How did you spend your weekend?
February - Friday 8am
Seat belt fastened, tray table up, arm rest down and window blind open, it's time for take off.
I'm on flight 8349 destination Nice Côte d'Azur. My partner Andy will be meeting me at the airport complete with a kiss, cuddle and everything we need for a weekend on the slopes. Having skied in Auron last year we knew how easily accessible the resort is from Nice. 1 hour and 30 minutes after landing I'll be swapping my heels for ski boots, my skinny jeans for salopettes and my stylish hat for a ski helmet. I can't wait.
We have booked a room in a 2 star hotel in the centre of the village and a short walk from the ski lift. We have booked our ski passes online so as soon as we arrive we will head for the green slopes, this will be my second time of skiing on snow so I'm expecting to move like Bambi for the first few hours, I'm hoping to get this out of the way today and then head for the blue runs tomorrow. Red by Sunday?....We'll see.
As expected Bambi made her guest appearance, I had a mental block of everything I was taught last year. My legs reminded me of a science class from my school years when the teacher demonstrated how things turn from liquid to solid, one minute my legs were wobbling like jelly then solid as a rock with fear.
After some reassuring words from Andy it all came flooding back to me, the snow plough, poles behind me, dig my heels in to slow down, with that I remembered I could ski.
We stayed on the green run a few times so that I could practice getting on and off the chair lift, this I thought would be as easy as sitting on a chair but when you're standing on skis and the chair swings in from behind you and hits you on the back of the knees it's quite easy to take a tumble, believe me I've done it quite a few times.
I mastered getting on and off the chair lift and eventually the green slope felt easy so we ventured up to a blue run before the lifts closed for the day.
It was exhilarating, the scenery, the speed, the feeling of freedom in the open space. You are amongst other skiers yet you feel as if you are the only person on the slopes.
Tomorrow promises to be a great day.
We had packed an assortment of clothing to keep warm on the slopes. Thermal base layers, fleeces, snoods, glove liners and even balaclavas, with the temperatures expected to hit 8° we left the majority in the room.
We decided to let 'Bambi' practise the green run before heading to the blues, with a smile on my face and my confidence up our day began.
We took our seat on the chair lift heading for the top of a blue run leaving the hustle and bustle behind us, the beat of the music pumping from the restaurants, the instructions bellowing from the ski instructors as the line of children snaked down behind him. It reminded me of a book I used to read to my children 'Peace at Last'.
This is the time to rest your legs, let your heart rate drop and enjoy the ride as the chair lift takes you up to what feels like the top of the world.
The sky was the most intense blue, the mountains crisp and white and the colours of the rainbow flowing down the slopes in an array of bright outfits. Below your feet you can watch other skiers making their way back down, some could trigger a speed camera if they were on the road whilst others seemed more focused on getting to the bottom in one piece and not their speed. The occasional glove or pole can be seen that has unfortunately been dropped from the lift.
I've watched other people ski and have thought it looks so easy, they look so relaxed as if they could ski all day. Maybe it's just my technique, my nerves and lack of experience but after a few runs I needed a rest from the burning sensation that was in my thighs so we stopped at a restaurant on the slopes for lunch. Each run had taken 45 minutes so to sit and loosen my boots felt as good as loosening my trousers after a 3 course meal.
It's quite an experience to be surrounded by the immense mountains covered in so much snow yet sit outside in the sun for lunch. The music was playing, the sound of cutlery on crockery, the gentle muttering of conversations, it was incredible.
We sat under a parasol shielding us from the midday sun and had our lunch complete with a glass of 'vin chaud', I don't usually drink alcohol with my lunch but here it seemed almost compulsory.
I did wonder if this would help or hinder my skiing.
Plates cleared and glasses empty we dressed for an afternoon that would test my level of fitness more than a spinning class at my gym.
As I am still at a beginners level when it comes to the chair lifts Andy always takes my poles so that I have one less thing to think about. This wasn't incredibly helpful on this occasion as on the approach to the barrier I found the only bump, lost my balance and found myself slumped over the fence like a drunk, giggling like a hyena and scrambling like Bambi I looked up to find a French lady laughing saying, "Beaucoup de vin chaud!" Unsure of whether it was the one small glass of alcohol I had consumed with my lunch that was responsible for the entertaining performance I was putting on for the queue of people, we all agreed this would be my last run of the day.
Back down on dry land we put our skis away and took part in a little Après Ski. Last year we skied in snow so once the ski lift had returned everyone from the slopes the crowds dispersed to hotel rooms and huddled in bars from the low temperatures and falling snow.
Today was picturesque, the outdoor skating rink had a constant anti-clockwise flow of excited children, tables and chairs were scattered outside the bars with people relaxing and reliving their day of activity. We sat under the afternoon sun sipping our vin chaud, the smell of the wood burners coming from the apartments and we also looked back on our day.
After an early continental breakfast we made our way to the ski station and joined the queue of eager people for the ski lift. The early morning sun was hot as we stood with thermal base layers and ski coats on, I hadn't anticipated this at all and was thankful that the ski lift could take 30 people at one time resulting in the queue moving at a pleasing speed.
I had decided against an alcoholic beverage with my lunch today and wondered if as a result I could make it through the day looking as if I was in total control of my body and equipment. I should have known better.
We took the four person chairlift to the highest skiable point of the resort at 2474m above sea level.
Before I set off on the 'Baudric' run from the top Andy positioned himself a little way down so that he could video my decent. He warned me that there was a tight bend ahead and to stay to the left because if I steered right I could find myself tangled in the orange mesh barrier that would be the only thing to stop me from a very long fall. With this in mind I set off chanting to myself "stay left, stay left". All was going well until I approached a small group of people standing admiring the view, the expression changed on their face as they witnessed me approaching them at a speed much too fast for the location.
My skis hit a bump, my skis left the snow and I landed on my bottom within inches of the flimsy mesh barrier. The instructor that was accompanying the group of skiers that I had just 'flown' past looked at his students and in his beautifully soft French accent said "Don't do it like that!"
I stumbled and tumbled my way down questioning whether it was a blue run concerned that we had found ourselves on a red, reassured by Andy that it was blue we continued down.
Exhausted from falling, getting up, falling some more and laughing from the mornings fun I decided to call it a day. Knowing my skis were off for another year I relaxed at lunch with a glass of rosé, we all agreed that I have improved since last year and also the importance of some practise before we return next year.
I'm at Nice airport, security was effortless as always and I'm now sitting relaxing with a coffee and a croissant.
I have one hour until my flight departs so I'll pay the obligatory visit to the duty free shops then make my way to my departure gate.
I wonder where I'll be next weekend.
Photos and Video © Andy Coomer
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