'A Tale of 2 Holidays', By A SCoM 'Virgin' (Graham Barlow), Part 2

Reporter: Graham Barlow

Tignes - March

Outward Journey:
It was a such a rare and pleasant change not to have to get up in the middle of the night for a flight that driving to the airport in daylight for a 10.15 departure seemed quite surreal. Such joy was more than mitigated, however, by a long wait on the transfer coach at Chambery for the Gatwick flight arriving, followed by the usual Saturday traffic crawl up the Tarentaise valley. We got to our rooms with just an hour to spare before dinner - time to freshen up and do some unpacking, if not all.

A modern 7-storey building with bedrooms on the top 5 floors, the lounge/bar and restaurant/reception occupying a split-level first floor, with heated ski/boot storage and a public bar at ground level. A lift served all except the ground floor, and although this was adequate through the week, its small size did cause delays on arrival. We were well insulated from any late-night noise from the public bar, but the restaurant became excessively noisy at dinner. I heard no complaints about the food, apart from some undercooked potato on the final night. Breakfast was adequate, with hot options, but could have been improved with more variety of fruit. Porridge eaters found that it was not warm enough, a complaint that seemed to fall on deaf ears all week.

There always seemed to be plenty of staff around, and service was attentive and friendly. There was a general consensus that dinner at 8.00 was a little late, and the hotel helpfully brought this forward to 7.30 from the 3rd night. The lounge area, whilst adequate in size, was poorly furnished with seating that was bad for posture. Rooms, which one might expect to be standard in a modern building, varied: Ours was fine, with plenty of storage room and space, whereas some found theirs lacking. Having a bath, in addition to a shower over, was a bonus to ease the aches of the day. Wifi was available in the lounge, sufficient for emails and general surfing but of no use if one needed to download much data.

A very convenient position, right in the middle of Val Claret, with ski shops very close. We were able to put on skis after a slightly uphill walk of 100m, which, with a little poling got us to any lift we chose. Finishing the day off any of 4 chairs enabled skiing back to within feet of the hotel door.

Ski Buddies:
It so happened Chris Cleaver and Janet Allen, whom I had happily skied with at Champoluc, were on this trip too, so it seemed silly to change a winning formula. On Thursday, however, Janet skied with some seasonnaire friends in Val and Chris was incapacitated by an injury sustained the previous afternoon, so I tagged onto the group that had been having lessons earlier in the week.

Tignes/Val d'Isere needs little introduction, being widely acknowledged as one of the premier resorts in the world. Within its 300km of pistes there is something for everybody, whilst off-pisters must think they have gone to heaven! Although I had been to either Tignes or Val several times before I was pleased to find 2 red runs that were new to me, and I do rate them as big favourites. They are Triffolet, going down to La Daille, and German Mattis, which ends at the Le Laisinant chair. The lift system is generally excellent throughout the resort, with the notable exception of the time- consuming arrangement of moving platforms/rope-tow/walking at Solaise.

The snow base was superb, with no bare patches. On all but one day we had fair weather and low winds, with the last 2 days being the warmest, but not so hot for slush to form. Wednesday was the odd-day-out, with exceptionally high winds whipping the snow across the pistes and upper lifts closed as a result. On what would have otherwise been an easy-peasy blue in Le Fornet I found myself pinned in position by the wind, unable to turn into it or indeed even unweight my skis - the most horrid run I have had in years. But overall, still a great week for weather and ski conditions.

Food & Drink:
One expects to pay more to eat average food on the mountain in France, but a cafe worth a mention is the one below the base station of the Le Fornet cable car: Family run, friendly and swift service, good quality and portions, piping hot - and reasonably priced. Of course, one would not plan to be so low at lunchtime, and we were only there because upper lifts were shut due to the wind, but those out-of-the-way businesses just have to try that bit harder and are often better as a result.

Obviously a group of 40 had to split up on the staff night off. I think we had 14 in our group. Everyone seemed to enjoy their food, the one exception being Andrew's starter of marrowbone, which somewhat resembled a 'heart attack about to happen'! Portions were large, and prices reasonable. A good choice, so thanks to whoever did a 'recce' for us.

Return Journey:
We had a 2 1⁄2 hour delay at Chambery, as the incoming aircraft had needed a technical fault rectifying before leaving Manchester. It being a lovely day, many sat outside on the grass, whilst those inside could find seats in the cafe bar and use the free wifi, so any boredom was minimal.

Best & Worst of the week:
Best - witnessing the enthusiasm and determination of a relatively novice skier, who was facing and overcoming challenges outside their comfort zone in order to improve their skills - something I found both humbling and heart-warming. I won't name the person to save them undue embarrassment, but I hope and trust that the progress that they rightly deserve to make will be enjoyed to the full.

Next Best - the plethora of amusing incidents: The 'great goulash soup disaster' has to win first prize - moral: don't put your helmet on your tray! Then the male - only group who dined out on the staff night off, only to be mistaken as gay - it was 'Pride' week to be fair! And finally, two guys who sought to pass the time before the delayed return flight by walking to a nearby lake - only to turn back, having been propositioned by a 'lady of the afternoon' en route who clearly had the business nouse to see delays at Chambery as a niche in the market!

Worst - Chris suffering a knee injury on the Wednesday afternoon, and not being able to ski on the last 2 days, despite brave attempts to so on each of those mornings. I have been SO lucky never to have had an accident/illness whilst on holiday that has prevented me from skiing, but I really do feel for anyone who meets such misfortune.

After breaking my SCoM virginity at Champoluc 3 weeks earlier, this was another thoroughly enjoyable week, with many new friends made. I am hooked on club holidays now, and have booked 2 for next year. To those members who have yet to holiday with the club I would say 'just book one - you will not regret it'. It would be hard to find a more welcoming and sincerely friendly group of people, drawn from all walks of life. You are sure to meet some who enjoys similar skiing to you, and many more to socialise with.

I mustn't end before thanking the committee members for all the behind-the-scenes work that made everything run so smoothly on both holidays. I have organised ski trips myself in the past, albeit for smaller groups, so I am more than aware of the effort required - these things don't just 'happen'. So many thanks to all involved.