Yesterday, our day off this week, involved us getting out of resort for the first time since we arrived at the beginning of December. We haven’t felt confined, constrained or stir crazy at all despite the smallness of the village once we got our bearings. We have actually travelled far and wide whilst skiing the 250km available and even saw a signpost to one of favourite haunts as we reached the bottom of the mountain which stated that it would be a further 24km by road to reach Auris, but only 3 lifts by our usual route. It even felt a little odd as we got on a bus for the first time after the numerous ones we’d sat upon since we left Reading in the early days of training.
We descended the famous 21 bends, well, they’re well known if you’re a fan of the Tour De France, but why anyone would possibly want to cycle up them is beyond me. Our arrival, three months ago, had been mostly in the dark and through the cloud level so it was interesting to see our route for the first time. We came below the snow line quickly, higher on this south facing slope, where I even spotted some primroses in the scrubby undergrowth, flattened by the weight of several weeks of snow.
The bus journey was only just an hour, tho’ we’d been led to believe it was longer. A few of our colleagues, as a birthday treat for Sorcha, had opted for the 4 minute helicopter ride so I suspect that that company spread the rumours of the length of bus journey. The 4 girls had passed us on the way to the altiport whilst we were stood at the bus stop. I think we were the only ones not to bat an eyelid at the banana parade coming up the road. Some guests had left the outfits in one of the chalets earlier in the season, so it seemed like a good idea! 2 more bananas joined us on the bus with a third keeping her’s in her back pack. Some of the hotel staff and others from the social group were also on the trip so we were quite a number in total, with more joining us via helicopter and minibus later.
We weren’t too impressed with the town on arrival and even less so with the piste map which was barely discernible however the snow was lovely, better than ADH (Alp d’huez) had been on Monday and the forecast had been too pessimistic saying that it would be the only cloudy day of the week. This was obviously incorrect when one observed all the panda eyes on the return bus. The group split fairly quickly with the hardened adrenalin junkies and boarders heading off for the black runs and the rest of us wanting to meet up with the first helicopter group which comprised the initial bananas, our fellow chalet hosts. We did managed to find them when we reached the glacier as they were quite easy to spot! We spent the morning skiing in a big group for the first time this season which was good fun and the costumes did seem to attract significant attention although later in the day we were most miffed to spot another bunch of bananas!
We had met up with a helicopter group from the hotels but did manage to get together with the rest of our reps etc for lunch who’d come over later in the minibus after doing the pastries for breakfast in our chalets first (as the usually do on our day off, this wasn’t a special favour). We picnicked on the piste in glorious sunshine, accompanied by some great fizz kindly brought by our boss. It is a bit of a dilemma, when one has to ski back down a mountain, to know how much to drink; both from a balance perspective but also the necessity to find comfort facilities and then bother to get out of skis and disrobe but we managed to find a happy medium.
We did a little more skiing in the afternoon but had to ensure that we didn’t miss the last bus back which we understood to be 5.20 although the driver had said emphatically that it was 5pm. I think she had a premonition that certain individuals might miss it!! Part of the afternoon’s activities seemed to include a mandatory visit to Pano Bar. Little did we realise that this was the DH equivalent of Folie Douce but more so. When we finally arrived after our afternoon group had disbanded, unintentionally we hope – the four of us were the laggers or so we thought until we found out that there was one poor soul even further behind on his own, Ben our delivery guy and driver – we found most of our group had staged a takeover bid of the dance stage and were giving it some, busting some moves and generally showing DH how it’s done in ADH!
We knew that the descent from here would be quite tricky as we’d heard that the whole bottom section are a series of black runs. We were tired, had had a bit to drink and whilst the snow was beautiful at the top, the day-long sunshine meant that it was quite churned up lower down. Roger and I left the bar whilst everyone was still in full swing and started our descent which also involved a lift halfway back up to traverse across to pickup a red run down. On peering over the edge I lost my nerve and we skied back across to take a cabin. It was 5pm when we joined the queue which seems quite short. It was only on our entrance into the building that we saw that it was twice as long inside. We’re we going to be the numpties who missed the bus despite being the first to leave?
When we reached the bus station we were a little surprised to find most of our colleagues sitting enjoying the late afternoon sun, how had the done that?! We’ve still to find out because I know that at least a couple couldn’t have managed the blacks. Anyway all’s well that ends well or is it? The bus journey back was a revelation in embarrassment with us shrinking lower and lower into our seats disowning any connection to the rowdy bunch at the back who seemed to be annoying the other passengers quite significantly, starting with 3 of them missing the bus and having to be picked up in the centre of the high street and the driver nearly giving all of us a whiplash injury when she slammed on the brakes and, despite being knee high to a grasshopper, strode to the back of the bus, laying into them in fluent and florid French where one didn’t need a translator to pick up the gist of her message!
A table had been booked for 25 for a meal in the evening but we declined on the basis of tiredness (and sunburn) so headed back to our little refuge to enjoy our own bottle of wine with leavings over from the pork meal in relative peace and tranquility. It had been a great day and it was lovely to have some super snow again. More is due here again at the weekend so don’t worry Nik, we’ll save some for you. I wonder why it mostly snows at weekends here, does the weather know it’s changeover day?