Those small minded buffoons who deny that global warming is happening should speak to an old chap I met today in a cafe in Venosc. (When I say ‘old chap’ I mean he’s about my age, or just a bit younger.) He told me that as long he he could remember he has never been able to see the church roof in January because it is covered in snow. Well you can see it now and the absence of snow is apparently at crisis levels in the Alps – he said that everyone in the ski business was worried sick about the absence of the ‘white gold’.
Today was my first day in Venosc but I did not ski because my ski injury insurance only kicks in from tomorrow. So I decided to walk up the path to Les Deux Alpes ski area, a journey you would normally make in the Telecabine ski lift. I wondered if, given the catastrophic absence of snow, anyone else was skiing up there. It took me about an hour and a half and when I got there I was hot, sweaty and sun burned. But I didn’t see any sign of snow and I began to worry that the only skiing would be on the glacier. I needn’t have worried because the snow cannons have created some lovely pistes – but they’re artificial and surrounded by bare rock.
Apparently ski resorts like this are really struggling with the uncertain snow and although it was far from a ghost town, you could sense a certain despondency about the place. A lot of money still but fewer people and many of them just mooching round the shops rather than flying down the mountains.
At Tourist Information I was told that there was a lot of snow higher up but due to high winds all the lifts above 2000m were closed. That was probably the real reason why everyone looked so pissed off.
Still there were pistes open, the wind was due to drop by tomorrow and that was good enough for me so I forked out my 245€ for a six day pass and I will strut my stuff tomorrow.
The conditions reminded me of one of my fondest memories about skiing which was the first time I went with a group of friends and my son Johnny. He and I had been learning on the dry slope at Runcorn and when we got to try the real snow, at Montgenevre, there was a similar problem of too little snow. Then they had only one long piste open and it was vitually solid ice. Everybody was very disappointed apart from me and Johnny. After the plastic at Runcorn this was amazing and we spent day after day haring up and down this piste which we practically had to ourselves. On ice it is not possible to go at any pace other than breakneck and I am sure that is the reason my son became the kamikaze skier that he is today. That might also be the reason why we had that piste to ourselves for five days.
I walked back down the dusty path to the campsite and booked dinner with the lady who runs the place. She is also the chef and the waitress. We get on really well because she knows I want to practise my French and she is happy to oblige, even though I think her English is probably pretty good. The menu of the day was ‘Quennelle’ (pike, which I’ve never eaten before) and when she served it she went to some trouble to explain the origins of the dish. She explained that it was caught in local rivers and she had taken the bones out, it is delicious etc. She pointed out where it was on my plate. Eating it I thought it tasted like mushroom. Then I realised that was mushroom and the pike must be underneath. I still didn’t find it and I wondered if she had forgotten to put it on my plate. Unfortunately I just could not find a way to ask her if the pike was really there or if I had eaten it thinking it was mushroom, so I guess I’ll never know. If Joy had been there she’d have found a way to ask the question.
Just as I was beginning to feel a bit alone again, a lady from a nearby table leaned over to ask me if that was my Type 2 in the site. Thank god for having a Bay – when it comes to making friends they are almost as good as having a dog. She and her partner live in Spain and drive a Type 5. I said I love Type 5’s and she said she loves Bays and it just went from there…
Back at the van I’d left the heater on – a bit extravagant I know, and I felt a bit guilty because I’d spent the day moaning about the irresponsible climate change deniers. But it’s lovely and warm as I type this and I guess I’ll just have to live with myself.