Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ski stiff

I am aching in every muscle I didn't know I had, and most of those I have met through a passing acquaintance with exercise in the past. All from 2 days' skiing. Not much, I know, but enough to have me hobbling about and wincing every time I turn the steering wheel of the car.

Although I am suffering now, the holiday was a roaring success. We went back to Mont Aigoual to the ski resort of Prat Peyrou just above l'Esperou where we went sledging 3 weeks ago. You have to stay at l'Esperou because there is no accommodation at the resort itself, 4.5km away. The resort is a small one having only 15 downhill slopes, none of which are black, and there are are 60km of cross-country skiing, including a black competition slope. It cost 21€ for 2 days' ski pass per adult, or 15€ for one day. There is a big cross-country competition this coming weekend, in fact.

We rented our skis at 'Yeti' where we had rented before (nothing if not consistent!) and were warned to be careful because there is a lot of thieving of skis at the resort. We were also recognised which was a bonus, getting an extra warm welcome as 'clients fideles'.

Our hotel, Les Sources was a traditional, no frills mountain hostelry, and the owners were chatty and friendly. After a painful night sleeping on that strange French preference for pillows, the bolster, we asked for pillows and were told that most of them had been stolen. Fourteen had been taken in one season along with pictures from the walls and basically anything that wasn't nailed down. This is a hotel which charges 40€ per room (76€ half-board) and it's a struggle for them to survive, so it's a disgrace that such a place is plagued with riff-raff who think it's open house for stealing the basic amenities at their disposal. I was told that one room in another hotel was emptied, and apparently there's nothing the hotelliers can do about it.

Well, we got our pillows, and left them.

Back on the 'pistes', the snow was fresh, and falling gently inbetween sunbursts. We took a lesson with Pierre, one of the EFS (French ski school) instructors who took us to a red slope for a session of observation and advice. My youngest had had a lesson the previous day; his first proper session on skis, and spent the hour during our lesson playing with his sledge at the ski school. He then took to his skis with great enthusiasm and we made endless descents down a green slope as he got used to movement, bodyweight and turning. He also got the knack of 'skating' as I took his poles away from him. He was helped up the 'tire-fesses' by one of us, standing inbetween our skis and pushed up by the adult knee - a very nifty technique.

While he was getting the hang of doing the 'chasse-neige' and turning, my eldest was searching out bumps to jump over and nagging to go on the harder slopes. I had never seen him ski, so was impressed at how good he was, although he definitely needed the lesson to iron out his many bad habits. I have a feeling it won't be long before he's trying out snowboarding too.

It started snowing as we left, which made the road trecherous as it had not been salted. We helped one car out of a snowdrift over a nasty drop it had gone into, in a straight line instead of turning a sharp corner. Down in the valley, in Le Vigan it was difficult to believe that there was a snowstorm raging 1400m above.

A small, friendly, unpretentious ski resort frequented mostly by locals and chocker-block on fine Sundays. It was the most enjoyable ski holiday I have ever had, and I am totally impressed with the prowess of my boys. It just goes to show that starting early is the best introduction to feeling at ease on skis.

Roll on next winter!

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