Sunset from the chalet
The day we have been waiting for since we arrived is now here. The ski resort of Saint Lary Soulan is now officially open.
Alarms were set last night and those of us who wanted to ski, or snowboard, were up at 7.30 this morning. Sunny skies and another light fall of snow overnight set the scene. Marcos mopped the floors, Jo sorted the fire and washed up breakfast things, I cleared the terrace of snow and at 9.00am we went to get our ski equipment. Some great Salomon carver skis for me and boards and boots for the other two.
I was excited to be heading up to the slopes, but nothing compared to the other two, Marcos is from Brazil and has never experienced snow before, let alone snowboarding, it is Joe’s first time too, he is a proficient longboarder, similar to skateboarding but on a longer board with wheels. Their excitement was intoxicating, just the ride up the mountain in the bubble lift, looking out over the snow covered mountains would probably have been enough, but they wanted more. After six weeks talking about it, watching videos and being in the mountains with all the snow around, all they needed to do was get on their boards and go.
And they did. After a few failed attempts to master a button lift, the operator suggested that we used a chair lift and that they practice balance and control on their boards before trying a button lift again. I talked them through getting on the lift and lowering the safety bar so that none of us plummeted from the swinging chair into the snow below, we studied the form of skiers and boarders on our ride up, enjoyed the view across the resort to the snowcapped mountains in the distance, cursed at the bitter snow from the everblasting snow canons and checked out some of the other routes down the mountain, there seems to be plenty here to explore and that is before we even got to the top. Getting off a lift is a tricky affair so I prepared them the best I could to avoid a mass pileup at the top. The beginners managed the dismount in style, without tumbling or mucking up at all, hopped aross to the top of the piste like only snowboarders do, buckled their feet firmly to their boards and were off. Momentarily. By the time I had my camera ready they were both flat on the snow. It didn’t put them off at all. Again and again and again they managed to stand, balance and topple to the floor again. Like watching born foals trying to stand for the first time.
I left them to it for a while and went off to find my ski legs again. They hadn’t gone far and returned very fast. Off down the easy blue run, a little cautiously to start with and then with a bit more speed. What a feeling to be gliding over the snow with the breeze whistling and the sound of skis on the piste. The surface was wonderful, newly groomed and constantly topped up by the snow canons, they do an excellent job providing extra snow, but ski through their vapour cloud and you know it, bitter cold sticking snow that gets in through the smallest chink in your clothing and lets you know who is in charge on the mountain. After the first couple, I avoided their drift wherever I possibly could. To the bottom and back up again.
I did the same route again, mainly to check up on the newbies but also because the second time down a run is often better than the first, knowing where the bumps and turns are, getting a feel for the snow and just because it is. I was surprised how far I had to go to find Marcos, he was nearly half way down, sat on his arse when I spotted him, but obviously getting the hang of his board. Joe was already at the bottom when I got there the second time. Loving every moment and like a duck to water, he was grinning from ear to ear, covered in snow, cold and having the best time ever. We went round again before I headed off to enjoy some more of the mountain.
To be continued....