TDC Tignes Instruction Week December 2018

Reporter: Alan Brown

Barry Lewis was right. As we drove up from Bourges into the gathering dusk, it started to snow. By the time we were on the outskirts of Tignes Le Lac it was belting down and very cold. Worse, it was deep on the road. The coach driver was having fun on the hairpins, but the Tour Ops sitting at the front obviously weren’t used to it and demanded he didn’t try and drive to the hotel. We parked fairly close but it was cold dark and deep. No-one likes arriving at a new hotel with wet socks but most of us did.

Anyway registration was fairly slick and we were all relieved to find that the hotel was nothing like the Champs in La Daile: it was clean well appointed and looked like it had just finished a refurb. (Apparently is had had the makeover several years ago, but it still looked very fresh.)

We met in the bar for the mandatory Welcome Party complete with prosecco, then got to the important bit: meeting the coaches. They’d all driven over from Val which was impressive, introductions were quickly sorted and we met the individual coaches assigned to our groups. Of the nine groups, seven agreed to give it a go on the Monday whatever the conditions, but my select band was relieved when Rich told us we’d be wasting our fees and that we could have a free day which he’d make up over the week.

All looking good until dinner time. We’d begun to realise the hotel was cold (the staff had arrived only a couple of days ahead of us) so the building was cold-soaked, and the staff had not had the chance to get organised. The dinner menu looked good, but a young chef in a new kitchen? Not good! The newly-trained staff were very friendly and helpful, but could do nothing when food didn’t appear then went into cool bains-marie for the buffet or the PLATES WERE COLD. I won’t dwell on this for long so bear with me, but the plate warmers weren’t working and it took until the last evening for the youngsters, bless them, to agree that:

  • Storing the plates outside so they were VERY cold was a Bad Idea
  • Putting said plates in a spare oven (switched on) was a Good Idea.

Eventually after constant criticism, firm words were spoken to all staff concerned and the organisation and standard of cooking began to rise. Overall the accommodation was very good: layout, quality of fittings, bar and sitting area on third floor overlooking the lake. And the staff enthusiasm made up for the teething problems. Phew!

Monday dawned as Sunday had ended: serious snow and cloud at all levels. My group’s first day was dismal. Like many, I hate it when the first day is a challenge, and our skiing was embarrassingly poor. We started late, and despite having an expert leader who managed to get us safely down, we stopped for an early coffee in Tignes Val Claret. We’re rather proud of our sense by allowing the coffee to morph into beer which then morphed into an early lunch which wasn’t a quick one. We had to go past the bus stop to get to the lifts and despite my protestations we valiantly skied a little bit before catching the aforesaid bus back for an early afternoon tea. Very little skiing was done by any of the other groups but we’d all survived. During our aperitifs the cloud suddenly lifted and the view from the bar really was as spectacular as the staff had claimed. We could see mountains and they were well covered with snow!

Tuesday dawned clear cold and bright and the weather stayed that way all week. The wind of the weekend had not affected the snow too much, so conditions were also fantastic after a bit of settling, and stayed really good throughout. Wow!

The week settled into a steady rhythm of learn (mornings) practice (afternoons) drink/eat (evenings) but there was one further episode to mention. One evening as we settled for our aperitifs, we began to notice a smell of smoke. Despite the drink we quickly realised it was coming from the far end of the bar. In true British style we ignored it despite the smoke detectors sounding and the hotel manager beginning to bark orders. It turned out that, with the bar manager’s permission, one of our members decided it seemed a waste not to light the bar’s fire. He did this very effectively without realising that smoke will not go up a cold chimney (very cold actually!) until the plug of cold air in the chimney has been cleared. Hence the smoke-filled room. They aren’t planning on repeating the exercise any time soon. We did survive two further proper fire alarms on the last night when the culprit turned out to be the steam room in the spa area — someone unknown had left the door open and the steam had set alarms ringing. It’s hard to spot the cause when it’s steam…

Anyway, as the week drew to a close, we reflected on how we have come to expect the coaching to be of the highest standard and progress had been made in the groups. Some of the instruction was reminders of stuff taught in previous years, but this time it might stick! We all benefitted from as much powder skiing as we wanted, and there were lots of smiley faces each evening — without any real injuries thank goodness!

TDC managed to manage the groups well as people progressed at different rates and inter- group movements were made seamlessly. We were lucky in that the links to Val were open, and for most our rendezvous became the top of the Toviere lift out of Tignes which meant the Val-based coaches didn’t have to drive round each day, and were available to work the afternoon sessions in Val as hoped. Thanks again to TDC and their organisational skills.

We all enjoyed a final Saturday of free skiing which allowed us to ski in different groups — a relief? But as the day closed in it was obvious there was a weather change coming. Snow was forecast and it was right: so the coach couldn’t get to the hotel at 6.00 and we had to trek to it. At least it was downhill this time!

And the final bonus of the holiday was that, because charter flights started for the replacement skiers who arrived Chambery airport as we left, our small band was the sole occupants of a 757-200! Yes that’s 30 people in 250 seats. Photos to prove it…

Thanks must as always go Barry Lewis for finding the Tignes alternative for us, and for his behind-the-scenes input. We just missed the usual party on your flat, but there’s always next year!!