Dickens was right

21 Feb

Ok, it’s not the French Revolution, but his sentiment is spot on. After every ski trip comes the moment I conclude anew, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’.

The best is a morning of fast, crisp runs, carving up a pristine, corduroy white slope, generating a fierce appetite. Lunch on the deck of a mountain restaurant in full sunshine. We’re on top of the world encircled by mountain ranges covered so thickly with snow it’s like royal icing on a dark fruit cake. Charming, tanned, handsome, beret-wearing waiters bring brown ceramic bowls brimming with vegetable soup and hunks of crunchy French bread, warm goat cheese salad, and for Stuart, hearty beef stew and mash, all washed down with a demi pichet of strong, red wine. Espresso and tarte au framboise to finish the meal. Skiing is sheer pleasure.

The worst inevitably unfolds with me frostbitten and spread eagled on a steep piste with one ski on, the other some distance away and a mouth full of snow. I right myself, recover my errant ski, remove snow from the ski and my boot and try to reattach it at the precise moment a snowboarder buzzes me so closely that both the ski and I are once more covered in snow and I have to start all over again. No point crying in frustration or pain, the tears will just freeze on my face…..

For those of you who’ve never tried downhill skiing I hope I haven’t put you off. There really is nothing quite like facing your fears, overcoming physical discomfort and just doing it. Really fast! Personal growth comes from calculated risk taking. You don’t need the courage of Sydney Carton but a healthy dose of chutzpah helps in lift queues.

As with all sports, along with the adrenalin comes the banal, the preparation for a day on the mountain. And it’s more extensive than you might imagine if you want to minimise the discomfort skiing necessitates. For those who like lists this is my kit for a day on the pistes in February in the French Alps when the temperature ranges from -14 to -6 degrees celsius. Starting from head to toe and from the outside in:

Helmet
Goggles
Sunglasses
Ski mask with neck warmer
Ski jacket
Three thermal layers of tops (or keep one in reserve in back pack)
Ski pants
Second skin tights
Ski gloves/mittens
Ski socks
Ski boots
Ski poles
Skis
Ski pass
Cash and credit cards (eating at altitude can be expensive)
Mobile phone

In a small backpack:
Sunscreen
Water bottle
Piste map
Pen knife
High energy snacks
Paperback (for those days Stu wants to do lots more runs than me)
Cap (for sun protection during those long lunches)
Lip gloss
Chewing gum
Nurofen
Band Aids
Tissues/handkerchief
Optional video camera
Optional hip flask of fire water

Quite a check list isn’t it? You’d be surprised how often the contents of the backpack are called upon. My Victorinox pen knife once came to the rescue of a Brit who was trapped in his ski boot because of a faulty binding. Poor bloke was in agony.

If there is one thing I’ve learnt it’s to buy or rent the very best gear you can afford. We have the luxury of weeks of skiing this season with time to experiment with different rental skis but most people only have one or two weeks at the most and the wrong boots and/or skis spoil the experience.

Aaaah the agony and ecstacy of alpine skiing. I hope you have the chance to experience it for yourself.

These photos were taken this past week in the most extensive ski area in the world, Les Trois Vallees, France. You can see one of the women downhill racers on a section of the Olympic piste. Terrifying! I took the video on a section of Jeruselum to give you a taste of a gentle red run.

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6 Responses to “Dickens was right”

  1. Michelle Noble February 22, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    Only ONE pair of ski socks? You’ve done well, with minus 30 C on the glacier here at Les2A we’ve need TWO! Hope to see you at some point…
    Love M&B.xx

    • Sharon Tickle February 23, 2013 at 7:18 am #

      Hi Michelle, Yes it’s crazy cold isn’t it. We have thin Aussie tropics blood….Plan to go over to Meribel today to see some of the women’s downhill racing. Awesome in practice.

      Sxx

  2. Olly Smith February 26, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    Hi there Sharon & Stuart ! It looks bloody beautiful in the French Alps & we are determined to get there one day . Terry & I have just returned from 3 weeks skiing in Japan and , whilst we loved it , we didnt see much sun at all !!! It really does make the cold and the pain ( Hate those ski boots ) all much easier to handle when you have bright sunshine . But , I am still dreaming of SNOW , SNOW and more of it . I reckon there is a tap over Hokkaido , which is turned on every day and night . So , now its back to the reality of work , heat and RAIN !! It hasnt stopped for days. Keep on having fun . I love reading your blog !!!! Olly XXXXX

    • Sharon Tickle February 26, 2013 at 7:04 am #

      Hi Olly, You must come to the Three Valleys. If the two months works Stu plans three months next year.

      Shame you can’t get over this season, we have spare ensuite room in the apartment in Early April. Seriously!

      Sharon

  3. Olly Smith March 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Thanks so much Sharon …. thats a very kind offer !! But , must keep working now to save for the next lot of hols . I was just talking to Dons a few hours ago about our plans to visit New York next year in May with Heidi & John . We are starting to get a game plan together . Terry & I will definitely get to the 3 Valleys in the near future however , as we keep hearing about it and we are committed to skiing hols for awhile yet I think . Sounds like you are having a ball in Spain now with all the Flamenco dancing and music that you so love … Good for you !!!! Olly XXX

    • Sharon Tickle March 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      Ok Olly, just keep us in mind as looks like Stu is up for skiing a few winters more ;-)). Happy travel planning, one of the best parts when accompanied by good food, wine and friends! Sxx

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