Tuesday, 18 December 2012

ecole de ski

When Magali returns with her van she has to begin her winter's work as a Mountain Leader, taking people for snow-shoe hikes in the surrounding countryside.  She works from the nearest ski resort, Les Deux Alpes, which is just on the other side of the main valley.  On our first visit it feels like Bright Lights Big City.  A collection of hotels, chalets, ski schools, shops and restaurants, with a few administrative buildings tossed in, the resort sits on a col between two slopes.  The main ski pistes are high above out of sight and there are numerous ski-lifts running up the slopes.  It's an eye-opener for us.  Why is everyone walking like a gangsta rapper?  Ahhh, ski boots.

Our kind hosts insist on getting us onto skis.  Gayle is excited.  I'm terrified.  They have all the spare gear we need including helmets. Magali very patiently demonstrates some basic skills: how to carry the skis, how to put them on, how to plough, how to stop, how to walk like a gansta rapper.  At one point she whizzes off uphill and we have to follow.  I am reminded of one of Gayle's swimming lessons when I was trying to learn.  She uttered the words "You just do this" and then swam off in a crawl leaving no wake. 
keeping the peace in Les Deux Alpes
We start off on the mildest slope you can imagine.  I soon discover that I have a flare for skiing backwards - I'm a natural.  Unfortunately, I seem to have difficulty going forwards.  Gayle can stop when she wants.  I can only stop when the laws of physics allow it.  But this is dull stuff for Magali and Jean-Baptiste.  Soon we are on the nursery slopes where there's a free ski-tow to drag you up to what looks to me like the top of a cliff.  I take the steel pole which will drag me to the top but somehow my skis go in opposite directions, one gets tangled in some orange netting and before I can do anything about it I'm on my arse with one ski on and one ski off.  Everyone in the queue for the tow has to wait while the operator steps out to help me up.  I cannot extricate my ski from the netting and I sense panic setting in.  The man is calm and relaxed, helps me reattach my ski and guides me back to the start.  Now Mag and Jean-Baptiste are starting to get some Value For Money.

Okay, I'm standing upright, but how do I go forward?

da-da-dee da-da-dum
Of course it is natural and healthy to have a certain amount of fear in some situations.   Such an instinct can determine survival.  This weighs on my mind as I look down the sharpest incline of snow imaginable.  We're supposed to go down there??  Magali and Jean-Baptiste are the sweetest people you could ever wish to meet.  Surely it can't be dangerous.  They urge us on.  I seem to veer, literally, from immobilty to hurtling at breakneck speed until, in an attempt to turn gracefully, I end up doing a 'Uey', facing uphill and sliding backwards until I fall on my face.  Learning to fall over is an integral part of learning to ski.  My problem seems to be getting beyond the falling over bit.  Gayle meanwhile waltzes around me whilst humming the theme from 'Ski Sunday'.  Her powder blue helmet makes her look like a UN peacekeeper, I reflect, whilst struggling to my feet and brushing the snow from my face.

We continue on the nursery slopes, zig-zagging down and being towed back up.  Eventually I almost get the hang of it.  I can zig.  I can zag.  Look Ma, no hands! Suddenly I'm going about 50 miles an hour towards a child as tall as my knees.  I have to go to ground before disaster happens.  What's that sound? Ahh, Gayle's humming that tune as she passes.

how do you stop again?


  1. Just skimming back through your blog and spotted this. Awesome to see you both on skis! Also, randomly, Clare and I met at Les Deux Alpes!

    1. Zuijin zenmeyang? Aha - we have good memories of Clavins en Haut Oisins and did find the resort a little glitzy in comparison. I'm not sure I'll be rushing back to ski!!!! You've prompted us to have a look back ourselves so ta for that.