12. Venturing out and about

After 2 changeover days preceded by 2 shopping and house keeping days we needed to ski. The sun continued to shine and the snow quality was deteriorating in this north facing resort. Not turning to the slush of previous experience but becoming compacted by the piste bashers and then freezing overnight in the sub-zero temperatures resulting from the clear skies. So we were reluctant to comply with call for a staff meeting at 3.30 in the afternoon on the Monday. 2 hours out of the middle of our ski time, supposedly our free-time, was not very enticing.
The time was changed to 5.15 the following day which also enabled us to meet-up with a colleague from our first season who was on holiday in Meribel, the adjacent resort, but coming to Courchevel that day. We arranged to rendez-vous at Waikiki Beach Bar beside one of the pistes mid-afternoon and arrived as the sun disappeared behind the jagged mountain tops, causing the temperatures to plummet lower than any other beach bar would have ever experienced!

The vin chaud warmed us a little, as did the transient heat from a nearby firepit when those around it moved away to allow the rays to penetrate slightly further. Roger decided it was time to go after a pleasant hour as he watched my face turn blue. I was unaware of this although my fingers and toes were distinctly chilly. Not sure we’ll be back there until the sun stays higher in the sky for longer, June perhaps!
We didn’t ski on Tuesday because of the staff meeting, which is another story, but looked forward to our day off and time to venture further. We took ourselves to Meribel on Wednesday, clocking departure time and progress to discern how long it would take us when arranging to meet friends over there in the near future. However, we were nearly deterred by the ridiculously long queue for the second lift we needed to use but decided to stick with it. Approaching the top Roger noticed that the next lift we needed to take wasn’t working, which would explain the queue but also foiled our planned route.

We made to the top of Saulire by a different combination and dropped down into sunny Meribel via another icy piste. I can just about cope with ice on the blue runs but the red ones, which should be within my capability when covered with snow, are rather daunting with this unpleasant surface. Therefore, it was with a significant degree of trepidation that I led Roger on the route to Mont Vallon, the highest peak in Meribel at the head of the valley with 2 red runs emerging from the top. The view was spectacular and the piste coated in snow, not ice! This was the first run I’d enjoyed since before Christmas. I could actually ski down it instead of sliding in terror.

Meribel valley

A rest day on Thursday was followed by a short session on the hill on Friday because despite the sun, it was soo cold, -9 and felt it. We ventured onto a couple of short red runs at the far side of our own resort of Sixteen Fifty, on a north-facing tree-lined hillside. The sun was just high enough to provide some illumination to the less steep sections as we made our way tentatively down this unfamiliar piste. It was still icy in places but overall not bad. The return chairlift was in the shade of the hillside until the last 200yds and after three descents I conceded that I really was very cold and wanted to go back. These are the only decent runs nearby and I fear that we may get bored of them before long. We have been spoilt by the soft snow and sun of Alpe d’huez plus their long conjoining runs, but it is still early days.

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