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Ski Club of Manchester Holiday, Flaine, January 2007

By Ernie Metcalfe

This is the third time I have commented on a Club holiday. It is in no way an attempt to give you a general overview or report, but just a few personal reflections on the holiday.

Brian Richards had wanted us to hold hands at the airport. Nothing wrong with that. After all, we are all friends, and it was good to meet up with old friends and meet new ones, even if it was very early morning. Being sociable does not always come easily to many at that hour of the day. But a big bonus of the early start and short transfer was the chance to get in about an hour and a half's skiing on Saturday afternoon. This was when the snow was at its best for the week. Even so I managed to find one or two icy bits. A foretaste of the week to come. As the ice became more common there were several occasions when I nearly did the splits, but somehow managed to stay upright. Not elegant, for sure, but mildly entertaining to any casual observer.

On Sunday we started out with twelve in our group. I know many members do not like large groups. It is true we tend to go a little slower, so I understand if you want to bash the slopes all day. I used to be like that at one time, but nowadays prefer a gentler, more relaxed, approach. So, once again I had the pleasure of being entertained on the chairlift by Anne Stevenson. It was superb weather, good skiing, good company and a lecture on dynamics. To be precise, the moments of inertia of a flying discuss. What more could one ask for!

It is surprising what you can learn on these holidays. Later on Tom Russell did explain what a moment of inertia was, and also that an innuendo was Italian for a suppository. Later still Pat Chipping told us how the continentals seem to enjoy suppositories much more than us Brits. They excuse their pleasures under the guise of administering medicines. Each to their own, I suppose.

Then on Tuesday Anne changed her subject to geography. Did you know that it is 200 miles from Aberdeen to Lerwick and a further 200 miles east to Bergen; and that the most northerly point of the British Isles is the Outstack of Unst in the Shetlands. Invaluable information for a pub quiz, wouldn't you say?. It was very sad when later in the week Anne had a bad fall. I am sure we all wish her well and a speedy recovery and hope she will be able to ski with us again. I personally will miss her and it will leave a big gap in my further education if she is no longer on the chairlifts with us.

Many of the runs were very gentle. Even with the ice, which occasionally turned a blue into a red, there was little that was really demanding. I wondered if it was a little too easy for some of our members. However I heard no complaints about this. Maybe the off-piste skiing provided the challenges some people require. Off-piste in the Flaine bowl looked decidedly dodgy, with hidden gullies and deep pot holes a constant danger. You certainly needed to know what you were doing in this terrain.

As for the catering and accommodation, I suppose the best description is basic. The dining room was like a canteen. There was both sufficient quantity and variety of food to satisfy me and really there was no reason for anyone to go hungry, but the wine left a lot to be desired. It would have been a great insult to have had to pay extra for that. The vegetarians, however, were not well catered for. I don't think the French understand them and should be more aware of their needs. The bedroom furnishings were minimal and the walls thin. Once when in the bathroom I clearly heard a conversation in the corridor outside. I dread to think what they heard!

Overall you get what you pay for. When you consider that lunches (real or packed), dinners, lift pass, wine and evening entertainment were all included we had good value. Certainly it was not five star, but the staff worked hard and within the limitations of the hotel did their best to please us. Some of the evening costumes were, in themselves, entertaining.

Returning to the skiing, the snow did get thinner as the temperature rose. The authorities obviously worked hard to keep as many runs as possible open, but the icy patches became more common as the week progressed. There were times on some runs when all I could do was glide over the slippy bits and hope to slow and turn when the grip improved. Inevitably, as a result, I went a lot faster than I cared to admit in some parts. I think many others found the same. At one point George Tomkinson lost his hat because of the ram effect. Shortly after I saw exactly the same happen to a Frenchman who had just overtaken me. I slowed down to pick up his hat, hit a bit of ice, skied over the hat, filled it with snow, and returned it to its owner. So much for trying to improve Anglo-French relations. I pretended to be German!

I enjoyed our group and though one or two drifted off to ski with others, they usually returned. Throughout the week I skied at some time with:- George Tate, David Shepherd, David Coleman, Ian McNeill, George Tomkinson, Tom Russell, Richard Moss, Pat Ashworth, Carol Sencicle, Elaine Donnelly, Norma Green, Anne Stevenson, Janet Barlow, Pat Chipping, Dot Relph, Tony Keates, and Peter Castle.

Then there was my room mate Tom Russell. To say he was tolerant is something of an understatement. We had not met before, and as an introduction I left a new pair of earplugs on his pillow. Many thanks Tom.

So, finally, my thanks also to the organisers for all the hard work put in , especially to Brian Richards, and to all on the holiday for your company and friendliness in helping to make it such an enjoyable skiing time for myself.