Diary of a Chalet Girl pt 2: Week 1 & 2, Oops… France

I arrived in Geneva, Switzerland about 45 minutes late due to a delay on the runway at Newcastle. I wasn’t surprised as the snow and ice in The UK was unrelenting leading up to departure day, but actually the tardiness of my flight was due to low lying fog in Geneva. Something which appears to happen quite frequently, it seems.

My snowboard was unhelpfully taken off of the special equipment carousel and dumped under other discarded snowboards, so after an hour of shuffling through passport control at less than snail pace and a further 30 minutes waiting for my snowboard to ‘arrive’, I was getting grumpy. And hungry.

The transfer was still waiting for me when I finally made it into the arrivals hall. Though the other travellers weren’t best pleased that I, a worker, was holding up their holiday. Mais c’est la vie.

Driving into Morzine was a delight. Think the logo of Evian water, not surprising considering this is where it comes from. But still, a stunning revelation, as I had no idea. My apartment is a two bedroom shared between four girls, me included. Everything is functional, including two huge balconies with views of the mountains.

Later that night I began work in the chalets and thankfully I’m finding the amount of work more manageable. I guess this has something to do with catering for HALF the amount of guests per week compared to when I cheffed in Andorra.

As a criminally unnatural snowboarder, I’ve struggled to get back into it. On our second trek up the mountain, I found myself stuck in Avoriaz, approximately 800 metres above Morzine with no way down other than to walk or board. Weather conditions were shocking and the piste was icy as hell, making boarding even harder than I already found it. So I walked. Part of the way at least. Our first day out wasn’t as horrific.

The following Wednesday (yesterday) I was invited to board at The Grand Massif resort with another group. I expressed my reservations, as I am aware of my lacking pro snowboarder skills (and the fact I’m now a fat bastard), and thought I might hold the group up. They encouraged me to come anyway. And I figured with regular breaks in cafes I might just manage it. I was wrong.

The runs were longer than anything I encountered in Andorra. Although my boots and board felt more comfortable than earlier in the week, I still hit the ground with force on several blue and red runs thanks to the bumpy terrain and my poor toe edge. I opted to sit out for a while in a mountain top cafe, and purchased un chocolat chaud avec chantilly, Evian et un Pepsi Max. And then I fell asleep in a deck chair for nearly two hours waiting to be picked up for lunch.

But they never came. The group I was with were venturing further up and over the mountains and with the intention of boarding the 14km La Piste de Cascade back to the bottom of the mountain, I decided to make my way down to Flaine. I assumed there would be restaurants to get myself some lunch and if I did indeed struggle to get back on my board I thought there must be buses back to Samoëns anyway. Wrong again.

Flaine is pretty much a ski in and ski out town placed within what can only be described as a bowl. Everything seemed so far away from here and I realised this place is most definitely made for hardcore skiboarders. Even the blue runs were more akin to the reds and blacks of Grandvalira. After over an hour of trying to negotiate a way out of Flaine and back to Samoëns, without having to strap my board back on, I had to face the fact that there was no other way out. And that made me cry.

I won’t lie. I considered staying in Flaine until someone was available to drive the hour and fifteen minutes from Morzine to fetch me. But you know, it’s my second week and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be sacked for being an inconvenience on everyone’s day off. Then it hit me… Flaine is my French Pas de la Casa. I was stuck. And this felt all too familiar. Only this time there wasn’t a Burger King.

I reluctantly stepped onto the telebenne and then strapped my board back on and made my way up the Grand Vans chair lift to the top. From the top I should have taken a steady blue all the way back to Samoëns for the Grand Massif Express bubble back to Samoëns village. But I somehow ended up completely lost and on my way to somewhere else entirely. At this point, 5.15pm to be exact, the chair lifts began to close, the sun began to set and I was the only person except for the odd chairlift operator on the piste.

And I was shitting myself. And crying, and then shitting myself some more.

My head was swimming, my whole body was shaking and aching more than I even thought was possible. The fear of catching an edge through sheer fatigue crippled me, and when it did happen I’d flip multiple times down the mountain side before sliding unceremoniously to a halt only made possible by clutching at snow in a frenzied fashion. No one witnessed any of those falls, but for the first time in my life I wished they had. Because at least it meant that I wasn’t completely alone in the French Alps.

I took the next available chairlift back to the top of the mountain where, with tears streaming down my face, I asked the chairlift operator for help. Just to put this in perspective, I was currently 2118m above where we had parked the car, and the only way down was by snow. He pointed me towards mountain rescue and the skidoo man kindly agreed to take me back down the mountain. On that ride back down red slopes at break neck speed I realised I actually was the last tourist on the mountain. And it dawned on me just how bad a situation I had found myself in by biting off more than I could chew.

Here’s a map of my day…

(In other words, Samoëns village > Samoëns > Tete de Saix > Les Carroz > Les Molliets > Tete de Saix > Grand Vans > Flaine > Grand Vans > Tete de Saix > Samoëns > Samoëns Village)

This brings me to today. My right knee is swollen, I can’t laugh, sneeze or cough without my abdomen cramping. Both my arms are bruised and tender, and my lips are chapped for the first time ever. I’m sinking painkillers like they’re going out of fashion and I’m slowly refuelling myself after inadvertently skipping meals yesterday.

Now for 6 days of 6am alarms and 9.30pm finishes. Think my next day off will be a spa day.

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