Friday, March 22, 2013

Sloping Off

Rain of biblical proportions over the last few weeks has had one phenomenal upside....huge late falls of snow in the mountains, extending the ski conditions in the local resorts well beyond half term. As a newly addicted snowboarder (stop sniggering) this has been manna from heaven because it hurts a lot less falling over or face planting in fresh deep snow than in the crispy icy sparse stuff. Take last week and my third day as a boarder...God I love saying that. The snow was crisp and crusty to start with but snow flurries that started mid morning meant that by lunchtime, the whole resort of Greolieres was covered in a few centimetres of fresh powder. I was having such fun gliding silently through the soft white stuff that it didn't occur to me that I would somehow have to drive myself home through a raging blizzard. I was forced to quit when thunder and lightning closed the resort mid afternoon and having struggled to attach snow socks to the Jeep, I set off on the hair-raising journey home. On the hill leading out of the resort, cars were slipping and sliding backwards towards me but the snow socks held fast and got me up in one piece. Seeing a white van hanging over a precipice hundreds of feet high a couple of kilometres further on was a sobering sight, although the driver didn't seem unduly worried, and I crawled home steadily, in fact I could have snowboarded home faster. This week's session was a different story. Close to a metre of snow has fallen in the last week and it was blue skies, sunshine and a balmy 7 degrees when I arrived for possibly my last day on the slopes this season. Mid-week if you see six other people it's a busy day. There was barely a soul to be seen as I clipped on my board and hopped on the chairlift. Every time I go...and this was only my fourth outing....I think that any skill in staying upright the previous time must have been a total fluke and prepare for the worst. I got off the lift fully expecting to wipe out but reader, somehow I glided down to the bottom WITHOUT FALLING OVER! To clear up any confusion, the picture above isn't me (although this is what I aspire to.) On the next ascent, a seasoned 20-something dreadlocked boarder offered me some of his Snickers bar and started chatting. I confessed I was a beginner and he offered to take me off piste cutting across several different runs from the top. I was tempted but sensibly I declined. We both agreed that it's the most fun you can have in the snow. It's like catching a wave, except this wave is huge and you can stay on it for 15 minutes and travel several kilometres without being knocked off it. My next companion on the lift, a Parisian businessman, told me he stopped skiing 30 years ago because he was so smitten by boarding. I can see where he is coming from. He gave me some tips on using my body to direct my path and keeping balance on my turns with my arms outstretched and nodded approvingly as I caught him up halfway down the slope saying: 'Quatrieme fois? C'est pas mal!' I feel like I have joined an exclusive club, one which I used to think I didn't want to belong to (there is an unwritten rivalry between skiers and boarders) but now that I have been welcomed in, I'm rather enjoying my membership (even if I have knees the colour of mouldy aubergines to show for it.)