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.

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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!

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Here’s a promise…

Esther, Antsje and me at the top of BréventeOK, I will make at least one post a week from now on allowing for computer access. It’s been almost a fortnight since the last post and I am a bad, bad man for keeping you all hanging on tenterhooks. Not that I left a cliffhanger, but I know how you all miss me when I’m not around.

A brief report of the last little while then. The focus of the last week or so has been the visit of Esther and Antsje, two lovely young women from Friesland. That’s the far north of the Netherlands and an area which actually has its own language. Imagine the Dutch version of Wales – they have their own arguments about putting flags on numberplates and recognising their language as well.

I originally met Esther in Darwin where we shared a hostel room twice. She now actually lives in Haarlem on the west coast having moved from Amsterdam where I last saw her. Her visit was my way of repaying her for her kind hospitality on The Walk. Oh, and Harlem in New York is indeed named after Haarlem in the Netherlands. After all, New York was originally New Amsterdam!

The two ladies arrived on the 4th by bus from Geneva. I swear I told them I could collect them from the airport, but the happily made their own 2-hour way top Chamonix where they’d pre-booked skis (yes… skis… *shudder*). They got settled in and I showed them quickly around the town during my split shift. Ski lessons were booked and as I returned to work, they went to pick up their equipment.

Top of the worldOver the following few days I did my best to get out of the office on time. Ish. Not easy but at least I didn’t have to drive to any of the other resorts. The Dutch pait gradually got better at skiing. Esther’s more or less a complete novice having only had a few lessons back home. Antsje has skied before, I believe. This did result in them ending up in different classes, but by the Friday when I caught up with them to take to the slopes it was obvious that Esther’s not a bad learner. Even more improved by the Monday when I had another day off, as she tackled a couple of tough reds up on Flégère. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the peak of Brévente. The views were simply stunning.

Also during the week we’d popped out for food on a couple of occasions, as one does when one has visitors of such high standing. OK, I wasn’t too posh the first time as we hit Midnight Express as usual. We joined some of my work cohorts for a meal in Le Caveau another night and experienced some of the worst service ever. This was a crying shame as I’d been telling E & A that, based on my past experience, this was a great place. But being bumped back an hour for our table because they screwed our booking up, then waiting over an hour longer for the food just wasn’t acceptable.

Conversely, on Monday we headed for MBC which has notoriously bad service but half price chicken wings on a Monday. It also has some other great dishes, but I’m a cheapskate so I go for a nice volume:Euro ratio. Lo and behold – wonderful service. The food was superb as well. Antsje had the “appetiser” version of one of their burgers and just about finished it. Esther had crispy duck, and I had 24 chicken wings. And a medium bowl of their cross-hatch cut chips. And a pint.

View from BrévanteWhile I stayed late at work, the girls worked through a few of the films I had on my hard drive. The one night I was back early enough, we watched Kingdom of Heaven, which it turned out they’d seen before but which we all enjoyed. Ridly Scott does it again. I still think Gladiator was a little better but this is certainly worth a couple of hours of your time. In between other things I also finished ploughing through all three seasons of Deadwood. A great series, but one which never got the chance to end properly after being cancelled by HBO before the story’s natural conclusion. A shame, though maybe not for those offended by slightly off-colour language…

As far as I’m aware my Dutch visitors are now back in their respective homes. Their visit coincided with the first snow we’ve had for some time, though it turned to rain just as they were leaving. Hopefully, it’s still snowing higher up and we’re just getting the damper end of things down here.

And this brings us back around to this week.

You may have noticed that I’ve added some photos for the first time in ages. I will try to continue doing this, but it’s a pain with the theme I’m using right now. I’ve had to add new tags to the CSS to get them to stagger left/right, and if I have one complaint about WordPress, it’s the clunky editing interface. I do have a Plugin that changes things to a much superior editor, but this doesn’t work with the file browser so I have to swap back and forth to insert the images into the text.

As I promised. One post a week minimum on here from now till the end of the season.

Italy comes visiting

Well, as usual things mainly focus around work so day-to-day goings-on aren’t as interesting as they were when I was country-hopping or walking across Europe for charity. Talking of the charity walk, I had a visitor over the weekend – Giuliana who put me up for a night when I was in Turin and had incredibly sore feet. She brought with her a food package from her lovely parents, who’d also accommodated me for one evening when I passed through Cùneo. At which time my feet were only a bit achey.

She arrived late on Thursday evening, not helped by the mont Blanc tunnel having roadworks inside. Thankfully she got to the Jekyll just in time for the comedy show starting. This was our late work’s Christmas do – it’s far too busy around Christmas itself for an office party in Chamonix, so Sheridan delayed it until now and we had a nice three-course meal and tickets for the comedy night. Giuly’s single ticket was only 10 Euros in advance (meal and ticket was €35) and the entertainment wasn’t too bad at all. Well, two out of three comedians were funny. The other just… wasn’t. Still not bad for a night out.

We didn’t stay out on the beer too long as Giuly was only here for a couple of days and had a carful of ski equipment to use. Yes – despite being a lovely person, she’s a skier. I suppose we all have our faults.

I’d changed my shifts so I had Friday off and after ferrying lost luggage around on my day off a couple of weeks ago, I’d scrounged an extra half-day as well. This meant we had pretty much all the daylight on Friday and Saturday to get out and play on the snow. Friday was spent up Brévant and Fleger, where we sunbathed at lunchtime at around 2400m. A beautiful big dog came and sat with us, begging scraps off our sandwiches. I also rediscovered how much fun sledging is by sitting on my board and scooting down some smaller hills!

On the way back down to Chamonix in the bubble lift I spotted an Ibex. I saw loads of chamoix when I was trekking in France and Italy, but I’d not seen one of these smaller deer-like creatures before. It just stood on the slopes and watched the cars as they slid by on the cable above.

Back in town, I introduced Giuly to the gastranomic wonder that is Midnight Express which she enjoyed. Praise indeed from an Italian! To settle the evening off, we watched Nancy Drew which was much better than either of us expected. An early night as we wanted to be up early to dodge the Saturday crowds.

This, of course, didn’t happen. But we tactically dodged the crowds by getting on the bus later than anyone else. It was still busy – the busiest I’ve seen all season as I’m normally out midweek – but not too bad. I expect things to pick up further next week with the UK half terms. Today’s trip was to La Tour, which I’ve heard very highly spoken of amongst the skiers on our staff.

Giuly loved it, I wasn’t so keen. It’s definitely skier country, with lots of steep, hard snow and a couple of long, shallow runs. Shallow and flat are very hard for boarding on, which is a shame as the scenery up there is fantastic. It’s just hard to concentrate on it when you’re trying very hard not to catch an edge or swerve and shove a group of three skiers off the edge of a narrow path as they undertake you. tempting as it may be.

I headed back into town at lunchtime as I wanted to watch the match on telly (I wish I hadn’t), but Giuly stayed there until they virtually kicked her off the mountain. I had work in the afternoon and was very glad to come home to a home-cooked Italian meal! My compliments to the chef!

As I had airport duty on the Sunday morning, it was another early night. I don’t think I woke Giuly as I snuck out past the bunks at 6:45 and when I got back later in the day she told me she’d gone back up Brévent for a few hours. We had a quick wander to the MBC for a sneaky beer (great site-brewed beers, excellent food, crappy service) where Giuly caught the last ten minutes of the Italy Six Nations game (England won, but who’s bothered about egg-chasing? Really?).

And that was about it for my Italian visitor. She headed off and hopefully dodged most of the queues on the way home. I crashed out and watched some old episodes of Spooks while blowing my runny nose into a hanky. Yup, I’ve had a cold the last few days (far away from man-flu, but annoying all the same) but I have to say that getting out in the snow and fresh air really seems to have helped.

So another visitor down and a couple of weeks free before Esther and her friend come down from Amsterdam. At least I know she’s used to bunk beds as we shared a hostel room in Darwin a few times!

Been neglecting you…

Again! Sorry about that. Things are very much in the “do work, go home, wake up, do work” pattern for a while now.

I’m on to my second visitor in a week with Nic flying in on Monday morning. On the same day, Delphine departed after a short stay on her way back to Nice from Paris (and Bruge, and Brussels, and Berlin…). Nic’s opted for the “stay at ground level and paint things” course of action during her visit. Delphine had a go at snowboarding on one of the nursery slopes and after a day of trudging up and sliding down hill managed to stand up for most of the time. She did damage her thumb slightly with an awkward landing, but on the whole she departed uninjured.

On Sundays I’ve started “repping” one of the buses home from the airport. This is a great chance to chat to some of the guests and is usually quite relaxed as there’s not often more than a dozen people heading to Chamonix on the last flight. This week, however, there was quite a delay. One of the planes coming in with passengers booked with one of our competitors had a pilot who… let’s say “didn’t have much experience”. Or he was blind.

Essentially, he would prepare to land, start to descend, chicken out and fly up and round again. This caused a backlog with all the other flights as well. While I’m all for equal rights for the “differently-abled”, hiring a pilot who needs to land a 150-seater aeroplane using nothing but his sense of touch is pushing things just a little too far. The passengers, when they finally arrived, were in good spirits. One even commented that “you have to pay for rides like that at Alton Towers!”

The only downside to the Sunday work is that I can’t catch any of the footie that’s televised which means I miss the Boro game next weekend. I do get to catch what promises to be a dull encounter against Villa the following Saturday and an inevitable trouncing by ManUre two weeks after that. Jolly-ho.

Coming up, I have visits from Giuliana (I hope) from Turin; Esther and friend from Amsterdam; Viv from back home; and Leah from back home (again!). There’s also a “possible” regarding Sharon and a friend of Noah’s from Israel. I just realised that every one of my visitors is/will be female. I’m going to get quite a reputation here!

I’ve also started planning my summer out. I have a couple of weeks to spare over June around the festivals, so I’m thinking of doing the Baltic states as well as (maybe) Berlin and Warsaw. Somehow I need to get an updated passport as I also want to go to Vietnam again and I only have one spare page in my existing document. However, I’m not going to be in the UK for long which means I might have to resort to the pricey “appointment at the passport office”. A 10-year, 48-page passport on a same-day service is a whopping £123. Ouch.

And yes, I know I still haven’t posted any pictures…

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