67. Mountain roads, take me home…

Today was my last day of skiing and tomorrow I must brave the snow, which has finally arrived, and head for home. I reckon I have three options for my return journey – set the sat nav to ‘Home – No Tolls’ and go back through the scenic Vosges, Ardennes, and Jura Mountains, which is the way I came, but it was damn cold and I hear those regions are getting heavy snow. I could set my sat nav for Reims and then Calais – No Tolls, to ensure I miss the mountain ranges but still get a pleasant journey  through the towns and villages. The third option to is to play totally safe and set it to Calais using toll roads. The toll roads are always clear of snow and have regular and reliable aires to stay in. I’ll decide in the morning after listening to the Meteo on the radio.

The snow has arrived, a lot of it

The snow came yesterday and transformed the place. Even the Russians look happy now. And I hope my friend who told me you can never normally see his church’s roof for snow is a little less anxious about global warming.

Now you see it, then you don’t. The church roof in Venosc should be invisible throughout January. And now, finally, it is.

The skiing was tricky yesterday because when it snows you get ‘white out’ meaning you can’t see anything, you don’t even know if you’re going uphill or downhill, which can be a challenge.

White out conditions as seen from a chairlift.  Am I going up or down?

I found that in these conditions you pull up your scarf to protect your face from the biting cold, this produces condensation on your shades which promptly freezes thus reducing your visibility still further. I took my glasses off and nearly induced immediate conjunctivitis.

My eyes were red all evening and I hadn’t touched a drop. Not a great look.

On the way back to the campsite I decided to call into a Spar to get some cheese in readiness for the journey home. There was a disappointingly small choice of bog standard cheeses and I got a Camembert de table which I think means it’s very ordinary. To my dismay, when I got to the bottom of the telecabine I saw this amazing local produce market with a huge array of every type of cheese. Needless to say I bought a load more.

This foxy French cheese seller was happy to pose for my pic as I was a very good customer

I thought today, my final ski day would be similar but in fact the sun came out and we had blue skies all day. Talking to a bunch of Dutch guys on the lift I commented on how much better today was than yesterday. To my amazement they all disagreed – the snow was much better yesterday, today there was too much! What about visibility? They all had special face masks which enabled them to see in a white out. After I get myself a helmet, which is warmer and safer, I’m gonna get me a mask like that! Incidentally, one of them was born in Groningen where my son currently teaches at the university. I asked him if he supported FC Groningen and he said no – Manchester City. He had been to Maine Road as a kid so it wasn’t just since they’ve become good. If you’re on your own and want to make friends with people, just tell them you’re from Manchester, never fails.

Speaking of helmets, I noticed a lot of guys now strap a camera on top to video their view of a piste run. I presume they then show their friends when they get home who must dread that moment. How tedious can that be? I even saw someone holding a selfie stick on themselves as they made their descent. Whatever happened to living in the moment? If you’re that narcissistic start a blog for god’s sake.

Helmet cameras – the new holiday snaps nightmare?

If you’re skiing in a group its a great idea to wear distinctive costumes so you can all spot where your mates are. I met a bunch of English lads who were having a great time. When I asked to take a team pic I got nobbled by one of them as they are videoing each other shaking hands with strangers – the longest handshake wins and mine went on for a good three minutes which must have put him in contention.

A bit reminiscent of the girls you see at budget airports on a hen do to Majorca – these lads were having a fabulous time.
I had to stop shaking hands after about three minutes because I wanted to ski some more. He wanted to carry on all afternoon

We were in the jumping park, (not supposed to be here without a helmet, by the way), so I took my jump and then waited with my camera for their attempts. It was carnage.

One by one they launched themselves over the ramp…
… only a few of them made it but there were no injuries and it was a laugh. Skiing as fun

After a while I got to know the ski area and formed my own preferences, mainly dictated by the type of lift involved. For me the chairlift is best as you don’t have to take off your skis and can chat to fellow skiers, (who for a few minutes are a captive audience). The drag lifts are slow, hard work and I invariably make of mess of either the entry or the exit.

To get to the very highest point you need to struggle up a drag lift. Give me a chair any day.

But my least favourite is the little round capsule where up to twenty people cram in as if it was the London undergound in rush hour. These can get quite whiffy as people do get a bit sweaty, they’ve been drinking that awful mulled wine stuff and eating garlic, cheese or whatever. If you get a bunch of boarders you can guarantee one of them will break wind. It’s always a pleasure to get out into the freezing but fresh air.

This one was alright but sometimes these gondolas can get a bit ripe

Speaking of boarders, I know they are considered by skiers to be as welcome as head lice but I find most of them absolutely fine. Just one thing really winds me up. If skiers want a rest they stop at the edge of a piste. Boarders just sit down in the middle and usually just below a brow so you can’t see them. This causes mayhem all day long and is probably the major contributor to piste rage.

Boarders relax to take in the view – in the place where they are most likely to cause an accident
Every piste has its hidden hazard.
And so the sun sets on a fabulous holiday. If I can get it past my Committee I’ll be back in March. Hopefully bring some mates with me.


About Basil John Mandy

A sixty odd year old born in Ladysmith, South Africa. Manchester United supporter and a great fan of the city in general. I worked for Kelloggs since 1982, apart from a year's sabbatical that I took to ride a bicycle to South Africa. I retired at the end of 2015 and have 2 grandsons, Lenny and Ellis. And now I've got a granddaughter as well - Dottie Joy!!


    1. Thanks Nick. Yes we had some snow but I think this an an ongoing source of concern for those involved in the Alpine ski industry.

  1. I’ve just started to read this post but I’m sorry to say the obtrusive pop up ad for Facebook got on my nerves so much that I just scrolled down to here to comment on it.
    Is it just something on my iPad, something you’ve added or have the ‘powers that be’ done it automatically?
    I don’t mind the occasional pop up ad but this one seems to appear every time I scroll the post or change pages.

    1. Hi Bob This is something I signed up to in order to monetise my blog. I agree that these adverts are more intrusive than I would have liked and I am in the process of getting rid of the pop up ones. Thanks for your feedback.

      1. I was in two minds about commenting but decided in the end that I’d prefer it if someone told me about an issue they had with my blog and knowing you I thought you would feel the same.

        1. Bob Yes I much prefer to know. I have now disabled the intrusive pop up ads – to be honest I didn’t like them either. Thanks again for taking the trouble to let me have your opinion. John

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