I've been coming to Chamonix in winter since I was a boy, but never for longer than two weeks and never for more than a week in well over 15yrs. It's a very different experience when you have time. Instead of rushing up at the crack of dawn with sandwiches packed to spend a full day on the slopes no matter what the weather, I've become a fair weather skier. Why rush out in a blizzard when I have several months ahead of me.
Unfortunately this approach and a focus on getting F up and going on skis has lead to very little "proper" skiing - the weather has been pretty awful. The plus side of grey clouds is that the snow conditions when I do go up top are fantastic.
During the english school half term we had a full house of visitors and I spent a lot of time on the lower slopes coaching F and introducing the pleasures of falling over in the snow to the uninitiated. By the end of the week all the beginners had a fair grasp of the basics and were really enjoying themselves. We even managed to take F and O up to altitude at the Brevent for their first blue run which they handled great; at first with utter terror and tears, then growing confidence, shortly followed by overconfidence: "I don't need to follow you anymore I can go down by myself..."
Since everyone's return to school we've had two days of nice weather, on the first, F and I decided to go skiing and were joined (it seemed) by half of France, it was heaving! We tried to go to the Tour which has the best intermediate skiing in the valley but there was a traffic jam leading to the Argentiere car park (the Tour had been completely closed due to traffic we found out later) so we turned around and went to the Brevent which has the most efficient primary lift in the valley. Up top it was a beautiful powder day, I had some regrets of having invited F to join me since we were going to be sticking to the piste - hey ho.
We set off, and after a very smooth blue, the lift back up had a huge queue, F noticed the Cornu lift was empty, why don't we go up there? I thought what's the harm? It's not the toughest red, the snow is amazing and F has absolutely sailed through our first run. OK let's give it a go. As we went up it all looked manageable, until we actually set off. The piste had not been fully ploughed the night before and by the time we got there it was a powdery mogul field - oh shit!!
F was an absolute champ, he was scared stiff, but he made his turns, picked himself up when he fell and found a way down the main part of the run. The Cornu then narrows about two thirds of the way down into a track before opening up again for the last decent to the chairlifts, this is where we encountered our problem. Skiers and boarders were flying past, the snow had been scrapped to the side and F had lost confidence in his turns, he would head straight down in snow plough, pick up too much speed before turning into the powdery side of the path to slow down/crash. After two of these, with his confidence shot, I decided I had to get him out of there. So I got him to follow me in an elevated traverse, above the path in powder.
The frenetic path was behind us which helped, but the steepness of the slope freaked F out, I guided him by hand for a while but then he completely panicked, his skis turned downhill and he headed straight down over the back of my skis taking me with him. We found ourselves back on the path, F in tears he'd apparently done a kind of somersault/forward roll and landed on his head/helmet, I'd done a beautiful belly flop hurting my ribs - we made quite a pair.
Thankfully the traverse had done it's job, after a big cuddle and the promise of a Fanta over lunch we made two turns and were through to easier skiing - time for a well earned lunch break.
After that run from hell, I was really concerned F's confidence had taken a real knock - would he want to carry on today? ever? Thankfully my concerns were unfounded, we did the blue run again and in the queue for the lift F said to me, hey, now that we've done that run, how about we go and explore some of the other slopes on this mountain (proud dad).
Readers of of my earlier posts will know that I was planning to teach F parallel skiing without first teaching the snow plough. I did and it worked, but as his confidence on skis increased he figured it out by himself and now does it most of the time. Next job, how to get him back to parallel?