9. Christmas Day

We welcomed the day at the Ski Lodge bar in La Tania with almost all of our colleagues as well as half the resort. Our festive hats seemed quite popular, including with a French child who alighted the bus as we waited and got Grandad to take a photo with us. No idea where that has gone. Our departure from the bar at a few minutes after the countdown to catch the 12.10 bus was met with a flow of more people surging through the door. We were not alone to leave at that time. An invitation to join Pete and Sue (the other self-catered housekeepers) and their son (England rugby physio) for Christmas lunch later that day was very welcome as was the card from our employers containing a generous Christmas bonus! (The chicken will keep.)

Christmas morning was a sedate affair. It wouldn’t have been fair to hurry or harass the guests so we didn’t roll up until 9.45am, but they were still there and most surprised to see us. However they got a move on and left soon after with my warnings of icy paths; dawn had broken with completely clear skies. Our two hour shift completed around midday and a quick snack lunch preceded the much anticipated session on the hill. We managed to access the ski-out lift for the first time, despite trepidation as it appeared to not be working and unmanned. However it transpired to be our first experience of a do-it-yourself ski-lift. Just press the big green button.

A short ride up to the slopes took us to just above the main lift which we could easily ski down to. I attributed the sheet ice we had to cross to the shade from the trees but emerging from the top of the main lift discovered that all the pistes were like glass, very hard glass, aka polished concrete. The sun had not managed to soften the surface, even by 1pm. Tentatively, we made our way to the top of 1650 (sixteen-fifty) for the first time, dismissing the red Chapelettes run which had seemed so tempting when studying the piste map but now looked treacherous. Following the first part of the descent we agreed that it was no fun so cautiously made our way back to the flat not only taking huge care of ourselves but considering all those behind us as having potential to wipe one of us out if they lost control. Fortunately we made it back safely but discovered that a guest from one of our other chalets had broken their pelvis. That was probably the shortest ski session we’ve ever had but at least we went out on Christmas day, in glorious sunshine, to areas we hadn’t previously explored and were back in time for a quick rest before the festivities resumed.

On our way to the bus-stop back to our dinner date in La Tania we diverted to The Loft to give the guests the spare locker key. No rest for some! We alighted the ‘Pere Noel’ Special, which seemed exactly the same as every other bus except the driver wore a santa hat. We arrived at our allotted time and after a quick glass of fizz, were off out again to watch the fireworks which really were quite spectacular. (No photos though, I’ll save those for the International Firework Show in February.) We returned to Sue and Pete’s flat for a delicious turkey dinner accompanied by roasties and braised sprouts and leeks with chestnuts. Not bad with a tiny oven which only cooks for an hour at a time. After a few rounds of quizzes we bade our farewells to catch the 11.10 bus, 2 before the last one!
Whilst waiting for the said bus back the 6-7 miles to1650 the stop was invaded by a bunch of rowdy seasonniares: our colleagues, who had just finished delivering stupendous Christmas meals to their guests.
11.10 came and went, as did 11.20. The moon rose in a clear sky, not quite full but casting a brilliant glow against the white mountainside. A few others took cover from the cold in the wooden bus shelter, they were holiday makers who were also staying in 1650. Our colleagues were on their way to a bar in La Praz, a village in between. We declined their kind suggestion to join them. They became bored waiting and set off to walk the 2-3 km downhill to LP. We gave the bus until 11.30 and started walking in their wake, much to my disgust as I had asked specifically in the Tourist office if the bus service was full on 24th and 25th, which they assured me it was.
There are many unreported incidents of fatalities in the Alps each year and we are often warned against the perils of alcohol and hypothermia at night. Not providing the advertised bus service between villages late at night must be considered totally irresponsible. I feel a snotty letter to the Mairie (mayor) coming on.
We walked along the unlit (and shaded from the moonlight by thick conifers) and unpavemented road to La Praz. A pavement did materialise as we approached the village but the sheet ice didn’t facilitate running for the bus we could see stopping ahead from a different direction. The timetable at the bus stop stated that their’d be another one along in 20 minutes, from La Tania, but we had little faith in that prospect. Almost resigned to walking the further 5miles, up hill, one of the ‘tourists’ flagged down a taxi and 6 of us jumped in for the princely sum of €5 a head. We rolled into our building just after midnight. It could have been so much worse!

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