So March has been a rather busy month my work/life/blog balance hasn’t gone to plan and the season is quite clearly coming to a slushy end. Anything below 1700 metres is struggling to be maintained and it is making me long for the few powder days that we did get this season. It’s been well over due that I told you about my second EPIC SKI DAY it may have been nearly a month ago now BUT it’s a story that needs telling…
I got a call on the Monday from my manager saying our BIG boss wanted to take us off piste skiing as we had a big dump that week. My nerves had started to kick in as the group I would be going with were all male, quite a bit older than me and very experienced skiers – my BIG boss is an ESF instructor.
After a lot of questioning whether it was right for me to go and worried I would hold them back, I had a chat with my dad who told me if it was him he would do it and if you are going off piste who better to go with than a professional (he did also tell me to give it a miss this time, which made me think I was going to miss out on something).
So I woke up nice and early on the Wednesday morning and put on my favourite girl rider film Pretty Faces in the hope that Elyse Saudstad’s words of “if I can inspire one girl to go and jump off a cliff that excites me” – would give me the boost I needed to JUST DO IT. Cliff drops weren’t on the menu of the day, however early morning I wasn’t sure what was – until we hit the slopes. Back country and off piste skiing has always been something I know deep down I am meant to do (I watch so many films) but I have this mental block that tells me all the dangers out weight the opportunities and although I can shred I constantly question – am I really good enough to take my skiing to this level?
So I met my colleagues at the top of Plan de l’homme chair lift. Our team consisted of my buddy Tom – Resort Manager, Ben – Ops Manager, Jason – a friend of theirs who manages another company and Iain – French Director who also happens to be an ESF instructor. I felt completely out of my depth. At the top of Tougnete 2 without a warning or a warm up, Iain pulled out his transceiver to check we were all connected – this made me scared. Suddenly he just jumps of the side of the piste and shouting follow me! He literally FLEW straight of the lip and down into some overgrown tree runs towards Meribel Mottarett – NOT my idea of a warm up.
In my general panic I followed skiing the worse I ever have, sweating and flustered I had a few falls and at one point wrapped myself around a bush. I had to flip over upside down in order to get out – all I could think was you stupid girl what made you think you could do this, the others must have been wondering why on earth they invited you. By the time we got to the chair Iain told me I looked shell shocked and that I need to calm down as we have a great day ahead of us.
After I had cooled down we made our way over to the top of the really long drag lift that takes to you Les Menuires. We hung a right and traversed across the top which opened out into an INCREDIBLE powder field – more my cup of tea. Iain told me to tighten up my turns and lean more into my boots as I was pretty backseat – I was skiing on Line Celebrity 90’s, my first ever pair of skis. Although they are fantastic all mountain skis, they aren’t the most technical ski for chest deep powder.
Here is a rather wobbly attempt at showing you our day out:
Off Piste skiing #EPICSKIDAY #followmeski
We continue to ski this field of powder for over an hour hopping across the piste and then making our way through a deserted farm where the fence poles for the animals were sticking out above the snow. At one point I caught my edge, stacked it and lost my ski, I have to say the hike back up climbing through deep powder to get it was torture. I thought I was going to pass out – and all I could think was if you had spent more time on your bike and less eating Weinholts Bakery treats this summer you would be more fit right now and not sweating like a pig.
Eventually we came to the main road that goes up to Val Thorens, we took our skis off and walked about 100 metres. We continued to ski down through what I presume was peoples back gardens, ending up in a little hamlet called Le Bettex just below Les Menuires. I didn’t know this place even existed but the 2 seat bench like chair lift told me it was quite a backwards little place. We started to head up to the top of Le Masse in Les Menuires. The initial plan was to drop off the back to the right, ski some famous off piste down to a restaurant and get a helicopter (YES A HELICOPTER) back to Meribel. Unfortunately the cloud came in as we got to the top, we waited 20 mins to see if it would pass over but nothing changed. Iain called the helicopter company who said they didn’t think it was a good idea. So instead we dropped off the left side down towards Val Thorens.
This run is very well know as it leads down to a frozen lake, the area is called Vallon Du Lou. It was some of the steepest and deepest terrain I have ever skied and at one point I started to freak out in my head. But then I had a flash back to the film I had watched that morning and I started to relax. Lynsey Dyer’s dad said to his daughter “dance down the mountain” be at one with the mountain and as cheesy as it is I kept telling myself tight turns, weight balanced, tips above the snow and dance down the mountain. I was shaking when I got to the bottom. I have never felt an adrenaline rush like it. I followed Tom along a path that snaked along the edge of a stream leading to the lake. At one point we had to crossover on a narrow plank of wood – my skis were too wide for the plank if I fell it was going to be VERY WET and VERY COLD.
When we got to the bottom we had to pole across the frozen lake, it was the most bizarre scenario, walking on skis past people in wet suits diving into small holes and going under the ice. People were also having picnics on top of the lake – MADNESS.
By this point my body was packing in, everything hurt, I felt like I had no breath left. We ended up at the bottom of the Boismint chair in Val Thorens and skied down the haute combe to the Moutiere chair lift. Here we made our way via pistes to the top of the Cascades chair lift where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Chalet Marine. The chef here is famous for his pastry and has won the award in France in 2009 & 2011 for best pastry chef. We were lucky enough to drink lots of wine, eat lovely home cooked food and scoff 2 plates of patisserie goodies to share.
The only picture I took in the whole day:
CAKES #nommnomm #followmeski #chaletmarine
It was getting close to 4pm and we didn’t have long to shred back to Meribel and get the last chair lift up at 4:50pm. After such an incredible day and self-achievement I was looking forward to some cruising runs back home and telling my friends about my adventure…
But when you ski with keen off Piste skiers this doesn’t go the way you planned it. We got off the top of the 3 Vallees cable car and instead of following the piste, hung a right, traversed across a ridge and dropped down into a Couloir I didn’t even know existed – I guess this is the best part of off piste; finding untouched, unspoiled terrain. My lunch and alcohol churning in my stomach I managed to get down without a fall. The most satisfying thing was turning back to look at MY tracks. I have spent my skiing life on chair lifts looking up to the top of a ridge to see perfect lines in untouched powder. I have always though what crazy person would ski that? Well on this day it was ME, MY LINE.
We caught the Plan Des Mains chair up to the top of Mottaret at 4:50pm (phew) surely this is it? But no, the last run of the day was not cruising down Sittelle, through the park and down to Mottaret. Iain decided we should hike up the ridge behind Plattieres 3 overlooking the DC Area 43 park and drop off the back into a very famous area called “Mario Land” this place has been a mystery to me for so long – why is it called Mario ? Honestly, there are so many drops and things to dodge it is like you are Mario jumping around trying not to get hit. I have to say that I did not complete Mario Land, I followed Ben back on piste half way down as it was quite sketchy, the light was getting dark and I thought I had achieved enough for one day – sometimes it is better to quit while you are ahead.
We skied back to resort and I was high on life, never have I put my body through so much emotional and physical strain. BUT the achievement of completing a whole day off piste with the big kids, skiing terrain I didn’t know I was capable of, that made this one of the best ski day of my life and of course the most EPIC SKI DAY.