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Main Club Holiday - Alpe D'huez

By Nigel Koenen

Fifty-four Ski Club of Manchester members gathered at 1 pm on Saturday 22nd January at Manchester Airport Terminal 2. Unfortunately, Paul Sharp, our holiday organiser, had caught the lurgi and was at home, however, Derek Draper valiantly stepped in to fill the breach. We all booked in and met up with old friends we had not seen for a year, as one or two members are working abroad and base their annual leave around the club holiday.

The flight to Grenoble was good apart from the usual French luggage fiasco where 200 people form a scrum around the luggage carousel and the luggage and skis get passed back to an "admiral" Brian Richardson acting as scrum half who distributes to the eager half backs champing at the bit to load the coaches! We had an easy 2-hour trip to Bourg d'Oisons although it was snowing hard; then we started the long haul up the mountain to Alpe d'Huez negotiating 30 hairpin bends and skidding cars before arriving at the Hotel Petit Prince about 8.30pm.

Paul had done us proud; our hotel, run by First Choice, was:

1. Situated in a lovely quiet position at one end of the resort with lounge and bedrooms having panoramic views of La Meije, Les Deux Alpes, and the valley bottom.

2. Just 10 mins walk to the famous "bucket" lift [this is a lift that slows down for you, but still goes at such a speed that one has to throw body and equipment in with much haste so as not to look like a demented imbecile]. It then takes you up to the main lifts of the bowl i.e. Signal and the DMC cabin. Or alternatively, you could ski down along the front of the hotel and take the Grande Sur chairlift that deposits you on top of Signal at 2115 metres.

3. Well catered, with breakfasts of various cereals, croissants, bread, ham and cheese, yoghurt, juice and coffee and there was always a large basket full of fruit after every meal. The excellent "afternoon teas" of tea and cakes (even served up to 6.30pm) were consumed in the comfortable lounge with the aforementioned views. The evening meals were of good, quality food and my only gripe was that they could have provided a little more house wine of which there was always a slight shortfall - the additional cost would have been negligible! Apart from that, the service was first rate and the bedrooms comfy.

Now for the skiing: As is the norm, the Club split into various groups with the usual recognised leaders, and people joined the appropriate group depending on their level of skiing and the standard of runs they fancied.

Brian Richardson was his usual valiant self giving his services to as many members as possible; but he did have one "high speed day" with this report writer where we covered the Oz en Oisons, Vaujany, Montfrais and L'Alpette areas in the morning and took on the Combe Charbonniere in the afternoon. However, the speed took its toll and by 4.00pm we were skied out - Brian complaining of "gammy knee" and the writer of fatigue. Norma Green has "come of age" as a leader in her own right guiding a number of other skiers and has gained immeasurable confidence!

The ski area above Alpe d'Huez is a large bowl comprising the areas of Plat des Marmottes and Signal. To the left of system is Vaujany, Villard Reculas and Oz providing some demanding tree line skiing with some good black runs. To the right is the area of Auris en Oisans and Signal de l'Homme reached by the "up and over" Auris chair - a bit like going for a ride on a funfair big wheel. This area has easy runs and a very nice terrace restaurant that the Club took over most lunchtimes.

But the runs for which the resort is known are:

1. The Sarenne a 17-kilometre unpisted tour from the top of Pic Blanc at 3300 metres down to Auris at 1500 metres.

2. The Combe Charbonniere - a mini Sarenne but less used and more exciting.

3. The famous Tunnel run, which starts at the top of Pic Blanc goes through a tunnel in the mountain and comes out on a perilous ledge before dropping into a steep but enjoyable black run back to the Lac Blanc chair.

On the Wednesday a group of seven members took a helicopter trip from the altiport at Alpe d'Huez to Les Deux Alpes, which by road takes over an hour, but only six minutes flying time over snowy peaks. An unforgettable experience being dropped off at the top of the main lift for a great day on the glacier.

All in all, Alpe d'Huez was generally voted a great main club trip and one, which Paul Sharp can be proud to have organised.