Saturday, 22 March 2014

Soooo much Snoooow....

We've had a few friends come and visit us...

Coming out to a mountain is different, it's why I do it, (that and a small thing called snowboarding!) But every once in a while it's nice to have some familiarity, and what better way than with friends?!

Ben and Lindsay were just guests last year... People who arrive on a Sunday and we look after... until the following Sunday... Holiday makers, you've probably been one? But Ben, Lindsay and a few of the other guests on that week turned in to friends. When you finish the night pilled up like a Jenga set on the dining room table, you know you've made a bond!

Ben, Chris, Me and Laura
And when I say friends I mean Facebook friends! Oh yes, that epitomy of stalker tools that let's you follow every single geographical movement, which, along with this blog, Ben followed us rambling around Europe through the summer season. He also picked up straight away when we posted that we would be returning to the chalet we ran last year and sent us a message giddy with excitement.

Kerry and I had hoped that Ben and Lindsay would return... A good set of guest means a good week in a chalet, not only for the guests themselves but for us, their hosts. So we too got excited about their return.

We were all doing the snow dance and man did it pay off! The beginning of the season was a little patchy on snow. Still ride able, just not what we were used to from last season. We had buckets of snow the week before Ben arrived and the week was made up on riding some very fresh powder on one of the emptiest weeks of the season.

Our manager and maintenance guy came over from Tignes one day and we blasted round the mountain finding all the best bits until early afternoon when Ben and I gave them an initiation to Crystal Dark, an off piste, yet piste poled run, on the far right hand side of resort. It was so lush, it seemed that hardly anyone had been down it and I don't think we saw a single soul in the 4 or 5 runs we did consecutively...

A small ridge type jump had been created, presumably by the wind, but possibly just following a contour of the land underneath. It turned out to be a nice, if a bit of a steep, jump and we all had fun hitting it as fast as we dared. I even managed to pull off a front flip/roll much to the surprise of my manager as you can hear...

Crystal Dark was re-named Crystal Meth... Once you've done it once it's sooo addictive, especially in these ideal conditions. I posted what was meant to be comical comment about loving Crystal Meth which backfired as I received worried and concerned comments and even an email from my Dad who doesn't have Facebook! Don't tell porkies about doing drugs kids! There's too many people that love you!

A few days later and a bit of chaos came to town. Ben and I were out, first run of the day, head to the top and cruise down the piste to a little off pistey bit ... Normal routine really. I shoot down the piste and sit on the top of a little hip ready to make the decent in to the powdery stuff. Turn around and Ben's had a little spill. Normal routine really! (We are boarders!) Little falls etc are common place with boarding, if your not falling your not trying... So I turn back to the mountain to plan our route down, after 10 seconds or so turn back to see if Ben is ready to set off.

He's still on the floor. Not normal routine. Normally you bounce back up, ride down and make up some excuse like you were trying a 'Backside Double McTwist off of that little lip man'. Ben finally gets up and gingerly makes his way down to me, clutching at his arm. Apologies are flying by this time and I assure Ben there's no need to be sorry, are you hurt?

      "I think I've done something to my shoulder, just have a quick feel see if it feels wrong compared to my other one"

So I'm stood there in the middle of the piste giving what either looks like a very hands on prep talk to my friend, or an impromptu massage. One things for sure, Ben's shoulder is not right!

Even through his ski jacket I can feel that his right shoulder has an egg shaped and sized 'lump' coming out of it. That's not right. Ben is confident he can make it down the mountain so we both make a slow but steady decent, mainly on our heel edges, until the top of the first lift where we unstrap and ride the chair lift down. In the mean time Lindsay and her sister are still having their snowboard lesson so Ben and I settle down on the sofa to research exactly what could be this protrusion sticking out of his shoulder.

An AC seperation is the most likely cause, basically where a big bit that is meant to be held down, is sticking up. I'm a doctor in the making! I know it's serious when Ben asks me to sit on the other sofa so he can lie down as he feels sick. Lindsay came back around lunch time and she packed a bag to go down to the hospital in Bourg with Ben.

A day later and only hours after having an operation to get some wire work done in his shoulder and Ben is signing himself out of hospital to come back to the chalet... Our cooking must be good! I was gutted for Ben. He'd looked forward to coming back out to the alps for so long and we'd chatted about it online for weeks before. Now he was unable to board for the last 2 days. But I guess that's the risk with 'Xtreme' sports.

I just don't know how, over 2 seasons, I haven't hurt anything yet?!

Sainte Foy - Top to Bottom Challenge 2014

I'm not competitive, until I think I may actually be able to win!...

We'd eaten all of the powder in Sainte Foy, a resort renowned for it's off piste. Unfortunately the lack of snow fall coupled with the sheer number (comparatively speaking as there is normally only 20 people on the slopes!) took it's toll on the fresh stuff.

We ventured a little further afield as well, chomping some lovely fresh lines down the Col de Granier. It was pretty handy really. Our guests were split quite nicely in ski/board ability allowing Kerry and I to go and do some more adventurous stuff with the better boarders, but their friends and partners were able to ski together and have a good time as well.

One evening over dinner it was decided... There was no more off piste powder runs out there so to spruce up the last days riding with some really awesome guests, a race was discussed.

And so was the birth of the Sainte Foy - Top to Bottom challenge. A no holes barred, gumball rally of a race, in no way official riding at high speed on live pistes to see which of the contenders was the fasted snowboarder.

There were only a few rules;

#1 - No off piste. No cutting corners, secret couloirs or tree runs, only between those piste poles

#2 - Any route. Any combination of pisted runs could be used to get from the Col de l'Aiguille 2620m to the finish line in front of the Maison a Colonnes in resort 1550m

And that's about it... Just get from the top to the bottom!

Headed towards the Col de Granier
3 riders were up for the challenge... myself included. And I instantly started to regret that decision. I ride with guests... a lot. Kerry and I ride with nearly every single guest who stay at our chalet, and almost every day of the week. And the last time a race was proposed, last season, I spectacularly wiped out a skiing guest who didn't take too lightly to getting intimate with me at 30mph!

The other contenders were awesome boarders as well, but named Steve, and both out to show this 'young buck' just what boarding is...

We went through a brief 'course initiation'. We were limited by our route because the local ski club had shut the l'Arpettaz piste (8) forcing us all on to the red to the right of the map, Creux de Formeian (4). Both Steves also took a slightly longer route down, making a win very easy for me! But my conscience got the better of me and I showed then the shorter route.


Sainte Foy piste map
Then the moment everyone had been waiting for.... Myself and the two Steves got on the lift at the bottom as the rest of the inhabitants from the chalet took up their positions on the sun terrace on the finish line. Kerry and another guest were to be positioned mid way up resort where they could see most of the action and relay the details, commentary style, down to the finish using 2 way radios.

Steve, Steve and I all agreed that we had hyped up this race waaaay too much. It took 30 minutes for us to ride the 3 lifts to the top, sipping drams of whiskey to calm our nerves or bolster our bravado, depending on the rider.

At the top we strapped in and waited for our signal to go, being given by Kerry on the radio... However then disaster struck, we had just dipped over the other side of the mountain and could no longer hear anyone on the tiny radio. We later found out that our friends at the finish could hear everything we were saying, but we heard nothing. A phone call came from Steve's mate from the same position as Kerry and a count down was started... 20 seconds.

As I counted down Steve rushed to put his phone back in his pocket, gloves on and prepare for the start. Then, finally, the moment of truth as we set off down the hill.

Cattle Bell trophies
We were quick, very quick, and I winced at the thought of catching an edge at these speeds. I made the first break for freedom straight off the bat. And now all I needed to do was hold on for dear life and keep it that way, with the two Steve's behind me.

All was dandy and I was loving it, wooping and cheering as I hit a big dip at high speed, forcing my legs up against the compression, but it all came unstuck as I crested the next hill and slid out, then caught my heal edge trying to get back up and clouting my head in to the floor.

I had a quick sitrep moment as I checked whether I'd actually hurt myself or broken anything. I'd crashed at the fastest point of the run so far, later finding out I was going 57mph! Luckily nothing but my lead in the race had taken a battering as I glanced up from the floor to find Steve, who was previously in 3rd, shooting past me laughing his head off! As I spun round on my stomach trying to get the board under me before taking chase I noticed the other Steve was floundering around on the floor just like me! 2 of us crashing out allowing last place to become 1st!

Now we were on. I was sat in 2nd place after composing myself and pointing the board straight down the hill. I could see Steve in 1st way out in front and could hear the other Steve close behind me, edges shooshing on the hard icey piste. Then my chance, Steve in front slipped, only slightly, but enough to put him on his arse, and enough for me to take the tighter line past him, rubbing it in with woops and cheers!

All I had to do now was hold on to the lead again. We'd just passed the point Kerry should have been at spectating, but I couldn't take my eyes off the piste in front of me to look. The trouble with going fast on a snowboard is that the fasted way is to point the board straight down the hill, but that position also means it's harder to maintain an edge, and very easy to catch an edge, at high speed. It's a catch 22 type thing.

The next section was fairly shaded by the trees on either side, that shade meant more ice, proper ice, icey ice! I was really quick here, taking advantage and pushing out further. A few people on the piste must have had a shock as I crested a hill and tore through the group followed by Steve and Steve chasing!

The last part of the course is slightly slower, a bit warmer and a lot slushier, not ideal for speed but an even playing field. I chanced a look back and took great delight in not seeing the Steve's, I was nearly home and dry and gunned it as fast as I could getting air off of little piles of snow on the piste until a particularly tricky (for me at least) section where I would normally cut off the corner. However, rule number 1 of Top to Bottom challenge #1 - No off piste, so I had to put in a big turn to scrape the speed off and correct my course, dipping to the left of the piste poles instead of heading off in to the wilderness.

Steve, me and Steve receiving our Cattle Bell trophies
I came screaming round the last corner, hands raised in jubilation, I'd won, It had taken me 4 minutes 20 seconds to do it, but I'd done it. Steve and Steve weren't far behind though, I'm glad I didn't fall again after that first one!

Later that night we had a 'Prize giving ceremony' for the trophies for the first Sainte Foy Top to Bottom Challenge. The others told us that everyone on the sun terrace were huddled around the radio listening as Kerry and Mark gave some amazing Murray Walker like commentary like "There's 3 of them coming down!" and "Someones in first but we don't know who!"

It was an amazing day, captured on some sketchy placed gopro's, check out the video below

I'm looking forward to the 2015 Sainte Foy Top to Bottom Challenge.... Will I be racing you?



Thursday, 13 March 2014

Kids kids and more kids...

We've just had 3 weeks of constant kids.

And kids are great. They think your the bomb because you've got a snowboard and they are on ski's, you can kind of get away with play fighting with them, and if their naughty you can also kind of get away with giving them a bit of a telling off.

Getting attacked by the twins

Our first bunch were Isabelle, Martha and James. All lovely kids with very different personalities. Martha couldn't resist but try and be in every single video shot, James begged me to follow him on the jumps and Isabelle, slightly older, took all this is her stride with an elegant swoosh past me. The resulting video is a wopper.

Isabelle, Martha and James
)

We could have done with a few relaxing weeks larking about with those guys but we were straight in to another week, This time with 4 kids from two families.

The Brebners video comes first and shows just how crazy the whole family are! Mum and Dad were just as keen to show off their skiing skills (even if this did mean wiping out the kids (or themselves) at the same time!)

Their video is over on youtube here

And then there's Marnie and Oscar, 7 and 9, for who it was the first time skiing on snow! From Brighton, (Just down the road from my home town) the whole family had a happy go lucky look at life, throwing themselves whole heartedly down the mountain. I especially like Marnie's dog who rode attached to her helmet to give her a bit more bump protection when she fell over.

Marnie and Oscar


Oscar has even made his own website over at http://oscaractually.co.uk/ so he can practice his HTML.... at 9 years old! Check it out for instructions to make a Coke bottle explode

The whole family on the chair


Normally I like hooning about in the deep stuff off piste. However, over the last few weeks I've thoroughly enjoyed these kids company and the crazy riding I've had to do to keep up with them.

If you've got kids... go skiing........ If your going skiing..... get baby makin'!

Children add a lot of fun to a skiing holiday!