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|
|Pretty awful weather but lots of snow|
|To think that the resort only had the green slopes open just a week before!|
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|
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.