Last post from Chamonix

Well, for a few weeks anyway. I’ve done my last bit of work (almost – but the one remaining one can be done at home once my head’s stopped pounding) and I’m about to walk down to Midnight Express to get a farewell burger.

Then to Bar’Dup to collect my credit card which has been there for over a week. Oops.

As ever, it’s a shame to be leaving Chamonix but I have special people at home who I’m really looking forward to seeing. And kicking about with them for a couple of weeks is more important than staying here. Though the crew at the hotel is a tempting reason to hang on for a bit. They’ve been great.

So, adios Chamonix. And I’ll see you again in January!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

More snow in Chamonix!

Freestyle snowboarding

Apparently not on any forecasts, but it’s been snowing since early this morning and there’s no sign of it stopping. Fresh, crisp, crunchy flakes to cover that awful ice that was forming over the last couple of days.

As I don’t have my camera, here are links to two web cams in the town centre:

In other news, we had our first guest injury yesterday. First day snowboarding and one girl broke her wrist. Ow. As ever, be prepared for this kind of thing on any sporting holiday. Wrist injuries are very common when snowboarding and I always tell people it’s like judo – one of the first things to do is to learn how to fall.

Get some soft snow and a good friend. Strap yourself onto your board and get them to push you over. Forwards and backwards. A lot. Over and over again. Teach your body to react to a fall by using your forearms when toppling forward and your shoulders when losing your balance backwards. The more you do it, the more likely your body is to “remember” this when you fall for real.

Wrist guards or splints are a topic of contention with boarders. They can save your wrists, but can instead cause breaks in the forearm. This is somewhat preferable as these bones are more likely to heal with less complication than wrists. However, I believe they make it more likely you’ll get a break so it’s very much a balancing act.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Alpine update

A ski lift on the Grande Motte.

Another belated update, but again I have been working my (frequently-laundered) socks off. I’ve also enjoyed the company of the lovely Giuli from Turin once more – her last visit was in February. She popped over last weekend – a long weekend in Italy – to enjoy the freshly-opened Grand Montets slopes.

It’s always nice to host another couchsurfer, especially as it forces me to act a little more sociably! We went out for dinner two nights she was here. After not bothering last season, I finally tried the Sunday roast down at Monkey Bar in Chamonix Sud. A little pricey at €10 per plate, but the portions were a decent size and the quality of the food top notch. They even had proper mint sauce!

We of course enjoyed a visit to Bar’Dup and on the Monday night devoured chicken wings at MBC. The skiing was apparently well up to scratch, though the Sunday was incredibly busy with queues of up to 90 minutes at the lower lift. The Monday was apparently better with virtually nobody else on the slopes.

I’m fairly confident Giuli had a good time as she went to sleep both days when she came back after skiing before dinner. I must also thank her for the wine and the chocolates she brought over (both local specialities from where her parents live). Both are still unopened as I’ve barely been in the flat over the last week! I might keep them for Christmas.

Well, aside from that brief visit I’ve been a busy bunny.

The last time I left you, I was starting work on configuring a big bunch of PCs before they shipped to resorts. I finished that little job at 3:30am. Needless to say I was somewhat tired the next day, but couldn’t hang around as the weather was still rather ropey. The drive back to Chamonix from Tignes was… interesting. It was either snowing or raining the entire way depending on my altitude.

This caused a fair bit of “fun” on the roads, but it still beggars belief when you see how incapable some people appear to be when attempting to drive in the snow. Like the guy in the sporty Mercedes with his rear wheels (correctly) wrapped in chains… doing 15km/h. I was in a flipping Kangoo van with snow tyres – no chains – doing upwards of 30km/h on the same road.

Regardless, I made it back to base safe and sound as the PCs were making their way around the Alps. Of course, this then resulted in a gazillion phone calls as people tried to figure out how to plug them in, or that their internet connection didn’t work, or that they didn’t have the password to get into their resort manager account. The latter really teed me off as I’d spent a fair portion of that long night typing up these instructions and including passwords. These were sealed in envelopes on which were listed the equipment to be carried to site by each group of reps.

Only the idiotperson entrusted to hand them out didn’t bother. I found out that they’re still buried in his car somewhere.

As a result, two resorts were short of equipment as it was left lying in Tignes. A third had no PC at all as nobody told me their reps weren’t being trained in Tignes so there was nobody going that way to ferry it up. You know, you try your best…

Anyway, as the week progressed, the problem calls lessened until by the weekend (i.e. today) I had only three and all were very simple little queries.

In amongst all this, I had one night in our flagship hotel in Belle Plagne while I delivered more kit. I fixed another staff laptop (cost: one pint), had a drink bought for me by the Overseas Director, enjoyed a lovely free meal and got utterly wasted in a nearby bar.

Of course, I made full use of the swish room I had. Shower, bath, loo, flat-screen TV and comfy bed were all utilised to the full. The only thing I didn’t use was the DVD player, but I didn’t have anything to watch. Oh, and the wifi and cabled internet connections in the room were on the fritz, too. There’s a bone of contention between ourselves and the French electricity board about this. They’re claiming it was a lightning strike that fried several thousand Euros-worth of switches, while we reckon it was a serious spike on the mains.

Great place, though. Shame I doubt I’ll ever afford a holiday there, but I’m sure anyone who does will have a cracking time.

I drove two of the Chamonix staff back, one of whom had a rather dodgy tummy poor lass. Things have been hectic here as we have our first chalet guests arriving tomorrow and I’m on the airport run to show them how it’s all done. Which means an early rise. And on my birthday, too…

Yup, in around ten minutes local time I will “celebrate” getting even older. And still being none the wiser. Fortunately we’ll only be waiting for one flight so I should be safely ensconced in Bar’Dup for kickoff at 14:30 as we hopefully thrash Portsmouth. Don’t expect any coherent posts for at least 24 hours after that! My credit card is already behind the bar – I left it there last night.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Snow and electricity

Tignes les Brévières as viewed from the Myrtil...

Too much of the snow, not enough of the electricity is my problem right now.

I sorted out the computer system up in Meribel yesterday afternoon which took me longer than expected, but a job well done. By the time I left, snow had started to swirl down around the summit. The flakes as I descended the mountain were as large as I’ve ever seen, the windscreen of my Kangoo looking like a big frosty albatross was pooping all over it.

The snow continued right through the valley all the way to Tignes. It was an… interesting drive up the side of the mountain, especially once I got past the dam. I passed numerous vehicles stranded in the ever-deepening snow, many of them stopping as I approached their back ends. The most annoying grinding to a near halt just as we reached a sharp hairpin right which made for an interesting corner as I had to go round him without losing speed. Thankfully the road was empty.

There hadn’t been a chance for the snow ploughs to come out, hence the problems. By the next day (i.e. today) I’d expect the roads to be in much better condition so that I still don’t need to put the snow chains on. No way was I stopping halfway up that hill to put chains on last night when it was -5 degrees outside with a hefty wind and snow coming down!

So I made it to the hotel where Sonja kindly served me a “random” meal which I definitely needed. I got one of the PCs done and then we popped out to the Alpaka Lodge for a couple of beers. Lovely little place, very cosy and home to the world’s largest dog. OK, maybe not official, but if you meet him you’ll be inclined to agree.

This morning, I rose with the intention of fixing up all the PCs so that the resort staff could take them with them the next morning as they all disappeared to their respective homes for the next few months. Start early, get done by mid-afternoon and perhaps pop up to Belle Plagne to sort their systems out.


Only, the French electricity company decided to put in an appearance. After waiting a whole month for the useless b*stards to appear, they turn up to fix a problem which must be resolved by Sunday. And in doing so tripped the fuse for the downstairs ring main where all the PCs are that I need to work on.

No “excusez-moi” or “by your leave”. They just flicked the lot off as I was in mid-Outlook config. Argh.

So there I sat for the better part of an hour until Sonja, hotel manageress extraordinaire, noticed the silly… people had left one of the trip switches down that they didn’t need to. One click and the systems are all back up and working.

No wonder the electrics in France are so bad if this is the standard of their staff. Ah well, an hour wasted. I better get on!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thinking of working a season?

I probably mentioned a fair bit of this last year sometime, but I just want to retread old ground. I’m sure a lot of people think of doing a season in the Alps or somewhere, working to earn their keep so that they can get out on the slopes. I’ve no idea of the figures but I reckon we turn down two or three people for every one we hire.

This means you have to be good to get through the interview process. But it doesn’t end there as you then have training and a lot ofp eoplke don’t seem to realise (despite being told) that this is a continuation of the interview. Mess up, fail parts, act irresponsibly and you can find yourself on the next flight home… on your own dime.

Yup, drop out of training or leave before the season is over and – under your terms of contract – you’ll have to make your own way home. If you’ve been out long enough to earn any money, you may be lucky enough to have your flight booked for you, and then have it taken off your paycheque.

Simple fact is, working a season is a lot of work and people don’t seem to realise that. You’re on duty for quite a few hours and you simply cannot be tardy or unprofessional. If you are – especially during training or in the early stages when it’s easy to replace you – you can expect to be going home.

Both last year and this year we’ve sent people home from training. Often it’s almost a matter of course – pick the worst offender and make an example of them. It proves we’re serious and other staff behaviour does indeed improve very quickly once word gets around.

If you don’t want to be the victim who proves the point, don’t give us (or whoever you work for) the chance. Be professional. Work hard. Wake up on time. Don’t – as one muppet did the other day – stagger drunk, vomit-covered and with blood dripping down your head into the wrong room and try to clamber into bed with a girl you don’t know at 6am. Despite being rather impolite, if you’re in this state at 6am, the chances of you making lectures at 8am are rather slim.

I can’t say for certain but I do think such expulsions will be common across all the companies. There are far more many people wanting to work than there are places available. So don’t push your luck. If you’re into the lifestyle, don’t mind working hard and enjoy your snow sports then working a season is fantastic. But you simply can’t get away with being lax.

If you get hired, you’re in a privileged position. Don’t mess it up!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]