Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Farewell La Grande Terche

A week since the last blog, but as the snow deteriorates, so we are taking the opportunity to chill a bit, and as much as “went skiing” might be boring, “read our books” is probably worse!

Jackie and Ella in Thonon
We went to Thonon-Les-Baines on Wednesday to meet Ella, last seen on Phil’s birthday w/end with her husband Mike. We bumped into her and Mike in Chiang Mai Oct 2012 as they had finished volunteering at an elephant sanctuary, and we were trying to escape the hustle and bustle of a street market by ducking into a bar which was all a bit ‘small world’. She'd come over 'for the ride' as Mike was working in Geneva, but had nothing to do really, so we gave her nothing to do really somewhere else, a bit cheaper! 

Look Helen, Ron's here
It was very pleasant though, particularly in the sunshine as last time we were there was in the rain, this time there were lots of people sitting outside drinking coffee and beer, rude not to join them really!

The funicular railway from upper to lower Thonon

At the entrance to the Crosets chairlift
Thursday I still wasn’t allowed a day off as “it’ll be raining tomorrow” so we went over to Nyon as the run down to the carpark is so much nicer and we hadn’t been there for a while, not to mention that you might see the eagle! The high peak was closed as was a section of our favourite runs, which were entirely bare. We did manage to find enough to do, but sadly didn’t see the eagle, though we suspect he was being a ‘naughty eagle’ as the eagle man was wandering about waving a dead chick in the air when we arrived, and when we left, with no sign of the big bird itself!

Les Crosets ski area, showing the thin snow cover. This run was fabulous though
At the top of the Grande Terche lift
It still wasn’t raining on Friday so out for a quick blast carefully picking runs not facing due south! By Saturday I rebelled and we had our day off. Sunday was the last day of our local resort, St Jean d’Aulps, known as La Grande Terche to the locals (helpfully translated as the great terche by Google translate!) so we thought we’d better say goodbye. I put my old skis on as a precaution, but actually snow coverage of the open runs wasn’t bad, but the full circuit was closed as was the return to the bottom. Doing the four available runs therefore didn’t take long!

Jackie on the button lift in St Jean (due to be taken out now and replaced with a new lift for next season)
On the slope in St Jean

Yesterday we thought we’d better use one of the three ‘free passes’ for other local areas that came with our season lift pass. So we headed off to Samoens, which in theory should have taken 45 mins, but Doris (the sat nav) thought she knew better though B realised quite quickly she wanted to go over a high pass so ignored her till she’d “recalculated”. It was a very pretty drive, blossom on the trees, odd to be in ski gear! Arrived at the lift, no snow anywhere in sight, fortunately it was a long lift and by the time we were at the top there was quite a lot. 

We headed towards Flaine as the piste map had looked interesting and it is higher than our resort. There are some lovely runs which we really enjoyed, the snow was better, but there were also a few more people, nothing to worry about though. Coming home however was interesting, Doris was taking us round Samoens in circles and the road signs were next to useless. 

A particularly good off piste black run in Flaine called 'Agate'
Eventually though she took us out, not the way we arrived, by this time B’s frustration levels were so high that he wouldn’t listen to me or the road signs saying ‘summer route’ or ‘ferme’. It was very pretty as we got higher and higher, and there wasn’t that much snow…. Till there was no road. Oh well, only an hour between leaving the lift car park and getting back there!

The view of Mont Blanc and surrounding peaks from the top lift in Flaine
'Calico' the cat eating his early evening snack (that's Clink Eastwood on the TV in 'Where Eagles Dare', great Sunday late afternoon film!)
Finally got a picture of the Jay who visits us and scoffs all the bread
Pouring with rain today but we’ve got things to do, as Mum arrives tomorrow, so hopefully the weather will return to sunshine. I had been absolutely convinced it would snow again as Mum decided to come this late as she wanted to see it ‘springlike’ looks like I was wrong though! This does mean that hopefully we’ll be able to fit in the black Via ferrata before the 15th April (when the access is closed for the breeding of the chamois if my poor French is correct). We had made a half plan with Simon for Thursday or Friday, looks like he’ll miss out as we had an email from him on Sunday, saying “nice to have met you, I’m off to the UK as I have a job”! Having just left the navy where he was a diver he’d been applying for lucrative diving jobs for the summer, knowing it could take a while to get his first one! Sadly they had guests in till today and another group arrive on the 12th, we’ve volunteered our services to Cassie, left slightly in the lurch! We are really hoping she’ll come out with us Thursday or Friday anyway.

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