We explored Meribel’s slopes this last day off, which we had tended to skim through on our way between resorts, apart from Mt Vallon. They hadn’t really interested us but picking up their piste map on our way through the previous day had provided a larger, more legible scale so we could discern a vague route. We were pleasantly surprised at the scope and snow conditions, none of which were too busy. One run attracted us particularly, so much so that we had to fly down it three times in succession as we benefitted from the diminished queues for the lifts at lunchtime. Little traffic had skied it since the over-night grooming. It was wide enough to avoid the few other bods but the surface allowed much more control of direction. It was wonderful to be able to ski for sheer pleasure rather than just trying to avoid injury.
A break at the bottom of the valley provided a well-earned respite in the early afternoon as we basked in the warmth of high teen temperatures. However our usual route back to 16,50 seemed to provide too much of a challenge that day. I didn’t know I had lost Roger until I came to a suitable stopping place at confluence of runs and found him absent. He appeared from another direction about 10 minutes later having suffered an ungainly fall onto his backside just as we came into the far reaches of 16,50. He then lost me on the home run back to the apartment after he’d over-taken me as I catapulted myself skywards off an icy mound which I had expected to be the same slush as the thin adjacent snow. The earth receded under my skis as the air turned blue with my expletives before I landed, chest first, shedding skis and poles as I scorched a trail through the muddy layer. Fortunately no serious injury to either of us but these bodies can’t take too much of this abuse.
Battered and bruised we showered and readied ourselves for our lift to a rare night out. Our illustrious leaders had invited the whole team to Bozel, the village at the bottom of the valley where most of the residents live who support the ski resorts, for an evening of cocktails, quizzes, canapes and a disco. Travel was laid on so no-one needed to be behind the wheel, not even the drivers. This generosity is quite exceptional amongst employers in this market so we felt suitably appreciated.
The company had taken over a bar and mojitos welcomed us as we arrived in the first van load. Once everyone had gathered the quiz got underway. Teams had already been drawn and we were partnered with two of the drivers: Gareth, previously a chemistry teacher, and Max a young old hand at seasons, but new to the company. We found ourselves marginally in the lead at the half way stage and managed to maintain that position despite some tough opposition and dubious tactics. Our prize is a night session on skidoos which we are very excited about, even if Max really want the sunglasses of third place.
Towards the end of the evening everyone seemed to congregate outside the bar, even though the vans weren’t due to return for the rest of us for well over half an hour but we have quite a few smokers. Roger and I propped up the residence adjoining which did look in need of some upkeep. An older gentleman approached and mentioned that it was his house and, from what we could gather, that the walls might not hold our weight. We duly moved away. He returned a few minutes later and our expectation was to be asked to keep the noise down. He made straight for Roger and produced a newspaper covered bottle plus a couple of small glasses. Offering only him a sample he provided him with a measure of a home made liqueur from the garage of one of only two remaining gentlemen to brew such a concoction in this valley. These men track down gentian plants in the high rocky Alpine crevasses and then brew their poteen from the roots. This man’s mother had owned the whole building, in which he was born, but had sold the bar. He had returned to live in the house on the side, now that he had retired from practising law. A super day and evening and imbibing a soon-to-be rare tipple.