Monday, 22 March 2010

Stella Artois s’il vous plait, or ‘the worst skiing of my life, and why I’m loving it’

Picture the scene: beautiful sunshine, fresh white snow, manicured pistes and a mountain that looks like a freaking postcard. The piste-bashers are out constantly, carving out that gorgeous corduroy snow, and people everywhere are smiling and feeling smug, saying ‘this is what life is all about.’

Yeah, that was last year. Not long ago in sunny Vail, on what was one of the best weeks of my life, I thought I might just be the luckiest girl in all the world – and to be fair, I was probably in the top ten. This year however, minus a quarter of our family unit, I optimistically ventured out with just Ma and Pa to the French Alps for a week of pure skiing bliss.

By the time we reached the queue at Gatwick (note, we were queuing outside the terminal at 6:30am) I started to wonder why we hadn’t picked a different airline. An hour into the queue later, I sat on my 20kg bag of boots and thermals and wondered why we hadn’t gone to Tahiti instead.

A short flight to the world’s most inefficient airport later (thanks Chambery for that thrilling hour), we were on a coach to the mountains. The lack of snow was a little disconcerting, but we figured we would see snow once we got to our resort. Before long we were at the chalet, and shown to a room small enough to rival Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs. With three tiny single beds crammed into a tiny room, I felt like Goldilocks meets Alice in Wonderland. Fourteen people staying in a chalet that should probably sleep eight is also rather interesting – I have already made enemies with a fat man that used the term ‘fagotty’ in front of me. If you’re going to be a dick, mate, at least use a real freaking word.

And then there is the snow – slushy, sugary and in many cases non-existant, the snow is the worst stuff I have ever attempted to ski on. Gone are the days of carving gorgeous turns in the pristine powder – now I am lucky to make it down a blue run in one piece without snow plough. And skiing is something I consider myself to be not bad at – pistes that wouldn’t phase me have become ‘too narrow’ or ‘too steep’. Painkillers for breakfast and Stella for lunch is the only real way to make it through the day without crying. Combine the slightly permanent grimace with the French plaits I have been wearing and I look like I have recently enrolled in the Hitler Youth.

But alas, it is not all bad. The three course meals in the evening have been pretty darn good and the endless amount of wine is highly agreeable. We have even played the odd round of Articulate with some of the nicer guests, though I did struggle to contain the freakishly competitive side of me when it comes to board games. And though my legs ache, my feet hurt and my morale is shot to shit, I am having a wonderful week away. Promise.

Aside from discovering I do in fact still speak French, I have also discovered I have completely abnormal posture (thank you lovely French man for sorting out my boots) which makes skiing more painful. Typical – and all that time people thought I was being a drama queen! Imagine! And even though my sister is not here, the fact that Ma and Pa and I are in it together makes it rather amusing. From exchanging looks across the dinner table to sneaking off for a cheeky vino, mummy and daddy dearest have once again proven to be more than your average parents.

Though next time they tell me they’ve booked a really great chalet for skiing, I will think twice about believing them.