When I went to work my nightshift yesterday, it was snowing… heavily. As sleepy Tignes slowly awoke this morning, snow was still falling and the morning view was a layer of soft, fluffy, pure snow carpeting the village. Where there had been a car, a mound of snow now lay. Where there had been a boulder, a mound of snow now lay. My first curious step, slowly stepping out the door, immediately sunk deep, my shoe, and in fact half my leg completely disappearing. After another step the snow sat reassuringly around my knees, as if amputated just below both knees. I’d never seen snow like this before!
Even as I write this now, 30 hours later, the blizzard still rages on. Heavy snow caught in the wind blowing in every direction and gusting off the roofs, the wind making a shrill shriek as it thunders past the chalet. This is Tignes first real dump and powder day of the ‘14/15 season.
All morning, a sporadic but constant bombardment of deafening explosions sounded, making the ground shake and the entire valley and its mountains tremble. Heavy artillery in the midst of war? Nope, avalanches being detonated, colliding down the mountain safely.
For the first time of the season, and despite tractors clearing the snow twice, we could ski out of our chalet door, down the road, past bemused onlookers and unexpected drivers straight to the queue gathering outside the lift. The queues for first lift were longer than ever this season – in fact, there actually were queues; everyone sacrificing those precious moment in a warm bed to embrace the cold and snow, keen to be first down the untouched, virgin snow. As 9.00 drew closer, the excitement was palpable, the growing crowd’s energy visible.
Will and I reached the top and set off down the steep slope into untracked snow. Anyone who’s ever skied in deep powder will know it’s an entirely different ball-game to skiing on piste. I hadn’t got the memo; I crashed a lot, perhaps even more than my first time snowboarding the other day! By the end of the first run, there was an uncanny resemblance to a snowman, with snow frozen into my beard (if you can call it that) and hair!
Slowly, throughout the day, we began to get the hang of it and were falling less, although still enough to resemble two snowmen. We were going steeper and deeper, tackling the off-piste beside a steep black run. With snow up to your waist, each turn requires Herculean effort to cast aside the snow, like wading through thick treacle. With each turn, a cloud of powder was sent flying, spraying skyward into my face making me wish I’d packed my snorkel to help breathing.
The entire day’s skiing was unlike any of the past 49; suddenly being challenged once again by the slopes I’ve been playing on for the last two months was refreshingly new, and didn’t even feel like skiing as I knew it. The falls felt like falling into a perfectly soft bed at the end of a tiring day, the snow absorbing and supporting you. The whole style was different, ploughing a fresh path through snow, hitting jumps and having a landing gently cushioned by a few feet of snow… regardless of whether you landed on two skis or not. It’s days like today that change your perceptions, allow you to end the day fully satisfied and fall asleep before your head hits the pillow, exhausted but content.
I just can’t wait for the same again tomorrow!
If you are at all interested in a season, please don’t hesitate to contact me to find the low-down on a ski season!