By Ray West
After years of going on the Ski Club holidays, Elaine and myself decided to go it alone and go on a ski holiday without the Ski Club. We decided to go to Flaine because of easy access to ski lifts from the accommodation (we are getting too old for 30 minute tramps to the lifts carrying skies and in ski boots). Our first snag was how to book as we no longer get any unsolicited ski holiday brochures having always gone as a group with the Ski Club and not as individuals. So, down to the travel agent only to find many tour operators were, in May, already fully booked for Flaine because the resort is popular with the Brits. We also wanted mid February which clashes with school half terms. After a search, we got a booking with Thomson's in Flaine Apartments. No discounts or free insurance this time!!
On arrival in Flaine the first disappointment was discover that the advertised Thomson Ski Ranger service was cancelled because our French friends have decided they don't like the idea! The good news though, for all senior citizens in the club, is that Flaine gives a 175FF discount on the 880FF six day lift pass for all those 60 or over. Grey power wins!
The next day, Sunday, was bright and sunny so we decided to go for a tour with the Ski Club of Great Britain. This was an excellent high speed day and with the SCGB representative not knowing the resort, we were able to offer some guidance from hazy memories of our last visit to Flaine in 1982.
Unfortunately we were the only two to join the representative, whose name was Jeremy. Not much socialising here! In the evening, as we were in a self-catering apartment, we did some shopping, in the one-and-only remaining supermarket in Flaine.
On Tuesday we booked the Fondue with Thomson's which, as expected, was not value for money at 130FF, but was useful to do a bit of socialising and to hear the usual complaints about the noise from the disco (sounds familiar to those who went to Verbier) and the "follow me" level of instruction at the French ski school.
Despite everything, the skiing was brilliant with three clear sunny days at the start of the week when we visited all the outlying areas of les Carroz, Morillon, Samoëns and even Sixt via the immensely long Cascade piste. On the way to Sixt we even saw an eagle. For the remaining three days it snowed and snowed and snowed until by Friday we were fed up and exhausted by powder skiing. During the week the avalanche risk was very high, often rated at level 5 which is the greatest possible risk. Needless to say off-piste skiing was prohibited much to the disappointment of a group on a "fresh tracks" holiday with the Ski Club of Great Britain. We really appreciated what a big area the Espace Flaine ski area encompasses given good snow conditions.
To answer my question, "Is there life outside the Ski Club", I would like to make the following observations:
- No group support - you are on your own if you want to complain, e.g. the Thomson 10% discount scheme was inoperative at the restaurant where we ate, because the manager had changed, yet they continued to display the Thomson sign and had signed a contract with Thomson's.
- Less opportunities for conversation to while away the time at the airport with the seemingly inevitable delays.
- No gossip and amusing antics by certain characters.
- No one to moan at or complain to (Paul's unfortunate role!)
- LASTLY - NO BARNIPS!!!
Finally thanks to Elaine for putting up with me for a whole week and waiting for me to catch up when out skiing.