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Serre Chevalier

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This winter, I seem to have mostly been skiing. Eighteen days on the snow!  That's a week in Les Deux Alpes in December, La Plagne in February, and finally Serre Chevalier in March.  Good thing I got a large payrise when I changed jobs last summer...

For once our resort choice wasn't just down to "found a cheap late deal to somewhere with enough snow". I've been to the area in summer (kayaking, three times), it gets good reviews as a reasonably quiet resort with a high treeline, and Briancon is the sort of place that might be nice to live in for a bit if we ever figure out the logistics.  Oh, plus they'd had a big dump of the white stuff the week before ;)

blue sky, fluffy clouds, and soft snow
pretty clouds

We stayed in Villeneuve, with Pinewood chalets.  I would definitely recommend checking them out if you fancy a holiday in Serre Che (winter or summer), because we had such a good week :) OK so the building is an ugly concrete box, the dining room ceiling is bright orange and you don't get the luxury of a hot tub or sauna - but you do get a very warm welcome, good food, and entertainment at a very affordable price.  We were about a 10-15 minute walk from the lifts, or a 2 minute walk to the shuttle bus.  Which - for added novelty value - is actually a little road train.  Choo choo!

I knew from past experience that March skiing would most likely be nice and sunny, but it turned out to be a lot warmer than I'd expected.  The runs down to the towns were rather slushy and everything was getting quite chopped up by mid afternoon, especially the green and blue runs.  Reds and blacks seemed to hold up better, being less well used.  Suffice to say I've had a lot more practise at moguls... It's very much a love/hate relationship at this point.

Serre Chevalier lived up to its reputation of being quiet.  Obviously weren't there at peak season, but even so there were very few queues for lifts - and we lasted until Friday lunchtime before coming across someone skiing around with music blaring from their backpack (why do people do this?!)

There are quite a few old slow lifts (including the two seater Cibout lift, which is a bit of a shame because the runs off it are lovely), and also several steep long drags which we decided to avoid.  I'm sure I'd have survived on my skis, but Jon was not keen with his snowboard.

Speaking of which...

Snowboard taster session

I spent two hours of my Tuesday afternoon trying to learn to snowboard.  There's no proper photographic evidence so you'll have to take my word when I say it didn't exactly go well, especially to start with!  Once I'd got over the whole "this is the most unnatural feeling ever" thing it did get slightly better.  By... continue reading »

Greyt Walk

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Last Saturday we attended the "Greyt Walk and Get Together", organised by the Forever Hounds Trust. I didn't realise it was happening until about Thursday, but we didn't have anything else planned and it was nearby - on Robinswood Hill - so off we went.

dog walking

It may look nice and sunny (because it was, until about 10 minutes after we got home) but the walk was mostly rather muddy.  Obviously this doesn't bother me, but Bonnie isn't always keen to get her paws dirty or wet.  Not that she really had a choice - and she wasn't the only dog trying to avoid the mud.

I didn't count, but I reckon there must have been 20-30 dogs there.  Greyhounds, lurchers, at least one whippet, plus a couple of others.  Quite a sight for other users of the hill!

group photo
group photo

After the walk we stopped at the café for a tea/coffee (or in our case, ice cream), and a large box of dog treats appeared.  A good morning out for everyone involved!

La Plagne (again)

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Picture the scene - you're at Birmingham airport at a relatively sensible time in the morning, standing in a queue for 75 minutes for bag drop, because a certain airline who we will call SneezyWet have only got 2 check-in desks open, and one of those people keeps wandering off.
End result: despite arriving at the airport in plenty of time, there's barely time to grab a sandwich, let a lone have a pre-flight beer, before it's time to board. Oh, and then the plane gets delayed for an hour while you're sat on it, leaving you dangerously close to missing the transfer at the other end.  Grr.

A week later, you're in a Geneva airport, having arrived massively early because that's how the transfer has worked out. You watch birds flying around indoors while drinking an expensive cup of tea waiting for bag drop to open. There are about a million desks open, so the wait is only ten minutes, leaving you with plenty of time for (expensive) sandwiches and drinks after breezing though security. Oh, and then the flight is delayed, but at least you're still in the terminal at this point...

What's far more exciting, of course, is the holiday in between - my fifth week of skiing! I'm going to give up saying things like "I want to go somewhere other than France" because we ended up going to La Plagne again.

We stayed with Alpoholics in La Plagne 1800 - just up the road from the chalet we stayed in last year.  The chalet was well kitted out - sauna, hot tub, cinema room - and a professional chef to provide us with really good food.

The week started with two days of heavy snow, then two days of light snow, and two days of sunshine.  Lots of lovely powder.  I had a private lesson near the start of the week which massively helped with finally getting rid of the large hint of snowplough from my turns.  Yay, progress!  That said, I really didn't like it when I (deliberately) ended up in some off piste powder.  More learning required.

Compare these two images taken waiting for the Vanoise Express over to Les Arcs - the first from the Monday, the second from the Thursday.

different weather conditions at the Vanoise Express
Sunshine makes such a difference

Our two trips over to Les Arcs means I covered more pistes there this time than in my whole week of learning to ski there.

I think my favourite runs were probably on the Champagny side of La Plagne, and also the two red runs under the La Roche lift.  It helps that the latter were really quiet the first time we did them (at about lunchtime)

snowy alps

As many resorts do now, Paradiski has a smartphone app - called Yuge - which gives you real time info on lifts, pistes, and queues and lets you track your skiing (including tracking lifts... continue reading »