Saturday, March 26, 2016

Prat Peyrot sous la neige

What a peculiar winter. Mild enough to save us hundreds in electricity bills - good, but also mild enough not to kill off all the fleas - bad. I've had to resort to Frontline for Ulysse, the first time ever. He was just infested with the little buggers, and the herbal potions I tried were totally ineffective.

Then over the February holidays we had a brief cold spell which was enough to crown Mont Aigoual with a heavy covering of snow. I took a Thursday off and decided to take my youngest skiing. I phoned ahead to find out when the half-day ski rental started, and was told that if I intended driving up, I would need chains. Chains!

A hurried wash and brush-up and I was in Roady talking to a man who knew a lot more about chains than me. My last experience with them was leaving a box of newly bought chains swinging on a supermarket trolley and driving off about twenty years ago. I can't recall at what point we discovered this slight problem...

Anyway, he showed me the right size for my wheels, and then I asked him to demonstrate putting them on. A wise move as it turned out because they are quite a challenge!

Back home, I got lunch together (bacon sarnies), dug out my fluo pink ski onesie (or combinaison in French, I didn't realise they were onesies in English - thanks Trish... visions of tiger-striped bed gear come to mind), boots and unfashionable woolly hat, lent my motorbike wet-weather trousers to my son, and off we went.

Did we need the chains? We did! Were they a bugger to put on? A total bugger, but not half as bad as they were to take off. Picture frozen fingers, gloves the size of a man's hand with the ends flopping wetly and coldly getting caught in the bits, my son reading the instructions, and me on my hands and knees cursing.

We stopped at l'Esperou to rent skis, and I also rented boots once I tried them on as they were a lot more comfortable than mine. The woman said she'd had the same ones as me back in the day (1990)! In the end I ditched my boots there because I knew I'd never wear them again having tried the others, and the plastic might just collapse in the cold too. It was €20 to rent boots and poles for half a day for both of us.

The ski resort is called Prat Peyrot, and is a tiny place with 4 green slopes, 4 blue and 3 red which take no time at all to ski down, and a cafeteria. There's also 32km of cross-country skiing

Not cool and trendy on skis, but comfy and warm
I found a nice place to park right up near the start of the slopes (glad of my chains on the snow-covered road) that someone who'd had enough vacated. The weather was pretty awful, so half a day was probably as much as they could take.

Pretty awful weather but lots of snow
To get up the slopes, the resort has ancient tire-fesses: those little disks at the end of a metal pole that drag you up the slope and that you have to let go in time or get a smack in the face (says she from experience). On the red/blue slopes some start with such a jerk that you are hoisted off the ground for a metre or two and have to be careful to land properly or fall and tumble unceremoniously back down in front of everyone. Snowboarders have a particularly challenging time!

To think that the resort only had the green slopes open just a week before!

If you master the tire-fesses of Prat Peyrot, you can cope with any tire-fesses in the world!

At one point it started 'raining' with tiny drops of ice that stung as they hit me in the face. Ouch! It was like an extreme facial.

We had a good time going down all the slopes that were open (all but one red), saw the same people everywhere, it's that small, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We started with a blue and went on to the red. When I did one blue, my son did a red twice, in the same time. Almost.

A better skier than me
I was glad of my chains when it was time to go home too. The car in front had none, and couldn't get out of its space. My son and I helped out with the pushing and shoving and got it moving again.

We like to stop for a hot chocolate when we get back down to l'Esperou. Our favourite bar had plenty of space and was lovely and warm. The hot chocolate slipped down like warm velvet. My son had a crèpe to fill the gaping hole in his ever-growing stomach and I had a second hot chocolate. After all that exercise, I had no qualms.

The skis and poles returned, we started back down the mountain. That's when the chain fun really started. I stopped to remove them once they were no longer necessary, along with a couple of cars behind me. I got one off, but the other one flatly refused. No amount of jiggling, cursing or violence got them free. The guys behind me were struggling too, but got there in the end. One guy asked if we were okay, so I wailed NOOOOO! They came over to have a look, and no amount of their jiggling, cursing or violence had any effect either.

In the end, they decided to take the wheel off - hurried searching for the jack and bits from me (under my seat!) -  and disentangled the chains from the workings around the brakes. What a palaver! Anyway, I was most grateful, and relieved to have had help. We're a matey bunch on the mountain in conditions extrèmes...

The rest of the journey back was uneventful, I'm glad to say. Total cost: €40 for ski passes and rentals, plus petrol and hot chocolate.


  1. That sounds like a great afternoon - well,apart from the chains! And at at all expensive, either.
    Combinaison always reminded me of coms - as in male undergarments seen on washing lines in my youth. Shudder.

    1. Yes! I watched Last of the Summer Wine and know exactly what you mean. :)

  2. Oh you intrepid woman! Not only skis, but snow chains too.So glad those men were there to help you.

    I love skiing - as a spectator sport. :)

    1. I enjoy skiing, but not too much or too often. :) The après-ski is particularly enjoyable.

  3. What a great tale - I shouldn't have laughed but I did. It's the vision of you in your pink onesie, wearing large men's floppy gloves, trying to put snow chains on and off.
    You're just in time for my BritMums ski round-up so this corker is definitely going in.:-))

  4. How brilliant for (and brave of) you to be able to decide to go and just do it! Shame about the chain palaver but I bet that skiing was good for your and your son's soul?

    1. When I'm determined to do something, it takes a lot to stop me. I was certainly not going to be thwarted by a bit of snow and recalcitrant chains ! :)

      The skiing was fab - not to much, not too little. It was great being outside and in the fresh air, doing some vigorous exercise. Good for the soul indeed.


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