For the few weeks the chore routine of getting up and going snowboarding continued. (No sympathy expected). Due to lack of fresh snow, for the first week the conditions did deteriorate a little on the slopes with them getting a icy and bare which did result in some hard landings – mainly due to a lack of ability! Due to my sore coccyx I bought some “impact shorts” to protect my hips and back and suffice to say they were tested in action along with the helmet and gloves. Amazingly after a reasonably large fall on some ice where I thought I heard things breaking, I tested all my body parts and they were all intact, as was my gear. Though my jaw did feel misaligned for a day or so.
We’ve tried to book lessons, but snowboarding lessons seem to be rare and the one Mel went on was for complete beginners which wasn’t worth continuing. As such we’re still learning through our previous lessons and, of course, lots of practice.
After 2 weeks of no snow (nothing good since Christmas), we had a good dump down on a Sunday evening which meant Monday morning the slopes were absolutely superb and the weekend warriors had all cleared off leaving us to fairly empty slopes which were just amazing to play on. I spent a day with Mel trying to coach her to try and really ride the board rather than allow it to slide and she really did improve through the day. Good practice for me too as I have to spend half the time snowboarding in fakie (aka backwards/switch). But we did learn its not a great way to get on!
I also managed to go off-piste through some lovely virgin powder which was very challenging and daunting as you can’t readily stop (lest you sink) – and you don’t always know what is over the next crest – it could be a sheer drop or rocks or whatever. Anyway, I came through unscathed and left some ruined virgin snow behind me with tell-tale snow spats where I fell off.
I do have to be careful though as Mel tried to kill me…. We were getting on a 3 seater chair lift, where Mel normally goes middle and me on the right. Well one time, as I was holding the chair, she got onto the right hand seat meaning there was nowhere for me. But the chair doesn’t care and keeps moving (with my hand on it jammed behind Mel) leaving me nowhere to go bar falling into a big pile of snow and almost breaking my arm. I’m sure she wanted me to dangle and just prise my fingers off when we went over some rocks…
Also annoyingly, we went through the last of the stock of biscuits with almost 2 months till we get our resupply in Gibraltar. They did well lasting 4 weeks I guess. Diet obviously starts today then.
One of the local bars has some occasional live music which we enjoyed one evening. Typically, after ordering a couple of beers in French we get asked “Large?” in English – and then notice we are the only two people in the place drinking large beers. Must be an English thing!
After yet another snowfall the pistes were even better and we did a huge amount of boarding – a lot of it together. Mels riding is coming on well though she needs more speed, and she even ventured off piste with me. I am now okay in the powder and have had some amazing runs, but poor Mel sank and was like a turtle on its back unable to right itself for ages with cries of “Help me! Help me!”. Unfortunately I couldn’t due to being almost cramped up with laughter. More practice required for us both especially to avoid rocks and hidden holes.
Some of the runs though are absolutely superb after fresh snow, one new one I tried in particular was a huge amount of fun – deep snow, steep, rough, and loads of fresh untouched snow at the edges. Awesome fun. Sadly though the next day was gray and dreary so we decided to have a day to rest our knackered muscles.
After another couple of days I appeared to get struck down with Man-Flu – a debilitating illness understood by few women. With aching bones, sore throat & cough, and an off skew balance I thought it wise to have a day off – eagerly checking the forecast for more snow. Manning up to my illness I did continue going out but the snow getting thinner and the slopes, especially the lower ones getting icier. There is one run where you need to carry speed around a corner in order to make it over a flat-ish undulation section. Well, I carried the speed into the corner and sadly found sheet ice causing a massive smash that tested all of my safety gear (again). I came away fortunately with just a sprained wrist.
Mel has been trying to ride in fakie which has been tough but until today she remained unscathed. Sadly though, today she got wiped out in style by another female boarder causing Mel a big crash and whiplash. So she is now suffering from a sore shoulders and neck and unable to move her head much.
Eventually we’ve managed to find some intermediate lessons – I joined a session mid course (and will continue into following week), and Mel is booked for the next week. The course has an interesting mix – “Mr Pink” who pays no attention to the instructor, starts off last and HAS to overtake everyone. He wiped me out once, and wiped out a skier… One to avoid… One of the lessons we had to chase someone down a run and follow them closely. Perversely I had to chase a 12 year old girl down the mountain… Hope no one was watching! She did also have to chase me and I couldn’t escape! The lessons have highlighted a few places where I’ve been going wrong so improving all the time.
One evening there was a large ice sculpture show a couple of km away at Les Verneys with a light, music and equestrian show with fireworks. The sculptures were very impressive, but sadly the show was delayed for an hour. Not great when you are standing on pack ice in -13’C – it was flippin’ freezing!! We escaped early before our muscles froze completely.
At last our full course started, this time there was us two, a couple of Dutch girls and a couple of English guys. They all appeared to be quite good putting us towards the bottom of the class. However, the group atmosphere was great and no one seemed to mind. On the first day we were pushed a little, did some more fakie, and also went on the half-pipe in the park! Sounds more impressive than our actual performance looked!
We’re still enjoying Valloire – not quite tested all the bars yet – but had a few meals out, and having been here now over 5 weeks we’re still not bored of the place and still haven’t used all the runs. Going to have to look at the calendar soon and make onward plans – but not for a few weeks yet!