Nendaz, Switzerland

by - January 24, 2011

Sunday 16th January - Thursday 20th January

Not long after coming back from Prague, I headed off on my next adventure, this time to Switzerland to go skiing.  I had never been particularly interested in skiing, but when a friend invited me out to stay in his family chalet, I figured it was a case of trying everything once.  As somebody who tends to get frustrated at being bad at things (think back to how little time I was willing to spend learning to ride a motorbike in Egypt), I decided to go on a “learn to ski in a day” course in Milton Keynes. This proved to be a worthwhile investment as it meant that by the time I got to the Swiss Alps, I had got the basics.  Under the expert tuition of Tom, I was soon able to go from the “snow plough” - a posture that immediately signals you out to everyone else on the slope as a beginner, to parallel skiing.  From there, I was able to enjoy blue and red runs at will.  For non skiers out there, the grades of difficulty that are given to ski runs are categorised as green, blue, red and black, going from easiest to hardest.
A view over Sion from Tracouet

Getting to Nendaz, where I was staying, was very straightforward.  Flights for Geneva left Luton every hour so after finishing work at 3, I got the 6.00pm flight and arrived at about 9 (with a delay and time difference added).  The Easyjet flight was very bizarre - there were only 23 passengers taking up the 120 odd seats, so everyone had two aisles each.  There were so few passengers that I was asked to sit in the seats on the wing for take off as this is where the emergency exits are located and apparently it is law that they have to be manned take off and landing.  I stayed in Geneva for Saturday night, though I didn`t see any of the town as I went straight back to my hostel - I aimed to come back on Thursday to look around a bit.  On Sunday morning I got a direct train to Sion, which is the town in the valley below the Nendaz ski resort.  The journey was fantastic - possibly the best I have ever been on, as it skirted Lake Geneva through the towns of Lausanne and Montreaux, and I was early enough to see the sun rise over the lake.  The sun slowly burnt the mist off, but for the majority of the journey the far bank wasn`t visible - Smoke on the Water.

It is difficult to know how to write a blog for something like a ski holiday as every day involved the same activity, just in different places.  But here goes.  Having arrived on Sunday at midday, Tom and I headed for Traquoet, the nearest cablecar station to the chalet.  A free bus service runs between the ski resorts.  I spent the rest of the day consolidating what I had learnt at Milton Keynes by going down blue runs, but I was yet to leave the reassuringly slow snow plow.  My first time on the slopes was remarkably free from falls however - in fact the only time I fell was in an embarassing tangle with Tom when I was putting my skis on, which involved me essentially wearing his skis as well as my own and causing the two of us to go bundling down the nursery slope as a single entity.  I guess it was the worst possible start, but things got better from there.  That evening I was introduced to the other people who were benefiting from Tom and his dad`s generosity and were staying in the chalet with us.  The group was an incredibly eclectic mix - with the financial, aviation, music, furniture and car businesses represented.  Needless to say, the evening was mainly spent listening to the stories that these people had to share.  As well as spending two hours in the jacuzzi.

The ski team
On Monday we headed over to Thyon.  It was here that I actually got the hang of skiing properly and it was strange how it suddenly just clicked - one moment I was slowly wobbling down the slopes and all of a suddent I was flying down and cornering with parallel skis. From there it was a lot of fun.  The days followed a wonderful routine - breakfast, skiing, lunch, skiing, jacuzzi, dinner and this was how I spent my time until Wednesday.  After my first few sessions of being by myself, I joined the others and we skiied as a group.  Our only time when we weren`t as a group was when Tom and his dad went off piste with a guide for a day that was so intense that it resulted in a broken ski for Tom`s dad - a situation that would have caused most people to roll up in a ball and cry, but only resulted in him skiing down an unmarked run on one leg.  Amazing stuff.  We changed where we skiied each day - going to Verbier on Wednesday for my last run and it was here that the weather became overcast and misty, without yielding the snowfall that we had been hoping for.  This was good though, as it meant that my last day of skiing was in harder conditions.  Lunchtime on Wednesday was very impressive - we went to a restaurant called Chez Dany which includes Prince William as its past guests.  As with most good restaurants in the alps, the only way to get to it was to ski down a tough slope to get there, but we all made it and ate in real style.

I appreciate that this probably isn`t the most informative of my blogs and is really the story of how I learned to ski, but I thought I would include it for completeness.  It was a fantastic oppurtunity that came from sheer generosity, which I would have been foolish to refuse.  A thorougly enjoyable week.

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