75: Carpe Diem
It’s 6-00am Monday morning, quick check through the blinds, the promised overnight dump has materialised bang on schedule; there’s six inches of fresh snow on the car roof and the sky hints at clearing cloud. While the guests snooze on, we swing into action. The bread, mixed last evening and proved in the fridge overnight goes into the oven while the tea brews. Then into winter trousers, hat, gloves and head torch and out with Ffin and up through the beechwood to the top road. Branches hang low, burdened with the overnight snow; the roads are not yet ploughed, the first cars leave 2 deep parallel ruts, one for me, one for Ffin. Muffled detonations make him skittish, the pisteurs are blasting off dangerous accumulations in Flaine.
Back down to our road; neighbour Denis is setting off in his van; quick chat: ‘Skiing today?’ - of course – ‘la poudreuse!’ (powder). Just one thing on every right-thinking person’s mind. Back in the Chalet the Boss is showered, exercised and resplendent in thermal underwear. This bodes well, normally low temperatures and an overactive conscience proscribe work-day forays but today she’s up for it. Out come the meal-plans, a quick conference, some judicious amendments are made – the duck’s quick and a few other changes will save an hour or so - put off the hard work for a dull day.
The snow-blower roars into life first try and the drive is cleared in 10 minutes; the racket would awaken Rip van Winkle but the guest are as keen as us and come clattering down for breakfast bang on time. There’s still low cloud around but as we eat it slowly lifts disclosing a glistening mantle swathing the peaks across the valley. Eagerly we scan the webcams; clear skies at altitude, it’s going to be a wonderful day.
Our boots and skis are loaded into the van; quick check list, helmets, gloves, neck-warmers. My usual blue down-filled top is relegated in favour of the red deep-snow jacket with elasticated waist; the Boss is sporting her new North Face yellow & blue. Punters into the van, the table can be left until later and we’re off down to the main road, by now immaculately ploughed for our ten-minute run to the village.
Yesterday the pistes were thronged with weekenders, today the carpark is deserted; we drop the guests at the bootroom and drive up to the top carpark where we boot-up out of the back of the van; a short ski down and we meet the guests at the turnstiles. Up through the trees and we emerge from the top station into a sundrenched world of kneedeep powder cut through by immaculately groomed pistes. We’re skiing with Pat & Andrew, guests and firm friends of many years standing; Andrew is a true powder-hound and we know the warm up red-run down to the Gron chairlift is unlikely to satisfy him for long. And so it proved – up the Gron chair and he was eagerly eying up the black off-piste below – just begging to be done. So right-turn off the chair, and round to the top of the black – don’t stop and look or you may have second (wiser) thoughts – straight over and pick some untracked snow – heaven! Yesterday this slope was pisted so under a foot of powder there’s a regular packed layer – all very flattering. Doesn’t stop both of us coming various croppers though – Mrs C pirouettes, face-plants, does the whole repertoire, in fact, but never stops giggling.
Then up the chair again and more off-piste before the long blue down to Les Molliets, another chair and we’re into Morillon for our favourite unpisted red – Bergin. Andrew takes the Boss in hand and draws her far out of her comfort zone into soft off-piste billows on a steep gradient which she tackles with aplomb – it’s clearly one of those days. By now thighs are aching and a break is called for, so down to Le Beu at Morillon for hot chocolate and coffee on a sunny terrace where we’re greeted with delight by a guest from 2 summers ago – Ness even managed to dredge up her name, the sign of a true professional.
The long chair up, then we part company with Andrew & Pat and swoop back towards Les Carroz; three long tree-lined blues see us back in the car-park by 11-45am with a bagful of memories that will carry us through whatever tribulations the next weeks may bring. A quick stop at the breadshop and we’re back in the chalet by midday; Ffin greets us rapturously and we set to to clear breakfast and begin the day’s tasks with a spring in our step.
Of such days are dreams made...