Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Drink as Much Ski as Much : The Excess Men.

They don't like change : Over the last 20 years they turn up on the same last weekend in January , stay in the Hotel de la Couronne , drink in the Office bar , dance on tables the in the Savoy Bar ,induce severe hangovers , BUT to their ever lasting credit they are always ready to go skiing or ski touring with me the next morning.

This last Friday and Saturday we had two particularity memorable trips. On the Friday , I shoe-horned them into the car and we drove to Combloux where we climbed the Petit Croisse Baulet. The view from the top was fabulous.

Yet what was particularly special was the descent off the back of the peak all the way down to the village of Le Plan.

Seemingly the day was so good that the "boys" , James, Kevin ,David, Pete, Adam, Matt did what they always do and went out to celebrate until the small hours.

So when I arrived at 8.30 am the next morning they were a little worse for wear. They claimed it was rather like altitude sickness. Again we squeezed into the car [which stank of the previous nights garlic snails] and I drove all the way to Les Contamines.
Despite a reasonable forecast the weather wasn't good. It started to snow heavily and there was thick impenetrable fog , which they claimed created motion sickness [I wonder why?]

I suggested a strategic coffee stop which was eagerly lept upon.

The coffee stop seemed to have a magical effect. They sobered up and the weather cleared up .

We were able to continue with the plan which was to skin up to the Col de La Fenetre and then make the long ski descent all theway to the valley floor and virtually back to the car.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Klosters : If there is a better skiing resort show me it.

If you can arrange it try and get to Klosters just before the
World Economic Forum which is held in the neighbouring resort of Davos. The reason is shortly after leaving the motorway at Chur there is a road block with Tanks and the Swiss Army [who contrary to popular belief are as a useful as a chocolate Tea Pot]:


But the road block has the effect of dissuading all other skiers from entering the valley. The net result is that you have the resort to yourselves. Add a fresh dump of nearly 2 meters of cold fresh snow and you are in skiing heaven.

John Cackett and I set off from Chamonix with the intention of skiing in Villars on the way. This didnt happen . There was thunder and lightening [not normal in early January] and lashing rain- also not normal but increasingly common. All that happened is we got soaking wet just getting out of the car. Not a great start , but so often the most memorable trips begin inauspiciously.

Next we drove to Klosters , negotiated the road block and arrived at the iconic Wynegg Hotel. [The Wynegg could claim to be one of the corner stones of the development of alpine skiing.] Then it snowed . It snowed for the next week.

During this time two of John's sons Finn and Leo joined us. Leo is a renowned photographer with a portfolio of some of the most famous sports stars in the world. He even took a photo of me:

Finally the good weather arrived and the combination of fabulous snow and blue skies was enjoyed by virtually no one other than the four of us.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Winter so far

The end of November we got a good cold dump of snow . Everyone was happy Eddy the new Bernese Mountain Dog had setttled in and things were looking good.

Then that was it sun sun sun . Come Christmas all the snow had gone.

Eddy now considerably bigger was confused : "What the hell has happened to all the snow?" he said .

So to the tricky question of skiing. Luckily the weather had been beautiful [hence no snow] which it meant it was possible to go high. I always think that Les Diablerets is a very good option and although it is an hour and halfs drive from Chamonix it is worth it. I went there twice in a week once with Peter Whelan and then with Stephen Yeates and Steve Trantum. The snow and conditions were excellent..

A couple of days later again with the 2 Steves we headed through the Mt Blanc tunnel and up to the [I believe] unique revolving cable car : The Helbronner. From its summit we entered the Vallee Blanche via an elevator followed by a tunnel which leads directly to the glacier.

Instead of skiing down the Vallee Blanche [due to a lack of the essential ingredient] We skinned up to the col de Entreve where we were treated to spectacular views in every direction - particularly Mt Blanc :

We then skied back the way we came on some very good snow but at the same time avoiding the double-decker bus swallowing crevasses.
A day later we skied at Grands Montets. Unusually for the Chamonix lift company they had made the effort and managed to open the top of Les Grands Montets where we found some excellent snow. This lead very nicely to the Chalet de Lognan where Eric [better known in Argentiere for his dread lock] is the chef in charge of cheese dishes [which were very good.]

Eventually there was a change in the weather - no more blue skies, but instead rain . Rain rain rain,but at least it would be snowing somewhere? Well actually no. It was just rainat all skiing altitudes. Then it snowed. Then it rained. All this resulted in a massive avalanche risk. A few days past and the weather and snow conditions settled down: momentarily.

Leo Vita-Finzi took a day off from his work with the UN in Geneva to ski with me. We failed to get past he door at Grands Montets because it closed in front of us due to horrendous winds. We headed down to Les Houches which had excellent snow in the morning but when we ventured out after lunch it was raining..

On the 10th January Peter Whelan and I were due to ski together. It was raining hard in Chamonix. Anywhere was going to be better than staying in the valley. A quick look at the meteo showed that through the Mt Blanc Tunnel it was a good deal colder and snowing hard. We went to La Thuile where we had astonishing skiing and a very good lunch