Thursday, 6 February 2014

Bonjour des Alpes Françaises!



Don’t worry, we’re not that good at French, we just used Google Translate ! It’s ’Hello from the French Alps’ in case you’re wondering.

I’d like to be able to say we’re having a fabulous time and, in a way we are, but our bodies are not responding in the way they should and both of us are aching and feeling exhausted. I think the week we spent with the Mountaineering Club, skiing every day and all day, on top of the skiing for three weeks before has taken it’s toll. Yesterday we came home early as it started snowing quite hard. It was forecast for the afternoon, but it came in early and heavy. Skiing down with snow stinging your face is not fun, coupled with the flat light hiding bumps and dips, so making us ski very defensively is not enjoyable. We came home and we’re glad we did, as the snow carried on all day, at one point so heavily we could see nothing out of our window other than large flakes of snow.

The snow falling yesterday
The view from our window as the sun rose this morning
Today, as per the weather forecast, it was clear and bright sunshine, perfect to enjoy the new covering of powder snow so, off we went, full of enthusiasm. It’s great fun in fresh powder, but it’s also incredibly energy sapping as the turns are quite different, needing more height, and the weight is further back to get the tips of the skis up, so thigh muscles burn frequently. By lunchtime we were pretty well done in, but had to carry on as the weather and conditions were so good, but it was hard, our aches and pains telling us we should stop. Evenings are now spent just trying to recover and we sleep for 9 or 10 hours, but even then rest time is just not long enough. We’re probably going to have to have more days of rest, but when we look out of the window and see snow and sun, it’s very hard not to go out.

Jackie surveying the scene
...And skiing fresh powder very well!
An incident that made me laugh was when we shared a chairlift with an older German couple. He was a very friendly, chatty sort of person, upset when he found out we were out here for the season and they only have a week, but got his own back by telling us he owns a house in Hawaii and spends three months every year surfing, windsurfing and diving. When we asked how long he can visit the USA he told us only three months, it’s a problem he told us, but there’s nothing he can do about it. He was surprised when we told him we only get three months as well, ‘the Allies only get the same as the Germans’ he said. It just seemed an amusing thing to say and it made us laugh.

A button lift. I was left with the orange rod and button
Later on I had an incident with a button or drag lift. For non-skiers who may be reading this, a button lift is a ski tow, which comprises an endless cable driven by a motor up a slope. Every few meters a button assembly is attached to the cable, which comprises a rope attached to a retractable spring return mechanism at the top and a metal rod on the lower end with a round button approx  250mm diameter (see attached picture which may help). When it’s your turn, you move into position and look behind to watch for the next button coming round on the cable. As it passes you grab it, the top part of the assembly carries on its travel, still attached to the cable being driven up hill, but as you’ve grabbed the button and it’s now stationary, the rope starts to unravel from the spring return mechanism. While this is happening, you shove the button between your legs so it’s positioned by your backside. Making sure your skis are facing uphill, you wait for the rope to fully unravel, at which point it starts to pull you uphill, with your skis sliding on the snow. At the top you pull the button out and let go, sliding off to the side ready for a downhill run.

Back in time for afternoon tea and cake
We arrived at a particular drag lift, Jackie went first, I moved into position, saw the button coming towards me, grabbed it and, at that moment the rope broke, leaving me holding the button in my hand, with the rest of the assembly carrying on uphill, still attached to the cable. There was a moment while I took in what had happened and, still holding the button in my hand, looked behind to see the next person in position behind me, looking behind ready to grab the next button. He would have been unaware I was still there and would have crashed straight into me the moment he grabbed his button. I shouted ‘no’ to him and he looked round, laughed when he saw the button in my hand, allowed his button to go past and let me grab the next one. As I was pulled up the slope away from him I heard him shout ‘I hope you make it this time !’

Back in our apartment, the two stray cats are regular visitors to our balcony every night, eating the dry cat food Jackie puts out on the window sill and the Great Tits are morning and tea time visitors , eating the fresh bread I put out on the balcony rail each day, so we’re doing our bit for the local wildlife.

1 comment:

  1. Hi J&B, We hope you are enjoying yourselves! Stop overdoing it! Why not do a 5 day week and have the weekend off, or ski every other day?! I guess not being a fan of skiing I don't appreciate the call of the snow! I too have had a very bad experience on a button lift..... basically I fell off into deep snow! Just looking at some time off (2 weeks)at the back end of July / into August (28th July onwards) and thinking of going to help Tony and Nicky for a few days (couldn't survive more than 4!) with their roof no.2. If you are around and still have any energy at all - are you interested? Or... doing something the week after together - depending where you are in the world at that point that we could come and meet you? Anyway something to think about, got to get dates confirmed with Tony & Nicky first :-) Sorry we haven't got our act together about coming to France... the time is flying by! Take care and have a rest! Lots of love from Helen & Ian xxxx

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