Saturday, 2 January 2016

What we did on our holidays

Every so often, people suggest that I should put in more about myself on my blogs. So this week I'm indulging myself with a post about a skiing holiday in Chamonix Valley. Non-skiers can skip reading for a week.

We spend Christmas on the snow most years. The three of us (my wife, Tammy, my son, Michael, and me) love skiing and it's a chance to do something together as a family while someone else cooks Christmas dinner. This year, knowing that the snow might be poor, we set off for Chamonix and, in particular, the Argentiere ski area with its top station at 3,300 metres.

Top station at Grand Montets

When we arrived, we discovered that most of the mountain was closed because of lack of snow, but for experienced skiers the areas that were open offered a range of different runs over generally excellent snow cover. Rather to our surprise, we found the off-piste offered lots of opportunities to make fresh tracks. Here we are, doing just that, on our second day.

There’s a 30̊ slope on this run, so you definitely get a decent ski.

After four days in Argentiere, though, we were ready for a change. The rest of Chamonix Valley is quite low in comparison, so we decided to head through the Mont Blanc tunnel to have a look at Courmayeur in Italy.

There weren't many runs open, but those that were were in excellent condition. One, in particular, was a smooth but icy straight drop that Mike loved because it let him practice carves he needs for his slalom racing. We ran up and down that until we felt we had faced death rather more often than we wanted and then explored some other runs – and the local restaurant. A lovely day in Italy with 16 miles of skiing.

Tammy puzzles as to what this sign at Courmayeur could possibly mean.
Day 6 was another trip out of France: this time to Verbier. After a spectacular drive we arrived at a startlingly well maintained resort. There may not be a lot of snow around, but the Swiss pisteurs saw no reason for not offering brilliant skiing, albeit with not that many runs open. That was hardly a problem for us, as we had only a few hours to ski there. We went up to Mont Fort, which I remember as being quite scary and the first few metres did encourage thoughts of mortality, as they are both steep and icy but then there is a pleasant run down culminating in a very long 50+ mph runout. There’s this rather nice restaurant to recover in.

By Day 7 the lift to the top of Grands Montets is finally open and we are able to explore the top of the mountain. There’s minimal queuing, so we get in five runs. The snow is amazing.

Here’s the view at the top. (Yes, you just tip over the edge in front of the camera. It’s a long way down.)

And here’s Mike about to drop in from the very top of the off-piste Italian bowl.

Day 8 is Christmas Day, so we take it easy with a trip up the Flegere lift, just by our hotel. The top is fine but the piste has a muddy gap in it lower down and we decide not to do it again. The link to Brevant is closed for lack of snow, so we drive to the Brevant lift and take the cable car to the summit for a couple of easy runs. Then I hit a stone in the middle of a fast piste and Brevant loses its appeal. We decide instead to walk in the woods, which are beautiful. A lovely, easy day for Christmas.

A ski holiday doesn't mean missing out on Christmas
Boxing Day and it’s our next to last day of the holiday, so it’s back to Grand Montets and a few runs over towards the Argentiere glacier.

Posing about by the Argentiere glacier
Finally it’s Day 10 and time to go home. I make one last trip to the summit  and a couple of runs on Bouchard for old time’s sake and then we pack the gear in the car and set off down the valley.

It’s been an amazing ten days.

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