Saturday, 12 January 2008

Not the sort of powder you get in Sydney...

The one area in which Europe far surpasses good ol' Oz, we must admit, is ski fields. Once New Zealand becomes the next 2 states of Australia this will be debatable, but for the moment it is sadly true.

Although not a snow bunny by nature, having a week off between jobs in January I decided to book a package trip to go snow-boarding in Chamonix. I made the booking with a company by the name of 'SpeedBreaks'. Harmless enough I thought, but it turns out to be a subsidiary of another company called SpeedDater, and apparently I'd booked myself onto a singles skiing holiday... Many will now be thinking wistfully of snow trips with university ski clubs and the associated shenanigans. Think again. Remember, I'm travelling with brits here, and most were single for good reason. Fortunately, a few others had made the same mistake, so we were spared any painful 'getting to know you' games.

Embarrassment aside, the week on the snow was absolutely astounding ('gnarly' in the parlance of serious snowboarders I believe). Having not been on a board since a few day trips from Canberra, I was grateful for the fact we were staying at a UCPA centre - as usual, the French know how to do things, with their network of non-profit centres making elitist sports accessible to the masses - with free tuition. By the end of the week I was cutting turns off-piste and playing in natural half pipes and loving it... I'd tell you about the apres-ski goings-on, but alcohol-amnesia prevents it.

Having been so impressed by the UCPA in January, a group of us decided to get in another cheeky long-weekend of snow (organised by ourselves rather than joining another singles trip) over Easter staying at the UCPA centre in Flaine. While it may be an abomination of a building, it is right at the foot of the slope, and covered in a foot of powder (as everything was while we were there) I'm prepared to forgive them. Again, the Alps delivered. Fresh snowfall every night and another flurry most days made for perfect boarding conditions. The highlight of the evening activities was without a doubt the snowboard instructor singing Nirvana's 'Rape Me' on karaoke night. A very modern serenade...

Sadly the weekend, and the season, ended. There were more than a few moments on the slopes spent considering ditching everything and becoming a snow-field worker so I could do this all year round... but the risk of turning something so magical into just a mundane job wouldn't be worth it.

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