Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Another dull morning

Another climb before work this morning followed by some lift-assistance (cheating) to get perfect powder on Col du Bassachaux.

This was the first proper powder test of my new Movement Ikis - i still need to learn to ski them but they are SO much better than my too-short and too-skinny Dynastar Altitrails.

The top of the Col was extremely wind-blown (and still blowing when we were there), but the snow of yesterday fell on top of the, now compacted, first fall of the previous week.  So now we have a base and powder.  Awesome.

This photo of Natalie with Lac de Montriond in the background is also awesome - even if it's skew - it was very cold and this was taken one-handed in an extremely strong wind.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Mont Chery

So last Friday, before work, Emma (ski-racer and telemark skier), Craig (ESF ski-instructor), and Dani (champion Alpine skier (yes, seriously)), Natalie (winner, best-ski-style-according-to-me 7 years continuously, and myself (enthusiastic-but-with-no-obvious-other-skills) went for a rando up Mont Chery.  Clearly i was well qualified to be on this expedition.

Anyway, it was a stupendously good morning and i took some photos.  This was the hike up, doggies (left-to-right: Runa, Less, and Maggie) making this 25-30 degree slope look too easy.

And this was de-skinning at the rather spectacular top, after our 400m climb.  That's Point d'Uble in the background, as if you needed me to tell you that.  Scarlett is hiding behind Natalie's legs and Craig is actually busy de-skinning while i goof around taking photos.

Craig, gentleman, and did i mention, ESF ski-instructor that he is, then went to assist the ski-racer and race-champion with their own de-skinning.  I'm still taking photos.

Left to right, we have Craig (still working for the ESF as a ski-instructor in this photo), Dani, Maggie, Less (the collies), and ski-racer and most-excellent-wearer-of-hats Emma.  If you're not finding this entry funny you're missing out on the inside jokes.  If you're in on the jokes and still not finding it funny... well i can't help you with that.

Finally, Natalie got bored of me taking photos - elle s'en va:

(And thus skied off).  See why i say she has the best style?  Anyway, so then we did some more photos:

May i present: Dani (did i mention also ESF ski-instructor?) and Craig).  The acute bout of grinning may have been brought about by the view of Monn Blonn in the background.  Either that or it was Emma yelling "reblochon" as loud as she could.

May i present Natalie, and myself.  That would be a snowy Les Gets in the background.  I haven't been up this early since 1999 - hence the leaning.  And, finally, but certainly not least, we have:

Ski-racer and frequent-shouter-of-reblochon Emma with Natalie.  Personally i think Emma's hat is the best hat i've ever seen.  Anywhere. Ever.

So when are we doing this again?

First snow

Ok, so this is a bit late, but this was the result of the first snow (lasting 4 days) that we had last week.  This shot was taken at 09:00 and that rather large mountain in the distance to the right, surrounded by storm clouds, is, of course, Mont Blanc.

Click on this photo to get the full effect

By the way, you pronounce Mont Blanc "Monn Blonn".  You do not pronouce the 'c'.  Obviously - get right people.  Sheesh.  Anyway, so this was taken from the top of Mont Chery and the snowy hills in the foreground is the resort of Les Gets - pistes bashed and ready to go for the season.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Extreme Lawn-mowing

The Portes du Soleil ski resort is set out over 650km of pistes and under the snow of most of those pistes is grass.  In other resorts, at higher altitudes, you find that the pistes are made out of rock.  Rock is bad because you need more snow to cover it.  With a grass slope you need 10cm of fresh or just 5cm of hard-pack to be able to ski it (although this would be the very end of the season).

The other cool thing about grass is that you can shape it to bind to the snow better.  So here, in November, they mow the pistes just before the first snow-fall.  This makes the grass blades stick up and hold the snow better - clever huh?

Anyway, so we have a skiable slope in our back garden and last year, when i tried to ski it, i kept getting down to the bare grass as the snow slipped off the horizontal grass - not cool.  So this year, i decided to learn from the pisteurs and also mow mine... Hence, extreme lawn-mowing:

Cool orange steel-reinforced boots - this season's must have extreme lawn-mowing accessory.

Now all i need is the snow to cover it (of which there's about 1cm right now).

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Gathering Storm

Well, at least i hope it's going to be a storm. Quite a lot of people are counting on these rather spectacular clouds actually baring snow. I can confirm that at 1000m, the first spots of rain fell at 14:30 this afternoon. This is the first precipitation in over a month. Come on snow!

Clouds gathering over le Roc d'Enfer

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

My French Education: Accent

French is hard.  It's hard to say, it's hard to hear, there are oodles of rules, and the fact that you can just run all the words together and put gaps pretty much where you like, means you need a multi-pass parser to read the previous sentence spoken to you into your head several times before you get what is being said.

Anyway, this weekend i hit a milestone.  Someone (a French someone) asked me where i was from because he couldn't place my accent.  That means i'm actually speaking fluently enough to actually have an accent.  I bet a South African accent sounds rather weird in French!

Anyway, hooray for me.  So far we've bought a TV, a car, and are now starting a business in French.  We spent the last Sunday morning entirely with French (non-English-speaking) friends.  I reckon another 20 - 30 years and i'll be fluent.

I must say i really like the language, despite its difficulties for an anglophone.  It's so polite, everything rhymes, and the guttural R is the coolest sound ever made by a human.  C'est vraiment genial!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Tignes in November

This weekend, thanks to the combined team effort of some of our awesome friends out here, Natalie and i managed to get away to Tignes for some pre-season skiing on the glacier.  It was an amazing weekend away, thanks to our excellent friends who gave us place to stay and looked after Scarlett and Runa for us.

Natalie at 3100m

The apartment we stayed in was the closest possible apartment to the funiculaire - literally 50m in a straight line.  The snow at the top was surprisingly good and i've become surprisingly unfit during the summer - my salopettes were too tight!

At about 3300m trying my best to carve

The common problem for the last year has been that my old Bandits are ruined and so i've been having to ski everywhere on my Sultan 94s.  They are way too big for skiing glacier ice and hard bumps, and quite tricky to carve - i have to get my new skis soon!  I'm thinking Scott Aztec, but the jury is out... you know how good i am at making fast purchasing decisions.

Natalie, carving :)
I can heartily recommend Tignes - we've skied there in January, August, and now November.  The snow is always good, the sun has always been out and we've always had an amazing time.

The downside is it is incredibly expensive.  We spent about €150 on food for the two of us for 2 lunches and a small evening meal... incroyable.

The other downside is that you do rather feel like a beginner with all the amazing race-skiers around.  The standard of skiing is extremely high.  Most people rate resorts in terms of steepness and number of correct coloured runs to establish the beginner-friendly-ness of a resort.  I think it's smarter to just look at the average skill level of the other skiers there.  The skill level at Tignes in November is unbelievably good.  It's worth going just to watch them ski and learn from their technique.

Having said all that the lady in the background of Natalie's photo above was a statistical outlying to the number of experts out there... i think i need to airbrush her out...