Skiing. I can honestly say that the said pursuit was not really on the top of my list of 'things to do' but when a good friend asked if we wanted to go and suggested he pay for us....well, it would have been rude really and rather a waste to turn down the opportunity!
There was only one hurdle; missing Christmas as we know it. After a few days of thought, some family discussions and after watching a few You Tube videos of beginners skiing, all of the children were in agreement that we should bite the bullet and give it a go. Of course as is normal in my house, Small Boy only gave the idea a brief moments thought, the Little Lady was incredibly excited and Miss P had her reservations!
On an always tight budget and with some incredibly generous friends who donated out-grown clothing, we managed to gather up a sufficient amount of suitable ski gear. We had a worthy demonstration on how to put on said gear and skis from our friend, along with some tales of fractures and injuries that really didn't help reassure the reserved one!
Timing was tight and we had already booked to go to Yorkshire for a few days with literally a day between trips. Then there was the usual organisation involved with pet sitters etc which on this occasion all fell into place as planned - thankfully!
I wondered how we would fit ourselves along with all our accumulated gear into a VW Polo with a roof box but it's surprising how roomy those little cars are. Or perhaps it was limiting the excessive amount of 'stuff' that the kids generally like to take that helped? Anyway, we squeezed in with room to spare. Surprisingly you don't actually need much when you're skiing just your outer gear, base layers and a few sets of underwear. I did buy helmets in the Black Friday sales as they were the same price as renting but skis and boots were rented once we reached the resort.
The journey to Tignes, which is on the East side of France in the Alps, took hours. We took the channel tunnel from Folkestone (a new and very pleasant experience for us) and then drove all day until we reached Lyon where we stayed overnight in a budget F1 hotel. I'm not really a fan of long car journeys but it was fine. The children chatted away in the back, slept and ate as always and I did the same in the front. It took a total of 16 hours of driving from door to door which actually wasn't too tedious at all. I saw some breathtaking scenery, especially once we reached the mountains.
We arrived at the resort on Saturday morning which was perfect as it was 'change over day' and the slopes weren't too busy. We unloaded the car and then sought out the hire shop that we'd booked the skis and boots though. Kitting up was fun :-)
So the moment had arrived. We put on our gear and stumbled to the bottom of the slopes to put on our skis. It really isn't easy walking on ice in those well fitting plastic boots that prevent you from bending at the ankles. In hindsight I realised that is actually a good thing!
I had assumed we'd spend a short while learning to stand and move on the flat before tackling anything with a connection to 'slope' in it, but no! Before we knew it we were being hurled up on a six person chair lift to the top of what appeared, quite a steep mountain. Eeeeek! We'd been told how to stop using the 'snowplough' manoeuvre but we hadn't actually had the opportunity to put it into practise. Needless to say snow is really quite slippery and without breaks.......not advisable!
Our first exit from the chairlift was exactly what we had laughed about a couple of days prior to our trip. One mass bundle of arms, legs and skis in a heap right in everyones way. Not a great start!
So once we had got to our feet we started our decent down the slope. As you can imagine we snow ploughed.....into each other! There were tears, bumps and bruises, cross words and utter fear. It's like everything else....you have to start at the beginning and most people don't get things of this nature first time of trying. The boy tumbled the furthest and somehow managed to turn himself around and ride the skis to the bottom. I was next after much slipping and sliding and the girls.....arrived safely at the bottom about an hour later! Needless to say both decided that was enough for their first day and they mulled around watching and freezing the rest of the afternoon whilst Small Boy and I tried again. The second take was marginally better although I still found myself scrabbling after lost skis and feeling rather annoyed when a friendly English lady told me that the slope was marked as a 'blue' which in ski terms is an intermediate slope! Not being deterred by such things I carried on and by the end of day 1 I had managed to work out how to survive the decent...sort of! I just had an issue with speed and my inability to stop or feel in control.
There was time for sledging too!
Day 2 was a similar story with regards to the speeding. I had mastered balancing and the process of manoeuvring but I feared for the safety of all other slope users. There were many little children out there with their ski schools whom in their innocence could easily have fallen victims of my inexperience. I envisaged hitting them and causing a 'domino effect'....not cool! The Boy continued to gain confidence and decided after day 1 that he was definitely the best and the girls...well Miss P braved her fears and had another go whilst the Little Lady stood at the bottom of the slopes watching! Thankfully after a little teasing she tried again that afternoon.
.......and igloo building........
Skiing uses up vast amounts of energy and we were all starving hungry at the end of each day as well as exhausted. So calories and sleep were most welcome.
We all loved the whole ski experience and definitely want to go again and we are incredibly grateful to our friend for his incredible patience with us all in our moments of fear and tantrums in my case! Standing on top of a mountain is the most terrifying thing I have ever done but it's also liberating and invigorating and I am thrilled to grasped the opportunity.
We left the ski resort on Christmas eve and stayed in a beautiful French gite overnight before the main of our return journey on Christmas day. It was actually rather fun eating cheese baguettes and pain au raisin for Christmas lunch!
Hoping that you had a peaceful Christmas :-)