lundi, avril 16, 2007

Spring Skiing in Flaine (French Alps)

Flaine (1600-2500m) is probably one of the few ski stations in the world "enneigement garanti". It had been designed and built for skiing, a good-sized station with slopes for every level of expertise. Its modern architecture took some getting used to at the beginning, but it grows on you with time. It was no coincidence that on the 31st of March this year, at least 3 French families working for the Fiat Group in Germany set out to spend a week skiing in Flaine. Last winter had been warm. And Flaine was probably one of the few ski stations in Western Europe that had snow even in early Spring.

Our Hotel-Club Les Lindars (Cap Vacances) was waiting for us as we arrived in Flaine at around 8pm. It would be its last year in the ski station, the building from which it operated had recently been sold to UCPA. We collected our magnetic ski passes and our keys (3 double bedrooms for 5, but we would finally sleep in only 2 of them), deposited our luggage in the rooms and headed straight to the restaurant for dinner. The cool thing about being on full-board is that we had our 3 meals always warm and ready for us and as they came in the form of buffets, there was always choice and variety not to mention loads to eat (I've put on 3 kgs, by the way).

This season Eldest Son prepared (and obtained) his 3rd Star (3e Étoile) with the École de Ski Française (ESF). Baby Girl in her 2nd year skiing collected her Ourson and Baby Boy his Piou Piou. Hubby was to perfect his technique in Class 3 and useless me repeated my year in Class 1 and would probably stay in it forever. I had a pretty good teacher this year though. Hélène explained herself well and I've learnt quite a bit from her. Épaules toujours face à la pente!

It was a bit of a rush every morning though as we had to bring the babies to the Jardin de neige (for children learning how to ski in their 1st years) before we joined our own groups for our lessons. But after that we would be free till 5pm, the Mini Club of the Hotel taking charge of the children for lunch, activities etc. After dinner in the evening there would be some activity or programme organised for those who wished not to go to bed early - e.g. cabaret, karaoke, café théâtre etc. We usually let Eldest Son roam free after dinner. There were loads of kids of all ages around and he always managed to find someone to play with. This year he met Florian again, a Belgian boy he got to know the year before in the same hotel!

It was really sunny during our first 2 days in Flaine. Then it started to snow for a day or 2. I am a bad skier and get really affected by my surroundings. If I couldn't see ahead of me, if it's snowing and foggy, I wouldn't know how to ski. I would just be overcome by fear. There was a big case of gastric flu among the kids in the hotel and Baby Boy vomitted on the night it snowed. I seized the opportunity to stay in with him the next day. Whew.

Then the sun returned with a vengeance. We all finished the week with tanned faces (and white rings around the eyes - like reversed Panda). Baby Boy recovered in less than a day so I had to return to my class. We went up to the top of the mountain with the DMC (big cable car) and I trembled all my way up there. But the sight of the Mont Blanc changed everything. The sky was clear and blue and we could see the peaks floating in clouds, beautiful white slopes, mountain deer, the village below...I got on the red slope(s) with my group and just skied like I've skied all my life. We did half-pipes, narrow passages, toilet bowls, endless stretches for 3 full hours and I actually didn't whine for once. I am also happy that I've finally learnt to turn on parallel skis and have also managed skating movements so that I could rest a leg on every turn. I was still very slow and tired easily, but at least my last day skiing had been a pleasure and not a literal pain. Maybe my next season would finally be all pleasure. I really hope so.

Mention must be made of Baby Girl. She cried non-stop on her first day (I was in a ski lift a few hundred metres away and could hear her!) and frightened her young and handsome ski instructor (when she should be charming him). We had to threaten and bribe her so that she would return to her class the next day - and not cry. But after that, she could ski faster than me and really seemed to love it. Amazing how children pick up skiing so quickly and never seem to tire. We had to separate her younger brother from her though, for if he saw her crying, he would cry too. Baby Boy was a natural at it too, I was told. Nadège his instructor wanted to bring him home with her and she said that one had to stop the boy or he would ski too quickly. And he's only 3.

We left Flaine (legend had it that it was created from a Giant resting) on a happy note and made our way to Maranello in Italy via the Tunnel de Mont Blanc.

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