As my husband and I hand over our children to their British Alpine Ski School (BASS) ski school instructor we know the clock has started ticking. We have precisely two hours to do as much fast’n’furious skiing as possible before the family regroups.
With a cheery wave we head to the chairlift to be whisked up towards Plaine Dranse. Returning after our non-stop dash across the Châtel mountains we are overheating and sore, but know that the afternoon will be of a more gentle pace. Or will it?
My youngest is busy telling me about playing Cowboys and Indians down the forested green run. She even has the feathers tucked in her helmet to prove what a terrifying brave she was! Apparently there is also a purple cow on the slope that gives out chocolates but I’m less convinced by that story (I found out later that the Milka cow is regular occurrence!).
Deciding that we can squeeze in a run before lunch, Dad, the three children and I shuffle to the chairlift, Catherine bumping her head as always, as she manoeuvres herself under the barrier. Luckily for us children under five can use the lifts free of charge in the Portes du Soleil, but it means hiring a helmet is even more of a necessity.
As we sail up the slope sunscreen is rubbed onto faces to minimise the panda-eye effect and lip balm is applied to dry and flakey lips. The eldest, at the ripe old age of eight, tells me she wants to ski down the ‘Les Renards’ black run. Daddy is up for the challenge so we agree to meet at our lunch spot.
A leisurely ride down a blue is just what is needed to recover from the morning’s exertion. One child enjoys the bumps and jumps along the edges of the piste while the other chatters happily. We meet Daddy and daughter charging down the end of the black. To my horror I realise that my eight year old has just completed the black that I bailed out of earlier that day. Oh the shame of it!
A large plate of tartiflette and a glass of wine at Chez Denis seemed to lift my spirits and
we set off for a relaxing afternoon. The next thing I see is Catherine, legs spread to at least a quarter pizza, zipping past me and torpedoing straight down the mountain. With visions of tree collisions or at least a total wipe out I try valiantly to catch up. How can such a small person travel so fast without planing her skis over the snow I have no idea. Finally we reach the flat and I practically rugby tackle her to make sure she stops. She looks at me with a huge grin on her face, completely oblivious of my panic or the worried faces on the other skiers she left in her wake.
Breathing deeply I look up to check that the middle daughter is following behind. Crikey – those bumps beside the pole markers are looking a little bigger than before. I see her approach a jump, I see her lift-off the ground with arms flailing, legs askew and all her weight leaning back. With a kamikaze yell she lands on her skis and carries on as if there was never even a hint of danger. What a family!
I need a coffee.
We limp into the nearest mountain refuge, conveniently located just off the Chalet Neuf run. While the kids get high on hot chocolate with lashings of cream I sip a coffee, gazing out at those other families skiing down the piste, while my husband tries to convince me we are all going to make it to the end of the day.
On the way back to the chalet I ski as slowly as an escargot that’s eaten too much garlic. A soak in the hot tub, a hearty meal and a few glasses of wine later I feel ready to do it all again in the morning.