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Skiing Tignes 2004

Tignes, France Seasons Greetings all. Well, what can I say?  I finally let the urge and nerves subside, looked down the slope and thought, what better time to learn, than at 40 miles an hour downhill!  I can now ski, and love it.

But let me bring you up to date at a more sedate pace, before I plunge headlong into how cool skiing is! Well the year ended rather quickly, with exams and essays rushing up on me faster than I realised.  I managed to crack philosophy with a first, however no other marks are yet known.  Analysis of the adventure was a lot harder than anticipated (the theory deals with why people partake in high risk activities, proven gains, known pitfalls, and the dynamics of not setting high enough goals, etc.).  Group processes (dealing with the dynamics of, and co-operation of individuals within groups) was more on a level with the expected. I feel I have passed the semester, but then again, I have been known to be mistaken!  Anyhow enough of the academics.  During the last 3 weeks of December, I secured another job, as a waiter in a busy restaurant, to earn some extra cash for the Xmas Season, and skiing.  So after finishing term on the 17th, I worked pretty much every day and evening until the 23rd, when I went to Manchester for the Xmas season.  It was very enjoyable, and a much needed break from the frenetic life of riley, as a student! It snowed on Xmas Day, and that was very cool.  After the traditional roast turkey dinner we had massive snow fights with the neighbours, and went sledding at the local park. 

We went for a long walk on Boxing day, amidst all the kids on their new pink bicycles with new bells and Captain Incredible costumes! On the 31st we came back to London as I needed to be in Woking for my skiing trip bus at 2pm on Saturday, 1st of January.  We spent a quiet night in, chilling and watching TV.  Well I like doing nothing sometimes, okay!Anyhow, no pictures of New Year then anyway.  My skiing trip started off with me driving to Chichester, parking the car, getting a train to Woking, and then a long coach to Tignes, France.  The one big thing I came to appreciate about flying, even when you have to queue at the airport, sit next to oldies reading The Sun, ah bless them,  it sure beats the A out of travelling for 19 hours by coach to the far end of the Alps!  Jeepers man, that ride is long and endless. 

Anyhow, I did finish my book.  A good thing and a bad thing...well it's a return trip, and one thing you can count on in France is a distinct lack of English books on sale! Anyhow, we arrived at 9 am on Sunday and were booked into our accommodation. My first thoughts, were that the room was Spartan, even by my standards.  This was soon forgotten when I saw the view we had.  Looking straight onto the Giant Slalom downhill course.  Accommodation was basic ( 2 double bunks and a cupboard in each room), although the food was awesome and plentiful.  We were situated at Val Claret (means clear view in French, 2400m above sea level) and could feel the altitude sapping our strength with every step we took up to our rooms on the second floor. The weather all week was gorgeous, and sunny, with temperatures around freezing, and -10 to -15 on the Glacier at 3500m. We were issued our equipment, and seeing as I had not yet been on a slope, I was issued with what are known as 'Blades'.  They are every beginners dream!  Very short (+-60cm long) and very easy to learn to turn on and get started with.  We had a lesson for the absolute beginners in the afternoon followed by some free skiing.

I was promoted up to the next ski class, as I had had 2 lessons of the basics on a dry slope in England prior to my arrival.  So off I went and ski'd any blue runs I could find.  I found this easy, and gained a lot of confidence!  Yeah, you know what they say about confidence...anyhow I swapped my blades the next day for proper ski's, all of 1.70m.  Off we trotted to the slope for the instructor to determine our level, and guess what... I couldn't go more than 5 metre's  without falling over, and down the hill. I just couldn't turn, had no idea about the transfer of weight, using the edges of the skis etc!  What a nerd I felt.  I was very close to chucking it all in and getting the blades back, when I just decided to go for it, and it all just fell into place, a little untidily and slow, but it felt right. Anyhow I persevered and by the bottom, after my group had long since gone for lunch, I managed to get the parallel turning almost right. 

Anyhow off to lunch which was always a 3 course, self service meal.  Awesome! After lunch I just went off on my own to try and get the feel and gain some confidence.  No fear, cracked it!  It is really a beautiful sport, with great scenery and a fabulous sensation of floating and almost surfing, along on a silent cloud.  In the evenings we would come off the slopes as the lifts closed at around 16:30 then head back for a shower and  to chill out.  Dinner was at 19:30 and again was very much appreciated.  We would get soup, 2 main meat dishes, a vegetarian option, fruit, huge cheese platter, salads and dessert. As much as you wanted too!  I really thought they did well, and could not possibly have made much money out of us lot!  In the  evenings the tour rep took us out to the local bars, to a country and western bar, and to a ten pen bowling arena.  Different but welcome none the less.

Day 2 was a rude awakening not to overstep one's mark.  A group of us headed off into the mountains to go and see the other valleys.  Although I managed to stay with them most of the way, due to the time of day we arrived at the one point in the valley the blue run (moderate) was closed.  We were faced with a red run (difficult) or a long walk back up.  Anyhow I went for the red run option, and soon found out how steep these things are, and worse....how narrow they are.  I kept turning to slow down, but ran out of space and ended up traversing the actual side of the mountain.  I would then realise I was another 10 metres above the slope, and have to traverse down.  Anyhow, I must have looked like a drunk hamster on a half pipe going down, across and up the other side.  And then the falling started. Across, fall and slide down 10 metres.  Get up, click in, across, fall slide.  I could have invented a new dance routine, 'And slide, cross your skis, turn around and slide..' Anyhow, by the time all and sundry had passed me elegantly (including the group of 4 year old kids on their afternoon run) I made it to the bottom of the slope.  The return lift was closed, so I had to catch a bus back.  Lesson Learned. 

Over the following days I went further, faster and higher, and by the end of the week was really able to go where most of the accomplished skiers were going, without holding anyone up or feeling left behind. I am able to say that I think I can now hold my own!  For those in the know, I fear no blue, respect the red and challenge the black runs!  A group of us managed to ski from one end of the map to the other, over about 4 different mountains, and pop into Val for lunch, (sandwiches in a restaurant are around 120 rand) and back again in a day.  We pleaded students and had takeaways from the supermarket, then sat outside the restaurant teasing the posers!!  Hey hey.  That was an incredibly long and a hard days skiing.  My legs were really shaking from all the turning and off-piste downhill's. Tignes has a glacier that has all round skiing, and a view of Mont Blanc from most of the surrounding slopes.  In the lower valleys of the Alps, where we were, there is awesome mountain biking, nature trails, canoeing etc. in summer. Might be worth learning French. 

So far it offers everything that I am looking at as one of my options for course completion dates.  (If I go into the tour / adventure group business).  When we left it took us 2 hours just to reach the lower slopes of the mountains.  Awesome.  Imagine driving to Ceres, and you are still in the Alps, surrounded by snow and gorgeous sunshine!  As for the ski runs themselves, there are over 300 km's of skiing area.  To put it into perspective, you can ski further than the height of table mountain, on 1 of over 60 different runs.  I loved every minute of it, so much so that I have booked to go this Saturday (15 Jan) to a different resort near the Italian/French border for another week.  Well if I was looking for a winter sport to supplement my summer choice of hill walking, MTB and canoeing, I most certainly have found a great sport.  Please have a look at the photos and enjoy your hot summer.  I'm off to go get powdered!

Pictures in the Gallery

 

 
 
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