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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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.

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Snowy update

Again, apologies for the lack of pictures but the good news (in case I didn’t already mention) is that Olympus have replaced my camera under warranty with the improved new model. And replaced my underwater housing so that this replacement fits. The former has arrived, the latter is somewhere in the postal system. Top marks to Olympus for that!

These last few days I have mostly been making 3-hour-each-way return drives between Chamonix and Tignes. Firstly to rip apart the training room here in Chamonix and set it back up again in a hotel over in the Tarentaise. This was a right pain, to be frank, but at least I was given help in the form of Mike – one of the reps from last year who’s returned for another season.

Between us we had the whole thing in pieces, in a van and in Tignes in about five hours. I then had another rep, Joe, help me piece everything back together again so that training could be done with our next group. Amazingly, I was done by dinner time and a few of the Child Care bunch kindly offered to share their pizza with me.

The after dinner “just one drink” night out turned into one of those ones that never seems as if it will end. Starting at the Bagus Bar, I had drinks bought for me by a couple of people for helping them with various laptop problems. Then the bar realised most of the people there were seasonairres, so decided they liked us and needed to bribe us into telling holidaymakers what a great place it was.

Out came the free vodka shots and more free pizza. By around 1am, the night still seemed young and what few of us remained went round the corner to Jack’s. Jagerbombs. Jager shots. Pints. Then free toffee apple shots and free halves. I do remember losing very badly at pool and really not caring.

I ended up rescuing one of the staff from another one (she has a boyfriend after all) and she crashed in the spare bed in my room. I’m nice like that. And no, no names!

My thoughts of driving back to Chamonix early morning were somewhat laid to waste by the fact I was in no fit state to get behind the wheel of a Tonka truck let alone a full-grown motor vehicle. Instead, I did some odd jobs around the place before grabbing a filling free lunch in one of the chalets (thanks, chef!) and finally making my way back to Chamonix.

I had dinner at the hotel here with the managers-in-training which was a good laugh. Decent grub and a post-meal quiz which our table won. Free cocktails! Which inevitably turned into a walk down to Bar’Dup where I was gifted another jug of beer for repairing a “broken” external hard drive. Bed at 3:30am…

More catching-up and organising of hardware followed the next day, before driving to Tignes again on Sunday afternoon to deliver some printers. I also had to configure (and remove) a couple of the training PCs as they’d be needed by the hotel staff heading out on Monday.

The drive up was pretty good. Not much traffic on the roads and no snow as yet. I managed to get from Bourge St Maurice up to Tignes in less than the running length of Slayer‘s Reign in Blood. Check out the album details and then look on a map for the route. Suffice to say that had Leah been in the van I’d have been shouted at frequently when she wasn’t busy gibbering and hiding her face in her hands.

Of course, when I got there I was frankly informed by the person running the training that they needed all of the machines and that I wasn’t allowed to take any of them. I pointed out that two of them weren’t even on the network so obviously weren’t being used, so yes – I would. Those two. Ideally I needed two more, but was forbidden. Well, less work for me (though more later in the week).

Including a dinner break (thanks, chef!) I managed to get the two machines set up, optimised, configured, tested and boxed by half eleven at night. Then retired with two cans of lager, some cheap crisps and  the last two episodes of The Dead Zone season 5.

The next morning I found out there’d been a) an overnight snowfall and b) a messup with the transportation. As such, I was no longer meeting people in Albertville to hand PCs over, I would have to bring them all the way back to Chamonix. So I loaded the van, hopped in and made acceptable time on the now more slippy roads.

So, in Chamonix for a couple of days to do some odd jobs before scooting back to Tignes on Thursday afternoon. It really is all go, here. Hotel staff are now in place (or at least, as I type, on the road heading for their resorts) and chalet staff/reps will be zipping off to settle in on Saturday.

That’s about when I start getting a million “my xxxx doesn’t work” calls.

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Regrets, I’ve had a few…

And I regret not bringing a camera with me on this trip. “Yeah, seen it all before”, I thought.

I have seen it all before. But that doesn’t stop Chamonix, particularly after snowfall, being one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. I’m sat in the hotel right now looking out over one of the nursery areas in the direction of the Aiguille du Midi.

It’s stunning. Frankly, simply, ridiculously stunning.

The sun has just gone over the peak so is streaming towards me. I have to shelter my eyes to see the view. Everything’s coated in fresh snow, including the tree in the distance that looks ghostly as a result. The trees on the mountain slope to my left have a dusting while the peaks are now covered in a gorgeous white glow.

Even though the lifts aren’t open yet, some people are hiking up the nursery area and skiing, boarding, sledging and bum-boarding down.

Ha! And I just spotted a snowman on the other side of the street!

I’m sorry I can’t share the view. Believe me, I’m not trying to make anyone jealous. I’m just trying to leave myself a memory as a blog post as I’ll have to carry this year’s images away in my head.

I was going to add a stock image to this post, but I just can’t find anything that would do it justice.

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Midnight Express

Midnight Express is, from what I gather, a superb motion picture. Some may argue John Hurt‘s finest hour since a half-ton of animatronic nastiness exploded from his chest and squirted blood and viscera over Sigourney Weaver et al.

However, I talk of the burger bar in Chamonix.

Oh. My. InsertDeityOfChoice.

You know when you have memories of somewhere and you give it much more credit than it deserves? It was a fantastic holiday and that little restaurant made the best profiteroles in the world? Or the bar with those wonderful canapes?

Then you go back sober and realise they actually kinda sucked?

This will never happen with Midnight Express. I popped by tonight and I admit to having some reservations. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered. How many times was I drunk when I bought one, so I wouldn’t notice that it wasn’t really that good?

My fears were unfounded. A five-Euro burger was enough to remind me that they probably make the best fast food in the world. My taste buds are still bouncing. I have a whack-load of chocolate on my desk and I don’t want any of it in case it takes the taste away.

Oh, I hope Google picks this one up. Chamonix. French Alps. France. Burgers.

Midnight Express. No other option. Forget McDonald’s. Midnight Express.

I want another one.

Now.

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