32. Ups and downs

The weather doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. One hour the snow teems down, obscuring the other side of the valley or sometimes even the bottom of the high street. The next time I gaze out the window the sun is shinning through the sheet of melted snow cascading off the roof.

We have even had rain at this altitude which leaves unusual rivulet patterns on the surface of the deep snow slopes and strange indentations on the flat roof of the car park below our window which is sporting the impromptu freezer again. We gained a lot of foodstuff from our messy group this weekend, hence the ice cream dangling outside. 4 half drunk bottles of spirits, 2 cases of kronenberg and 2 unopened bottles of wine were accompanied by a variety of unhealthy but much appreciated food. They didn’t leave a cash tip but did buy me a genepi shot when they found me, much to their surprise, in Bubble Bar on Saturday evening. This did make me miss Scotland’s 5th try in the epic second-half comeback in the 6 Nations against England. One of the biggest treats from watching this series is having a comfortable seat for a few hours if we can nab the sofa.
The clear up of this group’s visit took us 10 hours on Sunday, instead of the 6 expected, facilitated by the evening arrival of the incoming guests, the owner and his celebrity friends. There was minimal damage to the fabric of the building but 8 sacks of rubbish and recycling, a jumble sale bag of discarded clothing, our 3 bags of goodies, a disgusting hot tub and severely depleted stock of wine glasses reflected the devastation they left behind.

I refused to change the sofa covers again at 5.30 (we’d started at 8am) because one cushion had been in the firing line of a red wine splurge which at least wiped off the walls reasonably easily. This was the first time I’d had to wipe and polish the outside of the wood burning stove to get rid of the beer splashes from the glass and mug rings from the granite top.

We haven’t been able to go on our snow-mobile prize trip yet as one of our team members has injured his shoulder snow-boarding so will need to wait until he has the strength to handle these heavy bikes, but it might suit to wait for more settled weather.
I have between 4-6 blokes in Loft this week, none of whom seem to know how to clear up but hey, that’s what I’m there for. The first morning revealed a Sotherby’s catalogue amongst the cereals and pastries. I’m not sure whether they are buyers or sellers but I don’t think the main man, another Roger, is anything to do with his namesake in Pink Floyd, despite being grey and wrinkly. I hope I have impressed him with my prowess with the heating system and air-conditioning in the hot tub room. However, he has guests coming and going this week so I have to keep changing rooms from twins to doubles and back again as well as changing bedding and washing towels and gowns thus keeping me busy.

I was rushing a bit this morning as I straightened his bed, which was not strewn with personal possessions as is often the case, but I froze when I heard a metallic thud. A hidden watch landed heavily on the wooden floor. Inspection revealed that it was no longer going, oops. Salient lesson, don’t leave valuables secreted within bedding when enjoying house-keeping services. And this wasn’t retaliation for the talc covered floor in the bathroom which had been trodden through to the bedroom.

We did manage to have a super morning on the slopes last week. The clouds were breaking up from the overnight snow as I opened the curtains just after 7 o’clock. Early enough to catch the first lifts. We headed down to the boot room at 8.45 and exited through the back door 10 minutes later into snowfall. By the time we reached the first main lift the cloud had descended and visibility was down to 20-30yards. After all the preparation we decided to carry on and hope that this was just a patch.

After a few super runs down our back-yard reds, following the three people who got there before us, we headed across to the edge of 18,50 where we found a pocket of sunshine on reasonably unskied piste at the back of the resort. After a couple of runs down there the surface became rather churned up and clouds gathered over us again so we headed for home. In the murk of the final stretch a Frenchman on his outward journey asked whether the lifts were open. I was genuinely able to answer yes and that there were patches of sunshine higher up. Snow fell from low cloud for the rest of the day as we peered out the window from the warmth of our room.

31. A few issues.

The weather has been rather unsettled so we haven’t been snow-mobile-ing yet. Last week it even rained and the zero isotherm was at 2000m which is higher than most of the resort. This has felt more like April, when spring really sets in, but is far too early for these temperatures. We want to get in some more good skiing before the serious melt. Great clumps of snow have fallen off the roof onto the side terrace at Mollard. The owner had insisted that we clear the winter snow off it when he was out in February so he could sit there for breakfast, even though we pointed out that the sun wasn’t high enough. He’s back out again at the weekend so the ice pick will have to be utilised to break up the now frozen slab from the roof which has accumulated several more inches of fresh snow.
Loft owner has been out this past week, causing havoc as her precious wooden floor is showing signs of wear and tear. This, apparently, is our fault for not being diligent enough with our care, nothing to do with the footfall that has been trailing in and out (strangely the entrance is her main concern) which provides her with a sizeable income for the weeks she isn’t in residence! And the hottub wasn’t clean enough. Despite being less than three years old and wedged into an internal room, it isn’t plumbed in. We have to use a portable electric pump and attach a hose leading to an adjacent bathroom where the end is shoved down the toilet, but this only drains to about 6 inches. The remains have to be ladled into a plastic bowl from standing inside the tub, and poured down the sink in the bedroom, a two-man job on our busiest day.

Snow-less!

This last week the children became a little over-exuberant and water leaked into the apartment below. Our maintenance guy had to strip the existing sealant off the surrounds from inside the full hot tub and re-do the seal. I’m sure he made a good job but I was fishing bits of scraped sealant out the water all week. On Friday I gave up scooping it off the surface as I could see blobs sitting on the bottom so locked the door, stripped off and got in to pick these offending pieces from the depths. On Saturday I was back in the water, but at least was able to keep my underwear on as there was only a few inches depth, trying to catch the remaining bits but apparently this still wasn’t good enough. I hesitated to suggest that she should have had a plug hole in the bottom but the operations manager was impressed with my ‘commitment to the cause’ when Roger described my efforts.
The kids hadn’t been bad, just having fun in small pool and the adults apologised for not supervising them closer. These guys had been very polite to me and most complementary about the breakfasts I’d delivered, sealing their approval with a generous tip, which is just as well as it appears I wont get paid the promised overtime. The hours I worked will be offset against the empty weeks in the chalets! It is hardly our fault if the company have not managed to sell those slots and we didn’t request ‘holiday’. Good will is very fragile and easily crushed.

1day-off!

The group in Mollard this week have set a record for producing the most rubbish and most disgusting hot tub. The water was more murky after one night than after a week of kids! They had taken my point of not allowing it to overflow onto the balcony and into the lounge by emptying buckets-full out before over-occupying it. It is supposed to take 4 people and there are 10 of them. As a result, when they all get out, the water level drops below the level of the filter and stops circulating around the pump, which would burn out, but fortunately has a cut-off which only results in the potential for the pipes to freeze as it is outside. Heyho.

I did clean the vomit splattered toilet and walls so must like them really but will have to have words if they keep helping themselves to fresh bed linen as I wont have enough for changeover day. I don’t think they are that hygienic but suffice to say they are more coupled up than when 1 couple, 4 blokes and 4 girls arrived. They have managed to shatter the glass in the oven door by cooking no more than pizzas, but admit that this is not their fault as it developed a hairline crack last week after putting it on the auto-clean cycle. They leave at 5am on Sunday which at least lets us get in and scourer the place before the owner arrives for his lads week.

12hours!

We are struggling a little with a conflict of interest with our employers. Our customers are the guests for whom we are supposed to, and we try to, provide an excellent holiday. The company’s customers are also these guests, from whom they want excellent reviews but, also they view the chalet owners as customers, for whom guests are a nuisance and mess up their property. We are supposedly the guardians of these buildings but are torn between these loyalties. However, not once has an owner left a tip!

30. Bumps and bruises

Injuries seem to be the norm, which is not a surprise when considering what we do in our spare time: hurtle down slopes of various states of lumps and bumps or polished concrete-like ice, at a range of speeds in myriad levels of control, with two slippery planks secured to our feet. In reality it is more of a surprise that we aren’t in worse condition when taking our age into account. But we aren’t out of the game yet and can shame some much younger than ourselves.

Whilst not as bad as previous years my splatted left boob remains uncomfortable to lie on, although my left side is my sleeping position of preference, but I now struggle to lie on my right side at night. A Henry hoover launched itself off the top stair on changeover day and landed on my upper arm, somehow taking out my right little finger in the process. I lurched as I missed my footing when retreating backwards down the steep staircase I was vacuuming. A tug on the unstable casters saved me from potentially far worse consequences but that’s the price of rushing.

My forearms are already covered with bruises from dancing with door handles which successfully resist as I try to squeeze through when they are at the limit of their hinges. Unfortunately The Loft has several of these tight combinations as a few doors seem to by hung the wrong way round. Much do-si-do-ing has to be executed to get from our store room onto the back corridor or just to gain access to the bathroom in room 2, after entering the room and squeezing around the end of the bed. I do wonder how much consideration is given to opening directions by architects or whoever makes these decisions. Continuing to work and ski are probably good rehabilitation strategies, in my now extinct professional opinion.

I have to confess to injuring another on the slopes, unfortunately a rather small child. I demolished this little girl at the Waikiki snack bar beside a green piste. I could argue that her instructor took her too close to this establishment which meant that she was inside my left knee as I tried to turn in to stop. Her little body prevented me from executing the turn so I ploughed through her and into all the abandoned skis outside, including the bifurcated board advertising burger and vin chaud. I sustained injury only to my dignity but she was very brave for a little ‘un who had just been wiped out by a great lump of a woman (at least I’d lost some weight). The instructor managed to look concerned as he came charging back up hill on his skis to retrieve his poor student.
The signage may never recover but at least I was able to reunite the ski poles with their correct owner. I had collected myself and my kit from the pile and grabbed the blue poles which were set at opposing angles several feet apart as they would have been in my approximate landing position. It was only as we came to leave after chocolate chaud et frites that I realised they weren’t mine. Fortunately the owner was about to set off and searching for hers. Perhaps she may think twice about leaving her kit in such disarray, looking like a train crash, next time.

I spent some surreal time on the final morning of this past week’s guests discussing potential locations in Scotland for hunting (actually he meant shooting) with a Belgian who had booked a ski holiday in France via an English agent. This is not really my forte and I’m sure something was lost in translation, but triggered by the English Ski agent using a stag’s head as their logo. I am very cosmopolitan.

29. A busy week

A delightful group of Belgian guests wanted breakfast set up, served and cleared each day in Loft this past week. Overtime would be paid as they are charged €25 per hour, plus shopping. I’m not sure how much I’ll get, I suspect about €10 per hour, but we’ll see, it has still been 12 additional hours for the week so not to be sniffed at. The advantage has been that I could segue seamlessly into housekeeping and be finished by 11am after 4 hours.

I have been introduced to the local boulangerie/patisserie as these guys have not only had a sizeable bread and pastries order each day but also wanted a tarte or afternoon tea cake. I had been concerned that they might have wanted me to bake this as well when we learnt that they would have preferred a catered chalet but one wasn’t available. I’m happy to go out and buy one (they aren’t delivered to the patisserie until 9am) but didn’t want to start faffing around baking and delaying my finish time.
My training involved helping Heather, the host, do breakfast in one the catered chalets in La Tania last Friday when Sam, the chef, was on early morning shopping for the week. I must have sounded overly joyed to do so as the message came in at the same time as an offer from my tenant to buy my house! But I wasn’t upset about the former. I did high-light the drawback that the first bus would get me there for 8.30am, which might be a bit late, so a driver was laid on and I was picked up outside our apartment at 7.15 and brought back at 10am.

I decided that my own breakfast table must have been fairly impressive when one of the guests took a photo of it, the father of the constipated toddler who is afraid of the hoover (the toddler is, not the father). I was somewhat deflated though this morning when he took another photo of the brown paper sack which contains the bread order! You can judge whether the spread is worthy. They are only asking for either scrambled or fried eggs as the cooked option, which I’m relived I can accommodate (even if I did melt the fish slice on the second morning) and have got used to the latter being termed ‘sunny-side’ which sounds much more healthy than ‘fried egg’. So I’ll let them off the fact that they have commandeered my white towel cupboard.

My alarm for 6.20am was perhaps less than welcome to our fellow occupants each day but at least this meant that I could use the bathroom at my leisure, leaving it free for the three boys to fight over later. Joe and James have been sharing our cupboard for the past week, which has been a tad cramped and stretched the kitchen facilities to absolute limits.

Despite mixed weather James and Roger have been out every day and Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday found us guiding around favoured slopes of Meribel. Joe and James will be out on Friday, in what is forecast to be glorious sunshine but we have the chalet shopping to complete in Moutiers. One of the son’s of our colleagues, Sue and Pete, is also out this week so weren’t interested in swapping, but I think Roger might be grateful for the rest.

We went to the Bubble bar quiz night on Sunday but were not able to repeat our previous success, although the score was quite respectable. We took them to La Tania for a meal in Ski Lodge on Wednesday, where I had a super gluten-free pie which will definitely need repeating. A light and music show was scheduled, followed by more fireworks. The former transpired to be a weird portrayal by five marshmallow men on stilts unwrapping a swathed mushroom, for 20 minutes. Bill, Sue and Pete’s dog, had given them an appropriate treatment and had to be constrained on a lead so that they didn’t deflate, but I think his verdict was fairly universal. The five minute firework display was excellent, albeit brief. The whole firework festival closed tonight at 18,50 and James and I went to watch a great display by next year’s French entry, after hearing GB announced as 2019’s winner. I think I’m fireworked-out for this year.

28. Pyrotechniques

The International Festival de Pyrotechniques has been held in Courchevel for 17 years spanning three weeks during February and March. I remember watching it from Chris and Carole’s room in 18,50 eight years ago, however it is somewhat more extensive now. Six events are held in different centres of the resort over this period, with ‘desambulations’ through the villages by pirates (this year’s theme) earlier in the day. A torchlight descent by ESF instructors and various champions open the evening proceedings followed by the fireworks display by companies from Brazil, GB, Italy and France.

We had attended the first display in Village at 15,50 and whilst the fireworks were impressive the transport provision for around 2000 people was dire. No additional buses to bring people in from the surrounding area. There were so many bodies crammed into the patch at the bottom of the piste that we didn’t even attempt to fight our way through for the complementary vin chaud. We chose to view the 18,50 event from outside our building which looks up towards their hillside. This didn’t transpire to be an effective decision as most of the show took place behind the trees which were silhouetted in a range of colours, but not quite the display we anticipated.

This week’s venue was here in 16,50 at the top of the main lift, 3km up the hill. This seemed a little strange if the same numbers were expected as the 8 person cabins were some what restricted in their load transport. We presumed that the organisers knew what they were doing but still walked down the piste to avoid the congestion on the 2 escalators from street level. Leaving a good half an hour to allow for queues we arrived at the top in time to have 2 cups of vin chaud before the torchlit descent began.

The fireworks were delayed for 10-15 minutes to allow for more people to arrive via the cabins before we were entertained by a 15 minute display from Italy which lit up the surrounding hillside beautifully. The accompanying music was very ‘piratey’ but the fireworks were just fireworks. I’m unsure of the connection and failed to discern a head of Jack Sparrow, but enjoyed the spectacle.

We stood towards the back of the crowd at the top of the descending slope, ready for a quick getaway when the hoard made for the lifts at the end, and it as well we did. As the final rockets exploded their multi-coloured cordite across the skies and the rainbow smoke hung above the trees we turned and tried to run towards the entrance with several hundred other people.

As we filled the extensive hanger Roger could see that the lift wasn’t even moving! Fortunately someone saw fit to switch on the lights so the crowd weren’t squashed in the dark but I still couldn’t resist an awareness of a massive safety issue if there had been any kind of fire or just panic. We were hemmed in on all sides and another lift had stunk of burning rubber when we’d alighted a couple of weeks ago.

Fortunately the lift clunked into life, and then stopped. Roger’s ankle trouble prevented us from opting to walk 3km down the piste, not that we could have extracted ourselves from the mass. Then the lift began again. 5 cabins a minute with 8 people in each. 50 minutes would be the fastest time clear the crowd, assuming it worked continuously, and that all cabins were full which they frequently aren’t as people chose to sit together but block the entrance for 1s and 2s to occupy the empty seats. Despite being nearer the back of the audience and consequently towards the front of the queue, it still took half an hour before we alighted our transport. Not the best laid plan, hopefully, never to be repeated and someone given the title of ‘supreme idiot’. Or perhaps the organisers considered this acceptable, even after the fire of 18,50 earlier in the season which claimed 2 lives and put many in hospital with serious spinal injuries!!

27. Work’s do

Mt.Vallon

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.

26. A Great Day Off

After the deep blue skies of successive mornings we were looking forward to an early start on Wednesday, our day off. The sun filtered under the thick dark curtains, already noticeably sooner than a month ago. I drew them back as I took our mugs of tea back to bed whilst we came round, but something wasn’t quite right. The glass of the microwave door wasn’t reflecting the sunshine capped mountains on the opposite side of the valley. Peering out I found that there was a thick haze across the sky. Typical! But the pale blue was sufficient to tempt us even if we did decide to allow the ski school queues to die down before we ventured out at 10am.
A short run down Bel Air to reach the Chapelets chair lift raised our spirits. It was fantastic, not the usual corduroy but some other roughened surface which held our skis true as we flew to the bottom. Every turn and edge caught exactly where intended as we weaved between other slower and probably more careful skiers.
By the time we reached the high ridge between our valley and neighbouring Meribel we could easily discern a layer of pale brown mist. Presumably the pollution of wood fires in this manufacturing industry-free area, but weirdly similar to the ‘smog’ of the West Yorkshire conurbation during a spell of high pressure. This sustained good weather has its draw-backs wherever one is. At least we were heading to the heights of Mont Vallon at nearly 3000 metres and then over to the Val Thorens glacier, higher still. Surely we would be above this mucky air and into the brilliant sunshine which had been enjoyed by everyone in this peak week.
The addition of the British half-term to one of the four French holiday weeks of February means that this is the busiest week of the season. Christmas and New Year weeks are still early in the season to not always have good snow but mid February is virtually guaranteed, hence the price hike. The slopes were certainly busier than usual and we had to queue to get on the lifts which is most galling.

We took an icy red run down into a Meribel crossing, stopping to note a Zeppelin shaped balloon below, of course, being buzzed by three para-gliders. Hot air balloons are quite common and I cannot imagine how cold the riders must be as it is chilly enough on the ground, but the views are presumably amazing. We took a sharp left turn and headed up to the top of the valley towered over by Mont Vallon, our first destination. We jumped into a less than full cabin and joined 4 English ladies who probably shouldn’t have been discussing second hand knowledge of Royal personal protection teams! I don’t think they were trying to impress us but just being rather indiscreet. Presumably friends or partners of the poor PPOs.

Meribel

We had been down one side of this mountain in December but had yet to venture down the other so grabbed the opportunity to complete both red runs before heading off over the next ridge and into Val Thorens. The lifts were surprisingly but very pleasingly quiet and not just because it was lunchtime. We were treated to relative luxury in the Piglet gondola (actually Piclet). I’d never come across individual seats inside a cabin and did manage to bag one despite the first person in deciding to plonk himself on the seat nearest the door, almost blocking it. This wouldn’t have been so bad if he had positioned himself to make a quick exit at the top but we all had to climb over him again as he got off last! But the seats were wonderful.

Orelle

A couple of runs down and a different bubble up took us to the ridge over-looking Orelle: the 4th of the 3 Valleys – hmm? It was too late and not tempting enough for us to dip down onto those blue and red runs but at least we’ve seen it, including a surprise zip-line to get from one peak to another. It was somewhat less than zippy as demonstrated by the rider at the time.
By this time we started to head back from the top right corner of the piste map to the bottom-most left sector. A portion of French fries and a drink were beckoning but I wanted to get well down into the middle valley (we’ll ignore that ‘fourth valley’) before we stopped. We would be able to guage the time needed to jump over into Courchevel and catch a bus if we missed those last lifts. However, we had plenty of time and decided to soak up some of the rays outside a little snack bar beside the piste where I wiped myself out earlier in the season, but not this time.

25. Not skiing

Icicles!

The sun is forecast to shine for the next fortnight. Temperatures are already on the rise and even reaching double figures at 1000 metres. I hope this is just an interlude and not an early spring because it is far too soon. Despite our back-to-back changeover days we thought we’d better get out on the slopes on Monday, before the snow starts to disappear. However, the owners of one of the chalets are out for this half-term week and we are their slaves for the day, every day. Even the company has said that anything they ask, say yes, and if we can’t do it they will sort something out which somewhat engenders the attitude.

On their arrival they had us clearing a season’s worth of snow from the terrace on the north side of the building as they would want to sit out there. The fact that not a drop of snow had melted probably endorsed my surprised comment that the sun isn’t high enough in the sky to reach this area. But no, they still wanted it cleared for what? To sit in the shade in sub-zero temperatures?
Our suspicions were aroused when we received a message 15 minutes before they were due at the door, instructing us to change both sets of sofa covers and their 12 cushions. We had just finished the dusting and hoovering so a cloud of fluff and feathers coated all the pristine surfaces. In our haste I had omitted to notice that the base cushion had a right and wrong side; they looked the same at a glance. So we had to come back in from chiselling the snow off the terrace to swap the cover over but heyho, at least it was a pleasant temperature outside, even shoveling in the shade, and a reprieve from inside.

We had been warned that they wanted 3 hours ‘house-keeping’ a day, which we were prepared to oblige and wondered how we could fill that time. Opening the door at 9am this morning demonstrated why, although it was difficult to see how such a mess could be made by a relatively straight forward breakfast. Cleaning and resetting the fire, which had been specifically requested, was going to prove difficult without asbestos gloves if they were going to re-kindle it in the morning. But they do say ‘good morning’ and ‘good-bye’ each day and know our names.
A quick check of the work phone later in the day revealed that we had been texted 4 times before 9am asking the location of their tea-lights and Nespresso pods (of which there were 10 in the drawer). I think it is quite fortunate that we were in the bathroom initially – without the phone! – and that the very noisy kettle must have been boiling at another time, but we can genuinely say that neither of us heard the text bleeps.

A call later in the morning went unanswered when one of the big kids didn’t have a ski pass and Roger was requested to down tools and trot up to the bottom of the slopes with it. The phone was in my coat pocket hanging on the peg at the other chalet, where I was doing their daily clean. I can’t put it in my trouser pocket as I have lost sufficient weight for them to fall down quite easily now, and that’s without an extra load. An absence of belt loops don’t help. (A tiny bit of deja vu!)

By the time we finished, three and a half hours later (I’d helped before and after doing my chalet so they’d actually received 4 hours of cleaning but had only been in situ for less than 20 hours) we were too tired to go skiing. The weather was beautiful and we’d not really had a chance to enjoy it so took our books to our private garden via our personal lift, just out the back of the building. Someone has been kind enough to place 3 seldom-used picnic tables at the top of the gondola over-looking the valley and barely 5 minutes from our room. The sun is now high enough to shed glowing rays onto these benches for several hours in the afternoon. Just the perfect setting to read books and complain about demanding guests/owners.

24. Sublime snow-shoeing

Apologies for the lack of posts. We’ve been having some technical problems which hopefully are resolved.

We have experience of snow-shoeing at night in Finland which could not be surpassed, but this came a very close second. The conditions were excellent: plenty of fresh powder and glorious sunshine, albeit dappled at times but sufficient to send cascades of snow off the trees as they caught the warmth of the rays. The other factor was a disparate group of people. Complete strangers just over two months ago but now instant friends. No history but a camaraderie as we shared a mutual environment and circumstance, the ups and downs. Some of the highest highs, as this afternoon transpired to be, but coupled with some of the lowest lows, which we are pleased to have left behind us, but which others are in the midst. And two boisterous affectionate dogs, the ever loyal Bill (collie, kelpie cross) and the very vocal, award winning mutt, Corrie. One chef, one admin assistant, two hosts and four self-catered house keepers accompanied the very versatile Pip on a tour of the lower reaches of 16,50. Another unforgettable experience we have been privileged to participate in.

23. Rather a lot of Snow

Whilst not falling in the quantities of last year, we are being subjected to significant dumps of snow. It came down continually for the 2 days and nights over the weekend, light but persistent, to add to the not insignificant amount which fell last week. Roger seems to have been clearing snow from outside Mollard almost daily, even in the absence of guests, but veterans of this environment know that it is considerably easier to clear one foot of snow twice than to attempt to clear 2 feet, once.

The weather did concern the incomers to Loft, who arrived nearly 5 hours later than planned, although not due to road conditions. The heating wasn’t working in the luxury apartment and they weren’t mollified by the rise of the outside temperatures to -5. We managed to get the radiators fully functioning again an hour after they arrived and fortunately the inside temperature hadn’t dropped below 19.5 although dad conspicuously wore his coat. Their delay didn’t worry Roger as it meant that he could watch all of The 6 Nations match where Scotland trounced Italy and most of England beating Ireland.

The new people in Mollard are Aussies who live in Singapore. The adults hadn’t been in snow for 26 years and their three kids had never seen it. They were so excited to drive through falling snow and get out the transfer van into a deep blanket, being quite little they almost submerged into it. Walking through the gully to the chalet presented too much temptation not to lean over and lick the fresh snow. It was still very clean.

They arrived at 11am so we were finished by 1pm but instead of taking advantage of the time to go and play in the powder, and lacking Ruth and Lewis as incentives to get us out in poor visibility, we fell asleep whilst reading last Sunday’s Telegraph (I am just grateful for any newspaper we can obtain, ranging from The Mirror to The Times) and woke at 5pm. The snow had built up on the central reservation to such an extent that it was nearly the height of a van. The roads are systematically cleared, usually at 5am for the stretch outside our window, but pavements seem to require 2 days of fall to justify equipment, by which time the surface has been compressed into ice. Snow gathers on our inside window sill by morning as we open the window slightly at night because the radiator is not very adjustable. During the day, two tea-towels, which had been used to soak up the over-night condensation, act as draught excluders. Now they are convenient to clear up the snow inside at the start the day.

I have become preoccupied with the crows which alight the building behind us in the mornings. However they are just circling now, not knowing where to land. Their usual perch on the balcony railings have too many inches of soft cover which, presumably, they’d sink into. The flock have to suffice with landing on the tree tops, swinging around on spindly stems, causing cascades onto branches below and creating avalanches down to the ground.

There is plenty of opportunity to ski on Monday afternoon as the forecast is sunshine and continues into Tuesday, when we will go snow-shoeing, courtesy of the company! So lots more photos after that.