Reporter: David Wilkinson
The holiday started with a very comfortable airport arrival time of around 9:00am for a 12:20am scheduled departure time. Check- in was the quickest ever, with no queue and I was greeted by Tony Keats, who had just checked in before me. Ski-equipment drop off also followed very quickly and we were soon in the regular queue for security, which we passed through uneventfully. After meeting Nigel and having a catch-up drink in the bar, the smooth travel journey soon began to falter when the expected gate announcement began a series of delays.
This turned out to be due to the continuation of French air traffic controller strikes, however TUI eventually managed to negotiate our passage into France, and we left Manchester late afternoon. This resulted in a midnight arrival at the hotel where a buffet salad was provided for those who wanted to eat.
A late start to Sunday for our ski group (Team Tony K) was therefore unavoidable, with lift passes and ski hire for some, to sort out first. The group discounted lift pass collection and distribution during breakfast however helped to minimise this delay for me and Nigel, thanks to Jan Barlow for organising.
When we were all kitted up to go (around 11:00 am) the queue for the main Marmottes 1 lift was horrendous. This made us choose the Alpauris lift across the valley to explore the slopes on that side first. The snow conditions were very poor towards the bottom of the runs in this area, with slush and patches of grass to contend with. Anyway at least we were out skiing and were able to find our ski legs again. With the best of this area soon covered and after a leisurely lunch, we decided to return over the valley to les Bergers and back to the hotel for more refreshments.
Monday morning was an earlier and keener start for the group to hopefully avoid excessive queuing at the Marmottes1 lift. From there we continued up the mountain on Marmottes 2 and 3 to get to the higher slopes. After a couple of warm up runs down Herpie, we started the long descent down the Sarrene and enjoyed good skiing on decent snow. The end of the run took us to La Combe Haute where we enjoyed dining out in the warm sunshine.
Following lunch, we caught the Alpauris lift to return to les Bergers, where we again took the Marmottes1 and 2 lifts to take on more runs back down to les Bergers. At the end of the afternoon this area was turning to slush with a few large pools of water to traverse. The need for new snow and colder conditions had become very apparent. All were hopeful of the predicted snowfall and cooler temperatures from recent weather forecasts for the evening and into the next day.
The Monday evening entertainment in the hotel bar provided an un-usually weird Alice in Wonderland themed stage show. Not bad for free entertainment while sampling the draft Leffe beer in abundance, due to the expectation of a delayed start to the following day.
On waking up slightly later, on Tuesday morning with a bit of a muzzy head, we were greeted with the welcome sight of a heavy snow covering and continuing snowfall, although with very poor visibility. No rush for breakfast and getting out to the lifts early today then. The group decided to wait until late morning to decide on skiing or not, however by then the conditions had still not improved so the majority decided to go for a walk across town to visit Wendy Barlow.
Nigel and I however decided to venture out on the slopes in the hope of improved conditions later. We set of on the Marmottes1 lift with the canopy down and could see nothing due to the covering of frosted snow and whiteout conditions - was this a good idea? After steadily making our way down a blue run to Les Jeux 2100, we decided to go for a hot drink in ChanteBise to see if conditions would improve later? However, this did not look hopeful, so we made our way down Les Jueux, getting some practice of skiing by feel. The experience was strangely quite pleasant as the snow was fresh and powdery and the piste was relatively comfortable to navigate.
After repeating this run, we got more confident and ventured up DMC 1 and 2. From Lac Blanc we slowly took the blue run down towards the top of Marmottes 1 and called in at La Folie Douce for lunch with thoughts of heading back to the hotel afterwards. However, on leaving the restaurant, we were surprised to see that visibility had much improved. More skiing on this fresh snow then we thought, although after a faster decent back down to Les Juex and then back up DMC 1, the visibility had gone again, so time to make our way back and arrange to get the skis waxed. The forecast for the rest of the week was for sunny clear conditions and this did not disappoint.
The next three days were like a new ski holiday, with fresh snow, blue skies, and pleasant sunshine which got warmer each day. The whole group was back in action again and we covered much more of the whole area by the end of the week. This included another run down the Sarrene, a jaunt through Marcel’s farm and a trip over to Montfrais, were we had a very pleasant lunch also meeting other members of the club.
Many photo and video opportunities arose during this latter part of the week which I certainly took advantage of. The sunny conditions prompted quite a few refreshment stops where a cold beer was called for whilst enjoying the wonderful scenery all around.
During one rapid descent down Les Jeux again, Nigel and I had to take swift evasive action to avoid the path of two trains of husky dogs which suddenly came out of nowhere charging diagonally across the piste up towards the Marcel’s farm area. I was fortunate enough to capture this experience on my GoPro and have extracted a couple of stills of the dogs in full flight pulling the two sleds.
I suppose I should mention the hotel before I finish, this was pretty decent, although the rooms a little cramped. The buffet meal selection was varied and plentiful each night with free wine which most people seemed to enjoy. The bar entertainment was very French orientated, with competition quizzes, etc. between French teams only, but worst of all the bar ran dry of the Leffe beer after Monday night! This prompted us to venture out to a nearby bar in the Bergers commercial area, where a very good Grimbergen or two could be enjoyed.
The end of the week seemed to come round too soon, and it was time for the dreaded early morning departure. This started off with a minor hiccup when the coach had to return back to the hotel 10 minutes after leaving to pick up the TUI rep. Apart from a minor delay at the airport after the usual Chambery check-in, the return flight was relatively uneventful, and we were back in Manchester early afternoon. All that remained was to say our farewells and depart with many happy memories of another great ski holiday.
Apart from a minor delay at the airport after the usual Chambery check-in, the return flight was relatively uneventful, and we were back in Manchester early afternoon. All that remained was to say our farewells and depart with many happy memories of another great ski holiday.