We didn’t quite make the first lifts on Wednesday but by 9.30 were heading over to the third valley but becoming distracted. Chapelets looked beautiful, freshly groomed, so we diverted across there for a swoop down the softly rutted cordorouy. The piste called Jean Pichod was next on our route but the run down there revealed the surface to be the best we’ve known it so we felt compelled to do it again, only just resisting the urge to fly down it for a third time. Taking the Marmottes lift up the other side of the valley we glided over the top of the namesake run which demonstrated some of the smoothest terrain we’d seen on that slope for the whole season so we had to shoot down there too.
Finally we headed across the top of the ridge and down into the second valley of Meribel on a slippery slope which continues to deliver anxiety rather than pleasure, and this day was no different. Up the gondola on the other side from Meribel Mottaret took us to an unexpected peak as I ‘d misjudged which lift to take, not that it really mattered. We were in the right area, just not precisely where I’d anticipated us being.
We took a run down to the left and back up the next lift, then another left, continuing to zigzag our way along the mountainside towards Val Thorens. A priority became to find a toilet, (not for me, I dehydrate before we go out) but there is never one when you want one. Thankfully Roger is reluctant to use the piste as a men’s urinal, unlike far too many others. A beautiful open space of manipulated nature is now contaminated with male excreta, and noise pollution. Why don’t people use headphones? Why do people, who insist on subjecting everyone to their personal musical preferences, have such bad taste? I had to ask (tell) 2 different people on separate occasions to turn down or off their blaring backpacks as they sat next to me on long chair lift journeys. One was fine about it but you’d have thought that I’d asked the other to inhale my cigarette smoke judging by the look she tried to give me. (No I haven’t taken up that habit, it is just a similar illustration of someone demanding their freedom to subject everyone to their own choice.) Rant over.
We finally decided to stop for an early lunch at the top of the Pecklet (Piglet) lift after searching for the gondola we’d discovered on a previous visit to this area which offers proper seats, such luxury. The 7€50 tartiflette was irresistible, even when my lack of glasses revealed that it was actually 17€50, but still delicious.
High winds had been forecast on the radio that morning and a notice warned of the same at the bottom of the lift. We were almost as far away from 16,50 as we could be so decided to descend Christine, the run we’d come in search of, before heading back towards the Meribel side of this third valley, zagzigging back along the same side we’d arrived on. This area is unfamiliar to us so I just headed right, instead of left at each junction. At one inter-section I was unsure if the access was open. I could see long swirly blue lines painted on the snow which usually demarcates a race course but there was no sign of the alternating blue and red gates. Then I saw them, lying in a bundle at the side of the piste. There had been an event but it had just finished and we turned up as the run re-opened to Joe Public. We grabbed the opportunity and sailed down this piste in the early afternoon which had been subjected to so little traffic that it was still groomed as if it was early morning. What a stroke of luck.
Keeping a close eye on the clear blue skies we continued on our route along the hillside but after a couple more runs were deceived by a red run starting off to the right – correct direction, heading down towards Les Menuires – correct valley, before it deviated even further right at a point where we couldn’t cut back and took us down into Meribel valley too soon. I had planned a lovely route of cruisey blues back to the bottom of Meribel when we reached an area I knew, and then intended to cut across to La Tania, from where we could either ski back to 16,50 or drop into The Ski Lodge for a drink, probably bump into some of our colleagues, and catch the bus back. Instead we headed straight into Mottaret and caught the gondola to the top of Creux, the run which takes us back to the head of 16,50. But quite honestly, after 6 hours our legs had had enough and even Roger was sunburnt across his cheeks and nose, his forehead being covered by his helmet and eyes by sunglasses. The wind never rose above a light breeze.