Le soleil et la neige (or lack thereof)
December 31, 2006, 6:58 pm
Filed under: england

We woke up to our first morning in La Plagne early despite our long day before, keen to hit the slopes. After dealing with a couple more Crystal stuff-ups with our lift passes we eventually got out there, both on snowboards for the first time since Canada.

I realised that the better you get at something, the harder it is to try something else. Having not fallen down on skis for a couple of years, it was a shock having to get up again and again after falling over on the snowboard. It was lucky I was wearing my new helmet.

I quickly got the feel for snowboarding again, but given the less than perfect conditions I was hesitant to do more than leaf (the basic, safe snowboarding technique), fearful of getting overambitious and ending up with an icy nosebleed. So I wasn’t getting much speed up, and it wasn’t as exciting as snow trips should be.

I found La Plagne a pretty challenging resort for snowboarding, as there are a lot of uphill bits linking the runs, which make me fall over. I get a little bit of speed up, then see I’m coming up to a flat or uphill bit. I start thinking ‘okay, just keep balanced, keep going, just don’t fall over, because then you’ll have to get off and walk and that sucks…’ and will promptly fall over from concentrating too hard. Then the only option is to remove your bindings and skate along, while skiers zip past, or even worse if it’s uphill take your board off altogether and start trudging.

Some time in the morning I fell off coming off a ski lift and absolutely caned my leg on a pole (once again, thanks to the helmet), but the final straw towards the end of the day was when I was doing the aforementioned cruising along a flat bit, hit a rock and fell forward, skidding along the ice until my face stopped me.

I lay there for a while, gathering energy, then got up and vowed “that’s it! This sucks! That really hurt. I am not snowboarding any more unless there’s more snow!” So I packed it in, taking my snowboard back to the rental place to swap for skis, which luckily is free in La Plagne.

There on in it was smooth sailing, or skiing rather. There was no more snow so I skied the rest of the week. I zipped around, waiting patiently when Ian had to take off his board or skate, elegantly disembarking from ski lifts, able to ski right to our door, and most importantly not falling over.

Snowboarding in Europe is not the done thing, like in Australia or Canada. 80% of people ski, and 10% who were snowboarding two years ago have moved on to the next big craze, snowblades, which are the really short skis, as good for terrain parks as the slopes.

We did spend a lot of time on the slopes but there were other highlights. Many involved food. One was Ian’s first proper fondue, at a cute cabin-like restaurant at the base of Belle Plagne. Another was the constant supply of fresh, crusty baguettes and other bakery treats. Unlike in Australia, being in the middle of a mountain resort does not mean paying through the nose for fresh food. There is a bakery in Belle Plagne that has a line at all hours of the day, and it was charming watching people walking through the snow with baguettes in their hands. We indulged in French cheeses like Roquefort, and bought so many saucissons we had to take some home.

On the Thursday Ian hurt his shoulder falling over, as snowboarders do, and on Friday didn’t want to risk further damage, so we opted to return our gear early and set out for a mountain hike instead. We got the aforementioned foodstuffs together for a picnic, along with several beers, and set up the mountain (Ian carried the food of course).

We were rewarded with a sun-drenched peak with a view of Mont Blanc, where we sat and ate and drank until dusk. The food was a little less tasty than usual given it was half frozen, but the experience was worth it. We vowed next time we go on a snow trip to take a day off the slopes to do for a hike and picnic again, if the weather permits.


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