La neige arrives

After a lot of people getting very nervous and some dire predictions by local farmers that the snow wouldn’t arrive until February, the snow is here and winter has started at last.

I was wondering who the arrival to the village would be that would ‘bring the snow with them’ and it turned out to be my mates from home Cheeko and Hughsey, who flew out to surprise me for my birthday at the start of December.  My wife had organised a surprise party for me at The Avalanche and I couldn’t believe it when my boys from home showed up.  (actually I cried – sad I know)

Of course, you know by now the usual carnage that follows and I was pretty glad to get rid of them a few days later, as my liver had taken a real pounding.

oh dear

This weekend was the formation weekend at the ski school where we all get together for a ski and work on things like technique and the progression of skiing from a complete beginner all the way through to parallel skiing.  Last year, this had to be done in two groups of French and English but this year was done entirely in French as there are only 3 British instructors at the ski school (which should mean more work for all of us!!!).  After a year abroad, I understood most of what was said.  This is what progress looks like.

my office

The seasonaires have started arriving in Chatel and the girl’s night out kicks off the winter season tomorrow night with 44 of Chatel’s finest ladies tearing the village up.  This also means that there will be plenty of local single chaps out checking out this season’s talent and trying out their best moves.  Judging by last weekend’s efforts, it’s pretty obvious who’s got game and who hasn’t.  Let’s just say that inviting the new chalet girls to an X-Factor final party doesn’t count as good ‘game’..

It’s snowing big outside and a few of the locals have been out riding the powder and one guy going to the effort to skin up the local highest peak, the Mont de Grange (2400m+)  Not really my style to be honest but we were all pleased for him.  I’ve just dragged my big fat skis out from the cave in anticipation of a powder day tomorrow morning :DDD

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What do you do in summer? – an open letter to Misplaced Person

Dear Christa

Loved your last blog entry, goading the collective ski related bloggers for their inactivity.

Since I regard the 7 months of summer as little more than an extended wait until the 5 months of the year here when everything is covered in snow (except last year of course), I just couldn’t bring myself to write about the trivialities of my existence when it’s not ski season.

Also, being an capitalist at heart, I don’t usually write unless I’m getting paid for it, hence the ski related topics of my efforts this season. That said, I often trawl the other blogs that I find amusing/racy and am also disappointed by the lack of activity.

Since you asked though, here’s a rough list in no particular order of all the stuff that I’ve been up to since the snow went;

1. Coaching football

Now my main job in the months from late April until December. Somehow, I’ve become a football coach working for a company that does after school football and summer camps. Compared to ski teaching, it’s much more difficult due to the lack of ‘dead time’ that you don’t have. By dead time, I mean time on lifts, time chatting theory, time spent skiing from one place to another. With the footy coaching, it’s full on and the summer camps in particular have been pretty draining, especially in 35 degree heat. Frankly, the last thing I want to do after getting home from coaching is write and normally I detour to the pub – see point 4 below.

2. VTTing

I admit to twice having been mountain biking and I still don’t get the attraction. Perhaps it’s because like any sane and normal person, as soon as I got a car when I was 17, I sold my bike and never looked back. I actually used to race VTT’s when I was younger and I know I’ve still got all the old skillz BUT, it just looks like a money pit and potential injury minefield to me and I’d rather spend time on point 4 below. The first time I went, we went to Les Gets and did a load of downhill stuff which I admit, was rather fun. I then stupidly got all excited and signed up for something called the PassPortes du Soleil, which is essentially 70kms of uphill biking round France and Switzerland, cleverly marketed as riding round France only going downhill. Never again and if you are reading this and thinking of doing it, consider yourself warned.

this VTT for the PassPortes – knife to a gunfight mate

3. Playing Vets football

And I don’t mean playing football with M. Jacob the vet from Abondance, I mean a bunch of 35-years + French ski instructors, Butchers and Pompiers running about on a Friday night and generally thrashing the pants off other local sides like Morzine, Brevon and other obscure towns you’ve never heard of. The great bit about Friday night football is that it’s played on better facilities than I’ve ever played on in my life (for some reason Chatel has an unused UEFA B standard floodlit pitch) and the whole game is played in French. There are a couple of other English chaps that play (well, actually 2 are from Yorkshire) and we seem to be working our way into the team on merit, with myself falling back to my old favourite role of number 5, generally kicking strikers and cheating, with the others bossing midfield and creating numerous chances up front. For the team, it’s also quite social and everyone goes to eat together afterwards and sink a load of beers (see point 4 below).

4. Drinking (& BBQ’s)

Now we’re talking. Pretty much since the tourists left at the end of April, there has been a lot of drinking going on and in many ways, I’m a little bit over the remorseless drinking culture that has permeated the summer over the course of the various village fetes, happy cow competitions, birthdays and god knows whatever else we have celebrated this summer. The lack of work at this time of year leads to many of the usual suspects (of which I count myself) constantly in a state of, or topping up last nights drunkenness . This said, in many ways, there is little else to do so you’ve got to be a little disciplined and me working summer camps this year has meant that I’m out of town for 4 days of the week which leaves me the weekends to either go do something different or watch the test matches in the Avalanche and get pissed. A pleasing development though was the Chalet that some friends are renting just by the river which has a most excellent garden, river fridge and oil barrel BBQ, meaning a whole new (and cheaper) way to get wasted.

river fridge – surprisingly effective

5. Pitch and Put golf

A interesting development this one, given the presence in the village of a European Tour caddy that plays a little bit, as I did when I was young. Ever since we found out that the course record for the Golf de Loy (6 holes – par 18) is 17, old man Chris and myself have been hammering the golf looking for a new record. We are not helped by appallingly kept greens and a fiendish 5th hold which is only 30-yards long. It completely proves my point though that regular golf is at least 12 holes too long.

some big numbers on this card

6. Ibiza

The less said about this the better but I went to Ibiza with the Essex boys for 4 days and destroyed myself to the point that it took me 3 full weeks for my digestive system, sense of smell, cuts and bruises to recover fully. I’ve been on boys holidays before but this one was so far off the scale of what was normal and so hedonistic that it will be interesting to see exactly how much larger we can have it next year when it’s actually a stag do and not just practice. It was wonderful though to get back to the home of dance music and actually hear some proper stuff in its proper setting.

the only photo that made it back from IBZ

7. Cricket

They play cricket in Switzerland just so you know. There’s actually a league and everything, so much so that I had to get my cricket bag sent out here. Swiss cricket is heavily Asian influenced so there is limited room for a Chris Tavaré type player like me here. Most of the time, the Indian and Pakistani boys just tee off from ball 1 and I’m getting used to seeing some very big totals to chase. Luckily, I seem to be in the side for my wicket keeping, which for those that know me, will indicate very well the level of one of the best clubs in Switzerland….

8. Boxing

Slightly coupled with number 6 and the gradual realisation that I’m getting on a bit, last week I started at the local boxing club here in Chatel. Not quite sure what my aims are for this, other than getting slightly fitter and learning something new but if it means that I’m more confident getting my shirt off in Ibiza next year then it would have served its purpose. (we all know that ski instructing doesn’t keep you fit)

9. Summer skiing

The skiing you know about from other blog entries but this may drop off a little now that I’ve had to cancel my ISIA exams in November to accommodate football coaching work. The massive benefit of summer skiing being so close is that if you can be bothered to drive the 1h45m it takes to get there, you can have a great time and feel like you are in another world, if only for a day. I’m actually going there tonight. (see point 4 above)

So there you go Christa, that’s what I’ve been up to (unless you want to hear about how amazing my new Kindle is and my brother’s wedding). Told you it wasn’t very interesting but I consider myself chastened and I will attempt to blog more, if only to keep you from slitting your wrists about your various cat related troubles..

Yours in blogging

Dave xxx

Chatel, August 2011

Things I found out when my mates came to visit part deux

Things I learnt when my friends from home came to visit for the second time this season;

hard at ‘work’

1. ’33 Export’ is STILL the worst beer I’ve ever tasted and the fact that you can get 30 for 7 Euros is no reason to buy them at all.

2. Playing paper, scissors, stone for who gets to sleep on the floor next to the dog (who is currently shedding his winter coat) is a quick, easy and very excitable game.

3. That none of us has the drinking ability to ‘take Cheeko down’. Of course, we have already learnt this lesson on many occasions but we are still surprised when the latest drink that he is supposedly afraid of doesn’t work.

4. (Note to self – Sambuca doesn’t take Cheeko down. Perhaps it’s Ameretto?)

5. Le Sloopy’s is still a terrible discotheque however the more drunk you are the better it gets.

6. Telling people that they cannot dance is not nice. Especially when they think they can.

7. That when my mates come here they might as well not pack ski gear because we never actually make it to the slopes.

and last but by no means least;

8. Le Sloopy’s takes credit cards. This is a very bad thing to learn indeed because it means I don’t have to go home when the money runs out. Damn you clever French disco owners.

x x x

published here

Fresh fish and house guests

My friend Spencer sent me a text the other day that read ‘Old adage: Fresh fish and house guests go off after three days.’

a cloud.  as opposed to a cloudy head

After having Cheeko, Hughsey and the Afghan breeze into town over New Year, I learnt the following things after spending 6 nights out of 6 on the smash with my friends from back home;

1. When playing cards for money and drinking fines, never EVER, be caught holding the two wild card jokers when the game ends. Bad stuff happens.

2. Throwing up naked off the balcony at 1am on New Year’s Eve is never good but especially when you have to go down with a shovel the next morning and clear up the mess from your neighbour’s garden.

3. Intermarché supermarket ’33 Export’ beer is filthy stuff. Any beer that makes you shudder every time you drink it is bad and it’s not big or clever to drink two crates of it.

4. When your mate says that he is a beginner snowboarder, take him at his word and assume the worst. An afternoon spent lapping him on the beginner slope while skiing with only one ski on is only fun for so long.

5. The altitude affects friends in different ways. If one looks like he is about to have a heart attack due to heavy drinking fines and the long walk into town, by all means go and check on him but not in the condition referred to in point 2 above.

6. When your mate coasts into town from the other side of the world on metaphorical fumes and is not accompanied by his wife, there is usually a reason and you should assume the worst.

7. A diet of crisps and beer is not conducive to a good day on the mountain or fragrant smells from the only toilet in the apartment. A man to can ratio of 4 to 1 is bad in any situation.

8. Sloopy’s discotheque is sensational when you are absolutely spannered but not the following day when you are searching around the back of the chairs looking for the coat that you lost the night before.

In the end, I was sad to see the boys go but in a way quite glad. When you have your mates out to visit, it’s super but they are on holiday and act accordingly.

They want to drink tourist drinks like pints, jagerbombs and shots and want to laze about and do nothing or do everything. This sounds a little harsh but the reality is that we are working out here and it’s difficult to do a professional day job when you’ve been setting fire to the bar in the discotheque until 5am.

So boys, if you are reading this, it was great to see you but long weekends are all I can handle from now on…

x x x

published here

Christmas madness over

The madness that is Christmas and New Year has gone and all that remains are some tired seasonaires, aching livers and a nasty cold that all of the locals seem to have caught, including yours truly.

day 2…

Christmas and New Year here in Chatel was off the scale in terms of how busy everything got. A town that has 1200 people in the off-season suddenly swelled to over 20,000. To compound not being able to get a seat in my favourite bars, Cheeko, Hughsey and The Afghan turned up from around the world, intent on turning their ski break into a stag do. We drank a lot and in a way, I’m glad they are gone as I don’t think I could have done much more. The highlight for them was me naked and throwing up off the balcony of our apartment just an hour after New Year struck.

Last week saw me teaching my first cours collectif group with 6 kids of various ages and nationalities for the week. It was fun and by the end of the week, my group consisted of 5 Dutch kids and one French one. The French I am fine with but by the end of the week, I think the skiing of the Dutch kids had improved beyond my ability to speak Dutch which goes to show that kids learn a lot more by seeing and doing than by techie explanations.

A surprising development today in Chatel in that it has started to rain, destroying what remaining snow there was in the village. We could really do with a couple of days of snow to refresh the slopes around the Portes du Soleil that are patchy and icy.

A full complement of seasonaires in the village means that the various local nights in the bars of Chatel are going off in spectacular style. On Tuesday I was at the School Disco night in The Avalanche Bar which went off with plenty of cheesy music to keep us entertained. There were plenty of grown up schoolgirls in attendance whilst all I could find was my original school scarf which I proudly wore all night. When school kicked out, we continued onto Sloopy’s Disco under the Super Chatel telecabin until about 4.30am when it was time to stagger home. I have a souvenir from Sloopy’s of a panama hat which I have no idea how I got but clearly was wearing all night as it is covered in beer and Jager.

January is supposed to be a quiet month but there are a few things going on like the Grand Odyssey de Savoie which is a Husky race but I think we are all looking forward to it getting back to normal before the February half-term madness.

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