairlift, soaked to the skin and with water dripping out of my gloves I decided that I’d proved my point and been quite foolish enough. Unsurprisingly, no photos or video footage from this little excursion.

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil

Sunset

Les Gets, Portes du Soleil, Portes du Soleil

Farewell

The final day was a cracker with more fresh powder to play in, but distinctly cold and windy. Not a bad finish to a fun week with very mixed conditions, great learning process as I always say, normally when lying face down in the snow after a fall. Roll on winter 2014

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