January 01, 2005

The final count down
We've been in the final stages of preparation for the trip since we returned from Verbier. By now I'm convinced that we will manage to expand the preparation required to fill the time available, so I'm quite glad that we're into the last couple of days...

We have lots of bags and boxes all over the flat. We're hopeful that they'll fit into the car. We'll find out tomorrow morning... We have a whole day to repack if we have problems... Scariest thing today? I almost ended up taking more shoes than Michelle... Would I ever live that one down?

January 02, 2005

Bags into car...
So, first thing this morning we had all these bags and a car and before we started to put them in it looked like they'd fit with no problem at all... Next time we should get a Land Cruiser and a bigger roof box... By the end of the day, the very end :(, the bags were all in the car... I ended up ditching my Vew-Do board as I expect I'll be doing plenty of balancing on snow and wont get the chance to use the boad... I also ditched my juggling clubs, again, I don't really think I'd use them... I think Michelle left jacket number 1072 behind ;) The car still moves, which, I think, was touch and go at times... I wonder if bags will also fit in the appartment and if so if all the things in the bags could ever be unpacked there... We'll see real soon now, I guess. I'm thinking that we're not the kind of people who could go backpacking....

January 03, 2005

The drive
The journey from Miche's parent's place in Sevenoaks, Kent, to Megève was pretty easy. We left at 7.00am and caught the 8.40 EuroTunnel train. The journey was uneventful, the roads in France were pretty quiet and we reached Megève after around 9 and a half hours in France, including 4 or 5 stops.

January 04, 2005

Unpack and chill
After our arrival pizza we unpacked just enough to make up our bed and get to the essentials then we hit the sack. We set the alarm for 9am and turned it off and slept on until around 11.30. (I must own up to having got up at 8am and glanced out of the window and decided that since there was no fresh snow it was OK to sleep in...). When we finally crawled out from under the duvet we discovered that the alarm clock had decided that it was still in the UK and had reset itself to UK time overnight so it was actually an hour later than we expected...

No Internet access
I knew the apartment didn't have broadband internet. I had hoped that someone nearby might have WIFI that I could make use of, I even brought an access point that I could put into bridge mode and some long CAT5 in case I could only get reception on a balcony and wanted to pipe it inside... No luck.

January 05, 2005

Ski Day 1 - Megève
Today was another beautiful day; cold but bright sunshine and clear blue skies. We got up reasonably early, sorted out all of our stuff and drove up to the Rochebrune lift; plenty of underground parking that's free if you have a lift ticket... We bought our season passes (357 each - today was the day that the price went down, the season pass is cheaper if bought in mid November or after 4th Jan...). We had expected to have to buy the season pass tomorrow, the translated price list said that it was available after the 5th... We were expecting to pay 32 each for today and then get the season pass tomorrow. We skied mostly around Rochebrune, off of La Petite Fountaine and around L'Alpette. A relaxed and easy day. I was taking it easy as it was the first day back on snow since my knee has healed. I was a bit shakey on the first run but soon got back into it and the knee was fine. The 64 that we saved on lift passes for the day went on lunch at L'Alpette...

This evening we drove up to Mont d'Arbois to visit Lucy's new chalet. Lucy's the ESF instructor and all round super woman that we skied with last year. This year (in addition to teaching for the ESF) she's running OriginalSki.com and doing high end catered chalet stuff in a wonderful new 5 bedroom chalet up by the Mont d'Arbois lift. Lucy worked as a chef at the altiport restaurant here and has cooked for us in the UK; she's a great cook and I'm sure that her new venture will be a roaring success.

War driving
Miche drove back from Lucy's and I rode shotgun with my PDA on WIFI detect... The good news is that there's lots of WIFI in town and some of it looks like it's free public access stuff. We'll do a scan on foot tomorrow evening and, hopefully, locate some likely targets.

January 06, 2005

It's precipitation Jim, but not as we'd like it
It was a warm night, the glowing red temperature display on the bedroom ceiling didn't go below zero and we woke to it being 2.2'C. It had been -6 on the 4th and -2 yesterday, so we seem to have a trend... Not surprisingly the clear skies had gone and it was cloudy. Rather anoyingly it was raining. Still, it might be falling as snow higher up; best get up there and find out...

Ski Day 2: Fresh snow and last lifts on Mont Joly
Today we skied with Jonathan, Lucy's other half. He took us around the Mont d'Arbois side of things. We warmed up on the run down to L'Ideal chair, then skied off of Mont Joux and L'Epaule for a while and down to Les Communailles for lunch. The rain at village level was light snow higher up and the visibility was pretty poor all morning. After lunch the sky cleared and we skied off of Mont Joly, off piste in fresh snow under the Mont Joly lift; very nice. Unfortunately we'd spent rather too long at lunch and lost track of time. First the Mont Joly lift stopped so we cut short our descent and traversed across towards the L'Epaule lift... Then that lift stopped - dead on time. We were left with a yomp up to the drag lift that takes you up to the top of the ridge where the Mont Joux III chair stops, this lift was also closed, but still running and we rode up just in front of the pisteurs who were sweeping the slopes for strays like us. From there it was a gentle ski down to the Mont d'Arbois base on deserted slopes - things get quiet pretty quickly once the lifts stop... All in all a great day, if a little hectic at the end...

Pelforth Brune - Beer of the week
This week we've mostly been drinking Pelforth Brune. We picked up some at Carrefour and most of it has now gone :( It's a dark larger with a slightly nutty flavour. Recommended.

January 07, 2005

Ski Day 3: An afternoon in Le Jaillet
We spent the afternoon sking the Le Jaillet area (strangely, it seems that you dont pronounce the "ll") with Jonathan - he had a meeting at 4pm so we felt it unlikely we'd have a repeat of the Mont Jolly experience ;)

Lots of walking and not much chalking
We finally went into town for dinner tonight, we cooked at home two nights this week and visted Lucy so we haven't had a chance to eat out yet. On our walk into town I wandered along like a true geek with my PDA out and on WIFI detect mode... There were lots of active access points but most of them were either locked down or pay and I dont tend to register with the pay places until I find one that's in a useful location and serves decent beer... There was one hotel that was providing free wifi to guests and people who stood on one leg in the road outside the hotel with their equipment above their head; I managed to collect two thirds of my email before my hands froze off. There's supposed to be an apres ski bar that has wifi and there's always McDonalds, or the internet cafe... I expect I'll get something more reliable sorted out next week.

Week in review: 1
We arrived, unpacked purchased our season passes and started to get to know the local ski areas a bit. The snow's pretty variable; certainly not what you'd call "good", but there is snow and most of the runs are open. The weather has been generally sunny, though we had some fresh snow mid week. Lots of the front side of Mont d'Arbois and Jaillet is turning brown but due to the nature of the underlying mountains (mostly grassy meadows) this isn't as much of a problem as in a resort where the underlying mountain is mostly rocks. The apartment is cool, pretty much what we expected and the walk back from town is long enough to help dinner go down. The TV's a little small, but then so's the lounge, so it's not that much of an issue; the PS2 works, DVDs play and we've started watching Firefly, which is pretty amusing and the plots are even more like those of a role playing game than Buffy. The 0044 SFR SIM works fine but nobody nearby has WIFI we can use :( We still haven't located a cheap internet connection but we haven't tried that hard yet.

January 08, 2005

Dehydration and tiredness
We've been finding it difficult to get up in the mornings - no strange thing there, but we haven't been skiing hard and we haven't been partying hard and well, we should be doing better. Tonight we have our first visitors in town, so we'll need to be up and about early tomorrow as they'll want to hit the slopes earlier than we have been...

Retro skis and Cote 2000
As I discovered a while back, my skis are dead. I've got around 12-13 weeks out of them so I can't complain, but the timing wasn't quite right - I hadn't already bought a new pair. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow an identical pair from Chris, Michelle's brother.

January 09, 2005

The best places to ski on Mont d'Arbois
Michelle, Chris and I all skied with Lucy this morning. The idea was to have some guiding around the area, jump some lift queues and pick up a few technique tips, very low-key instruction, nice and easy.

Freespot - wifi
I walked another quarter of the village this evening with the pda in wifi detect mode. Unfortunately both the bar that's supposed to have internet access and the internet cafe were closed. I located numerous access points; mostly pay per go SFR points and locked down shops. One access point was open and named in such a way that it's likely that it's supposed to be open rather than just poorly secured - Freespot.

January 10, 2005

Learn from many different masters
Michelle's mum, Pat, had a bit of a fall yesterday afternoon on her lesson and hurt her ankle a bit so we ended up with a full day of instruction today rather than just a half day. We skied on the Rochebrune side and Lucy worked us hard all day. I discovered that although the Axendo's were fine for pottering around on they were hard work during the lesson; the others had much more success at the carving practice than I did.

January 11, 2005

Rossignol B2s
Today I skied on 170cm Rossignol B2s, the shortest, fattest ski I've ever skied. At first I thought they'd be better named B52s as they felt huge and lumbering, I was not impressed; the added width under the foot meaning that the fast edge control that I had had with my XScreams had vanished and been replaced by no control at all :( I was not a happy bunny on the first few runs.

January 12, 2005

Les Gets
We drove for 50 mins to Les Gets this morning. Chris and Hilary wanted to visit the site of the apartment that they're having built and we'd heard the snow was a little better over that way. None of us had skied the area before so it was useful to have Lucy along to guide us around. Pat managed a lesson in the afternoon and discovered that her ankle hurts less when skiing than it does when walking, result!

January 13, 2005

A sprinkling of snow and a morning of cloud
Clouds rolled in yesterday evening and this morning the mountains were completely shrouded. It was dull below the cloud and the peaks weren't high enough to get above them. We skied over at Cote 2000 for most of the morning on around 2cms of fresh snow (don't knock it) and limited visibility. Today I was skiing on Dynastar 8000's (178s). They're a softer ski than the Rossignol B2s, with a similar shape and a slightly shorter turn radius. It was pretty hard to compare the two different skis as the conditions today were so different to yesterday at Les Gets. The lack of visibility meant that we were feeling our way around rather than carving the place up. We headed over to Mont d'Arbois for a late lunch at the Igloo with the non-skiiers. A nice lunch of pan fried Mullet.

January 14, 2005

I didn't sleep especially well, kept waking up cold, or hot, and I think I saw every hour glowing red on the ceiling between 10.30 last night and 7.30 this morning. My stomach was feeling a little tweaky first thing so I decided to stay in bed whilst the others headed off to Les Contamines, no sense skiing whilst tired and sick when we have so much more time; I didn't want to have an accident and hurt my knee again. So, hopefully Miche will report back from Les Contamines. Having dozed and read until around 3.30 I'm now off into town to find some WIFI.

I drove down, parked and walked into town with my PDA. I must have missed the point where Freespot was strongest last time as I ended up opposite the Internet Cafe (secured, not too surprisingly) and outside a bar that was supposed to have WIFI. I didn't connect to Freespot (must buy some chalk and make some marks on the fences next time ;) ) but I managed to connect to another access point and do my mail. I still couldn't manage to get outgoing mail to work :( I'm not entiredly sure what's wrong... I'll spend more time investigating tomorrow when we will hike down with the laptop and spend some time in the bar.

January 15, 2005

Miche's first report
Phew! It has been a hectic 12 days since we arrived and this is my first opportunity to post something to the blog. Len has been busy posting every day (sometimes more than once a day) but he has two...

Skiing in Les Contamines
Yesterday we went to Les Contamines. We went with Lucy for the last day of our lessons. We had arranged to have Lucy for the whole week but she was mainly meant to be teaching my Mum (from 11am every day until the end of the day). However, since Mum hurt her ankle, she only skiied in the afternoons on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That meant that Chris, Len and I had lessons with Lucy in the morning, then everyone met up at lunchtime and Mum had her lesson in the afternoon. On Friday, Lucy suggested going to Les Contamines as the snow was meant to be better there and it would also make a change for the final day. Unfortunately, Len was still feeling dodgy and so opted to stay in bed for the day.

Ok, so I gave in and paid for it
We went looking for free WIFI that was accessible from a bar that served good beer and eventually gave up and went to the Internet Cafe, Alpinet, and paid 16 for 3 hours. The guy there is pretty accomodating, although he didn't have WIFI, he was happy to let me unplug one of his PCs and plug my laptop into his 4Mbit connection and time my connection usage manually (normally the PCs do the timing based on a username/password comnbo, but he can't rely on that if you plug your own gear in). I posted all of my blog back issues, caught up on my email - wanadoo only allows outgoing mail via their own smtp server so I needed to change my settings a bit (I expect these changed settings will let me send email from my PDA via the unsecured WIFI access points...). Whilst I was busy, Miche spent an hour and half fighting with the french keyboard on one of his PCs - it's no fun having a "strange" keyboard when you can touch type... Hopefully we can reconfigure one of the PCs to think it has a QWERTY keyboard and then she can just type on trust next time... So, finally we have posted something... More as and when...

Week 2
The second week has been much like a normal ski holiday. Up for first lifts, home for a quick shower and then out for food and wine; rinse, repeat. It was good fun but hard work compared with week 1. We had more lessons than we were expecting, due to Pat hurting her ankle early on. We had expected to have Lucy between 9 and 11 each morning (Pat doesn't do first lifts...) and instead we had most of the day on most of the days; this was good for us as it made us work harder and also got us around the resort (and nearby resorts). My knee is feeling much better now and I expect I'll ski without the knee support next week sometime. Now for a couple of lazy days...

January 16, 2005

Note to self: Always carry the camera
We didn't ski today, decided to have a quiet Sunday. We went for a walk around lunch time to get a paper (we haven't heard any news since we've been here) and to explore the town a bit more. We knew that this weekend was the Polo on Snow weekend but we didn't know where it was. We found it, we should have had a camera...

I need a better lighter
Before the trip I decided that I'd try and save money (hmm) and service our skis myself. I bought a book or two, worked out the tools I needed and bought them and put them all in a box. Today I opened the box, read some of the book and used some of the tools...

January 17, 2005

Back the the ol' 9 to 5
We skied in Les Contamines today. Michelle and Chris has skied there on Friday but I'd stayed in bed so it's the first time I've skied there for a couple of years. I was skiing on Head Monster M70's as the hire shop didn't have the Dynastar 8000's in; these were supposed to be somewhere between the B2s and the Dynastars. They certainly felt much more like B2s than the Dynastars. Overall I think I prefer the B2s to the Monsters and I'm still not sure about the Dynastars, they're easier to ski than either of the other two but they seem to lack a little in edge hold, and the edge hold of the B2s is SO reassuring...

January 18, 2005

We were planning to ski in St Gervais today, we haven't been down there yet and I was hoping that, perhaps, the snow would be better down there (hmm). Anyway, that plan was binned when we looked out of the kitchen window this morning just after breakfast and saw that snow was starting to fall. It's still falling...

January 19, 2005

Still snowing
When I got the car out just now I decided to measure the snow depth in the carpark. We have 30cms down here at village level and it's still falling. The clear skies that were forecast haven't materialised so it...

Powder day
We got up early and did the obligatory tape measure thing... The clear skies hadn't arrived so we skied in snow clouds and snow... We got the 2nd lift out of Rochebrune rather than first and it was crammed; so much so that Miche was pressed into a strange position and her legs ached by the time we reached the top...

Morzine vs Dijon
We drove to Morzine tonight for the ice hockey game between Morzine and Dijon. We'd been invited by Jerome Baud, the estate agent who's dealing with Chris and Hilary's property purchase in Morzine. Jerome had some tickets put aside for us, which was handy as the place was packed...

January 20, 2005

More snow
Today Miche hired the Dynastar Exclusive Legend (women's version of the 8000's) and had a much better day than yesterday. I had a couple of good face plants which proved I was trying hard enough and that I still have a lot to learn. One amusing moment left me face first in the powder with both skis detached and Miche calling down from above that I really shouldn't have lifted my right ski off of the ground during that last turn... Lift foot in powder, watch other ski dive, detach and leave me on one and then have that one detach and leave me face down in the fluff.

January 21, 2005

I eventually bought the B2s
Having been unable to locate a pair of the Dynastar 8000's to try on the hard packed conditions to compare the performance with the B2s I decided that I'd go for the B2s anyway. I was already pretty convinced that the B2s were the ones for me and I got to the point where I didn't want to be skiing the XScreams anymore. Want new toy now... I decided that I'd go with the B2s and picked them up from the shop this morning... Now to try them out on this nice new snow...

Yet more snow...
Today was another day of cloud, low visibility and snow. Unfortunately the freezing level was just above the village so it was raining when we left...

January 22, 2005

Still snowing...
It's still snowing. It seems to stop for a while some evenings, and sometimes it becomes rain at village level; it's around 0'C most of the time, just dipping slightly into negatives. It's been snowing every day now since Tuesday, so I think the lack of snow problem has been replaced by a danger of avalanche problem. On piste is fine, it's just the off piste stuff that's dangerous and not recommended at present. The "staying alive" book says that the rapid loading of snow that we've had and the warm temperatures mean a high likelihood of problems; and the yellow and black flags are flying and we're on level 4 warnings so we're staying on the piste and playing in the safe fluff for now.

Black powder...
We skied the tree-lined blacks on Mont d'Arbois today. We bumped into Lucy in the ski hire shop whilst Miche was trying yet another new pair of skis and she recommended the blacks since the trees would help with the visibility and the "waist deep power" would mean that we needed a bit of steep to be able to make any headway at all...

January 23, 2005

More of the same...
Still snowing, heavier than yesterday. Yesterday's forecast suggest it will clear in the afternoon; given our recent efforts I expect we'll head out late and hope to catch the sun.

Reliably over the knee...
John didn't fancy the whiteout today so Miche and I went out alone. We skied powder that was reliably up to the knee and sometimes higher. Visibility was variable, but down amongst the trees it was pretty good at times. We didn't go out until late, as we had hoped that the snow would clear up and the sun would come out, so the snow was pretty tracked out but there was still lots of fun to be had. Something definitely clicked for me today and today's technique seemed to work well; no face plants and it just seemed to work... I've no idea what was slipped into Miche's coffee this morning but she also had a great day; flying down the slopes faster than she would on a nicely groomed piste and turning so well in the deep stuff that at times I thought that someone else was wearing the same suit.. Her demo skis must have suited her; she'll write about all of these skis eventually, I'm sure... Even though our technique had improved we still found the deep stuff tiring so we were glad that we hadn't had a full day of it.

January 24, 2005

Mostly groomed with a few inches of fresh
John and Janine's last day today and their flight was early afternoon so we hit the slopes early and came back after lunch to see them off. As I sit here writing this the sky is clearing at last and we can see Jaillet for the first time in ages; looks nicely skiable now.

January 25, 2005

The outside temperature is showing as -11'C, that's too cold to get up, I think we'll stay in bed... At least it seems to have stopped snowing......

Week 3
This weekly review is a little late, but, whatever... In summary, it snowed....

Skiing for free
We've now been here for 21 days and skied for 18 of them, which, I think, is a good effort. Given that our season pass cost us 360 and the per day rate is 32 we're into free skiing for the rest of the season even if we were to have purchased weekly tickets at 157...

Since the alternative was going to the supermarket or putting a wash on we decided to ski for a while this afternoon even though we had planned to take the day off. It was cold but pretty clear and we had the best visibility we've had for a week.

January 26, 2005

Still cold
The temperature this morning was -13.2'C :( So we stayed in bed for a little longer again... Once again it's a lovely clear day out there so I expect we'll ski in the afternoon. We were intending to take a...

Thanks to Janine and Jon
Thanks to Janine and Jon for a good weekend. They were our first visitors (well, the first to stay with us, as my Mum and Dad and brother and sister-in-law were here last week but stayed at the Chalet St...

New Skis
I wasn't intending to buy new skis this season but............

Since we're living in France for 4 months I thought I should make an effort and learn the language. I did French at school for a couple of years but hated it. I think the reason I hated it was that I wasn't very confident about speaking it in front of people; you have to get over the "I sound like an idiot" thing... Before the trip I started to use the Michel Thomas French course on CD and that seemed to work well; I started to learn words and phrases by listening to my iPod on the way to work. However, I still had the "sound like an idiot" thing to get over as it's far easier to speak the phrases whilst listening to the course when you know nobody is listening than it is to actually use one on a real live French person. Strangely, getting my skis serviced the first week I was here seemed to fix that problem...

My turn for a bad technique day
The views were amazing today; I should have taken some pictures but it was so damn cold that I didn't fancy taking my camera out. We skied down Pylones on Mont d'Arbois, a nice red down from La Mandarines to the bottom. We realised on the way up in the bubble that we'd never skied it as it had always been covered in brown patches before. The snow was great, the run was good (some nice steep sections and some nice wide sections) and it was quiet but my skiing sucked.

January 27, 2005

I sense a trend here
The temperature this morning was -16.6'C :( So we stayed in bed for a little longer again... I guess the downside of having the outside temperature displayed on the bedroom ceiling is that you wake up, look up, shake your head in disgust and go back to sleep. Ah well.

Given yesterday's edge issues and Miche's ongoing left ski problems and the fact that one of our books suggested that the problem she was having could be a canting issue we decided to check the alignment of her legs this morning... Miche has had a fair amount of trouble in the past due to the fact that she needs quite serious orthotic footbeds in her ski boots to prevent her ankles collapsing in and because one of her legs is longer than the other (and her pelvis is twisted...) - you can't see any of this without x-rays and measuring tapes so it's not quite as freaky as it sounds. Anyway...

Do you know the way to St. Gervais?
Another clear, cold day. Some slight cloud in the valley but nothing to complain about. The wind seemed slightly lower, but just as bitter. It seemed warmer in the sun than yesterday but colder in the shade... We decided to explore Mont d'Arbois a bit more and headed down towards St. Gervais.

Some photos
Due to our lack of internet connectivity at the start of the trip I held off posting some pictures with some of the earlier postings. Here they are. On the second day that we skied with Jonathan we took some pictures of the view across Megève from the top of Le Torraz over on the Jaillet side. The views from there on a clear day are amazing; you have a panoramic view of almost 280' with only a small section blocked by the chair lift that you came up on.

January 28, 2005

Snooze button
This morning's temperature check is brought to you by the snooze button -14.4'c, warmer than yesterday so we just snoozed the alarm for 30 mins or so......

The curious incident of the left turn falling overs
This week is fast becoming "Len's broken technique week". First I had my right leg chattering and now, having fixed that, I have a reoccurrence of a rather worrying problem that I have on left turns... Every so often I just end up on my side, sliding down the slope with my skis directly in front of me like someone who's decided to lie down on the slope rather than stand up on it. Amusingly this only ever seems to happen on the steepest of slopes and less amusingly this seems to be the exactly the same MO as the fall that did my knee in Verbier. This problem needs fixing fast...

Week 4
It stopped snowing, got cold and my technique sucked.

January 29, 2005

We picked up my sister, Maria, and her boyfriend, Milky, from Geneva airport this evening. They're staying with us for 5 or 6 days. This evening, after dinner, they introduced us to a game they discovered whilst in Sri Lanka at Christmas; Carcassonne. Looks like tonight will be a late night. The game appears fairly simple at first but there are lots and lots of ways you can play a very long term and strategic game. It's good fun and a great way to spend an evening, I expect we'll be playing more whilst they're here.

January 30, 2005

The greens and blues of Rochebrune
Today we skied with Maria and Milky. They're having some lessons tomorrow and later in the week and wanted to get warmed up and ready for them with an easy day today. After last night's late night Carcassonne game (we finished at 2am) we set out around 11 and had a relaxed day helping them to get their legs working...

We went to the tourist information office today to sort out tickets for the bus to Geneva for Maria and Milky. Whilst we were there we noticed several men with laptops sitting in the waiting area... In the corner of the room was a wifi access point and when I checked with my PDA I discovered that this is probably the source of the freespot open access point. We were in a bit of a rush so I didn't do any further investigation but I'll check back in a day or so and find out what the deal is - I somehow doubt they'll serve beer, still, can't have everything.

January 31, 2005

Reds around Mont d'Arbois
Maria had a lesson first thing this morning so we skied with Milky on the blues and reds around the Monts Rossets lift. The weather was good today, at least 5'C warmer and sunny, which was a pleasant change. It was nice and quiet, so quiet that sometimes we wouldn't see another skier on the slope for the whole chair ride back up. Nice. Milky had his lesson after lunch so we took Maria on the reds off of the Edudiants drag lift. This was also nice and quiet until around 3pm when these and the runs from Mont Joux were the only ones left in the sun and everyone decided to ski them...