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
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 the end of the session I'd made 2.5 successful trips up the nursery slope drag lift, and was doing a slow but mostly controlled "falling leaf" back down. (actual turns = far too much for my brain to cope with). Obviously I also fell over a lot. And not just as an excuse to lie in the snow to cool down...
I was quite happy to get my skis back! But I'm glad I gave snowboarding a go, and I'm sure I'll try again at some point in future. Maybe.
I picked myself up some rather shiny new goggles, having managed to scratch the inside of my old pair. The new ones have interchangeable lenses held on with magnets, which is great if you're easily amused.
cliché chairlift selfie, pulling a stupid face
If you look closely you can see my new (bargain half price) gloves in the photo too. They're rather pink, but they actually fit inside the sleeves of my jacket so that's an improvement.
I'm amazed by how much my skiing has improved this season. Obviously I've had a lot of practise, but I think it's also helped to not have long gaps in between. Ignoring horrible mogully unpisted blacks, I don't think there was anything in either La Plagne or Serre Chevalier that I looked at and thought "nope, not even going to try that".
My favourite runs this time were probably the ones highest up - the reds down from Yret and Cibout were absolutely beautiful, particularly on our final morning when the snow conditions were best (pisted but with a sort of powdery frosty coating, if that makes any sense).