Monday, February 19, 2007

'I-I-I-I-I wanna walk in the snow'

I had an unexpectedly brilliant time on my skiing holiday dans les Alpes. I was a bit apprehensive beforehand, mainly due to the fact I wasn't sure I'd take to the skiing itself and would thus be stuck for things to do because, well, skiing is really all you do on a skiing holiday. We went to Val Thorens, one of the higher resorts in the Alps at 2300m.

As a brief segue from my consistently modest opinion of myself, I'll say this much now - I was bloody brilliant at skiing. I went with various branches of the family, most of whom had skied alot before, and they all say I'm a natural. By the end of the week I was tackling red slopes (there's a colour grading for levels of difficulty, from green --> blue --> red --> black) without falling over very much. In fact most of my falls through the week didn't come through skiing, but were generally the result of just losing my footing and falling from standing positions in embarrassing manners. I didn't hurt myself at any point, which was a bonus. That much was drummed home to me when we were at Chambery airport to come home and I saw four people who'd been in fine fettle on our outbound flight, but returning either on crutches or in a wheelchair.

I went to ski school every morning from 9am to midday, which at first seemed a bit too regimented for any self-respecting holiday. But the lessons were really good, mainly thanks to my legendary French instructor Jean-Pierre. He bears a striking resemblence to Hulk Hogan, despite not even knowing who Hulk Hogan is. [Photo of Jean Pierre, explaining how to ski]. He was really engaging, funny, and just a good teacher. The only blemish on his legendary status was that he insisted on calling me 'Patty' for the first three days, causing the rest of the class to stifle their giggles. Thankfully he eventually grasped the idea of a 'd' sound. In the afternoons I usually went out with someone from the family and just skied about, refining my technique and falling down slopes in a long, drawn-out lanky manner. I think that's the main reason I never hurt myself - all my falls took about 15 seconds to materialise so I was always well prepared for impact with the ground.

Aside from the skiing, it was just nice to be living in a winter wonderland for a week. There were a couple of beautiful days of wintry sun where everything looked perfect, and some of the scenery was stunning. It was a bit like living in a bubble for seven days, completely cut off from the real world. Everyone is focussed on their holiday and not much else. Having said that, I watched CNN on practically a rolling basis whenever I was lying about because it was the only English speaking channel we had, so I was still well clued up on the globe's most grave and pressing matters. Like the Anna Nicole Smith paternity case.

This was one of the best views I had all week. It was taken on the last day there when I tackled the red slopes from the top of Caron, the highest point of the resort. You can see how far back down I had to ski to the town (good grief):

You could see over a vast exspanse of the Alps, including Mont Blanc (highest peak, centre), and it truly felt like being on top of world. It wasn't, but it felt like it, so there.

If I could ever afford to go skiing independently again, I probably would. I never really thought I would've gone in my lifetime, and I only actually did because I was taken by the family and didn't have to pay full whack. Of course it's a frivolous, overwhelmingly white, middle class pursuit, but we all need our little distractions don't we. I feel a bit revitalised now I'm back, and I'm told my skin has taken on a healthy glow. So that's good.

A couple of extra photos:
It was so cold some days that we had icicles longer than my arms hanging from the top of our balcony.

Eeee, look how much snow there was.


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