Hi everyone, Happy New Year, and welcome to the first post in 2024 from your favourite blogging Méribel Ski Instructor. I hope you've all enjoyed a fabulous Festive Period and have had a great time whatever you got up to. A few days ago someone mentioned to me that my last post was about the Opening Weekend (ski lifts), which felt like ages ago, and indeed it was. So time to publish a more recent one, and give you an update as to what's been going on in Hemsley's World, and the snow conditions. All photos taken by me as usual over the last couple of weeks. So how have the snow conditions been?
On the whole, really good for this early stage of the ski season. I'm not going to say every day has been picture postcard worthy, but there have been plenty of weather fronts coming through that have helped top up the snow depths. It was mild for quite a while which affected the lower slopes, and the high traffic numbers of skiers scraped the snow into icy patches in many places. All good practice for technique of course, and confidence building. On the whole, the snow has been above average for the Festive Period I would say, all over the wonderful 3 Valleys. Courchevel, Méribel, Mottaret, Val Thorens, Les Menuires and St Martin, you have all done us proud with skiing conditions.
I've had the pleasure of skiing with various members of Team Lord Ellis, Team Buckroyd and a larger contingent of Team Harrington. A couple of members of Team Harrington had spent a season (the Covid outbreak winter) over in Canada, with Sam teaching skiing and snowboarding. So for me it was interesting hearing about their experiences over there, both with teaching and the North American culture and mentality. You may have noticed already that I've used some new 'fresh/cool' phrases that I picked up from Sam and Laura: Sending It, Maximum Levels Of Send, Ski Faster Juice. There's another one I'm going to drop in a moment that made me chuckle. If Ski Sunday on the Telly Box comes out with some of this type of language, why can't I?
Now then. Back to this last week, and New Years Eve. After a day of ski teaching, we are on torchlight descent duties with the ski school. Our instructions were to report to the bottom of the Legends chairlift, where our names were recorded (a 100 euro fine if you don't attend), and we were then squirted up into the darkness.
It had started snowing late afternoon on New Years Eve, and was due to continue into the night. By the time we reached the top of the chairlift, there was at least twenty centimetres of fresh snow on the piste. This felt lovely going in a straight line across to the Arpasson mountain restaurant. Sometimes we are treated to a vat of vin chaud on the piste with nibbles; this time the Arpasson were our hosts with said drinkies etc. Meanwhile, outside, the snowfall got heavier and heavier. I wasn't sure if I'd ever done a torchlight descent in falling snow over the years, I don't think I have. And I couldn't decide whether to wear my goggles or not.
Once we were fed and watered, at 18.30, it was time to 'Send It' down the Lièvre blue piste. Back in the day, our torches were metal with wax blocks that needed to be lit with fire lighters. These days, we have much cleaner LED torches, which can be set to various different colours. White is the default, and gives us some (low) level of light/vision which is so desperately appreciated when skiing down in the dark. My heart sank when one of the Directors shouted out we were to go 'rouge'. Rollocks, even less visibility, I knew this was going to be tough.
The first few seconds after setting off I was messing about with my goggles, wearing them (in the dark) gave little to no vision, taking them off helped a little but your eyes felt like they were being sand (snow) blasted by flakes! Normally there's silence during the torchlight descent, a beautiful surreal experience sometimes with quite a few muffled giggles. This time? The complete opposite. Granted there was laughter, but also plenty of screams with people squirting off in all sorts of direction. This was a bizarre form of survival skiing, floundering around in uniform, with extreme burning legs. Not an enjoyable experience at all. Oh well, the glamour of the job sometimes?
As ever, I never made it to see the New Year in, since I was in bed just after 10pm. In fact I didn't even wake up to the huge fireworks at midnight. The torchlight descent had made me that tired. But I had no problem with going to bed early because I had a sneaky suspicion the next morning's skiing was going to be rather special. Team Harrington were keen for an early start, which I was definitely up for.
It was a skier's dream, snowfall at night with fresh temperatures and sunshine. What an epic way to start the New Year.
On our final day of skiing together, Team Harrington and I went for lunch at the famous La Folie Douce. It isn't everyone's cup of tea which is fine, but what it does do very well is provide delicious food, a party atmosphere, and an outdoor cabaret on sunny days. The singers and dancers were amazing, and they (are you ready for this phrase from Canada?) 'Licked A Stamp And Then Sent It First Class'. Now then, I'm not quite sure what that means, but I believe it means something like 'Giving It Some'.
Right, enough of this nonsense. Thanks Team Lord Ellis, Team Buckroyd and Team Harrington, it was a very fun Festive Period. And it certainly looked as though you all had a great time. From this weekend onwards the resort and mountain changes significantly. The numbers of skiers on the mountain reduce massively, the pistes are deserted, and normally the snow conditions are great with colder temperatures. January always has been, and always will be, my favourite month of the ski season. Can't wait. Hope to see some of you out here soon. And I'll try to post again shortly. As ever, don't forget to 'Live With Passion'. Martin.