Le neige arrive…

Well, the snow arrived as promised yesterday. So did the wind. The advice, posted on blackboards at each lift, was to stay in one’s own resort – this for us in this case meant the Arc 2000 valley. So naturally, we headed over to the Arc 1600/1800 valley – last week’s stomping ground – with a view to skiing through the trees above Vallandry where the visibility was better. We got there, and the visibility was better, but the pistes were difficult to ski, with large piles of snow between patches of icy hard-pack. I am the skiing equivalent of a cricketing flat-track bully – fine and in control when the pistes are groomed and the sun is shining. At other times I struggle. Above the trees it was hail falling, not snow, and after a few testing runs, we decided to make for the lift back to our valley.

This is where the fun began in earnest. Many of the lifts up to the top were closed due to the high winds, but the Arpette wasn’t, so we gratefully jumped on. The lift seemed to move incredibly slowly, and as we got higher the wind was getting stronger. Not far from the top the lift stopped, and we could see the empty chairs on their way back down, swinging wildly in the wind, which still seemed to be increasing in strength. The lift started up again, and then stopped after a few metres. This pattern continued. Kirsty was beginning to get giggly, and started singing a hymn. A couple of chairs back, we learned later, Mandy was getting ready to inform DC that he was a great bloke and she’d really enjoyed his friendship over the years. After what seemed an eternity, certainly it was even longer than we normally spend waiting for F… to strap herself back into her snowboard after getting off a lift, we made it to the top, and gratefully issued forth on to the summit, where a kindly pisteur directed us to the relative shelter of the leeward side of a small building. The wind was whipping the snow into a fine icy mist, and flinging it against any piece of exposed flesh. Gloved hands were clumsily and frantically readjusting hats and scarves and collars and anything that would keep the wind and ice out. Once our lift had emptied of skiers and boarders, the pisteurs arranged us into groups according to the valley we intended to end up in, and we set off in a large frozen convoy. Periodically the wind would intensify and reduce the visibility such that the skiers only a few metres in front would disappear from view. This was fairly disconcerting. Apparently it was at this point that I skied off from the other three. I have little recollection of this, although I do recall turning my head to see where the others were, and getting a generous quantity of ice blown into my face, and ear canal in particular, for my trouble. Safely back in Arc 2000, I noted that it was the first time since we arrived that DC didn’t look keen to keep skiing.

Today was mercifully much less eventful. It snowed on and off, but the visibility was generally good. Despite an unusually good sleep last night, my legs felt tired and so after a lengthy lunch break, I headed back to the chalet early. I located an empty bathroom, found a bottle of something called “Hawaiian Spa” and poured some of that in. Mindful of MacRae’s experience last week, I checked the clearance directly above the bath carefully, then the water temperature, before gingerly lowering myself and all my bruises into the bath. I did forget to estimate the volume of water that would be displaced by my entry, but got away with it. Although, of course, the volume of water displaced by MacRae would be of a different order of magnitude than by myself. I shall say no more.

Now, later, after two cups of tea, two Cokes, a Twix and a jam sandwich, life seems quite alright. Skiing does make one feel quite justified in eating lots of chocolate and sugary foods. Energy replacement, y’see. DC, having finally had his day’s skiing ended by a combination of lift closure and impending darkness, is in the corner reading Hello magazine.

Altitude does funny things…

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