I got back yesterday from skiing in Alpe d'Huez
Now, straight up, I did not start out a very good skiier, and I'm not a very good skiier still, some people I went with (albeit less than half my age, it was a school trip) started off worse than me and ended the week on blue runs, or higher. I still stuggled with green.
On the other hand, I have shown improvement. My home for the week was a shallow run called 'Le Rif Nel'. Almost unbelievably it is a kilometre long - it seems shorter - but has only 60 metres of drop. It is very much a nursery slope.
This is where I practised most, as I could get my technique down without too much fear. By the end of the week I could happily point my skis downhill and go for it - okay, not 100% happily, I had to fight urges to turn (and hence slow down)
On wednesday the beginners were taken to the first cablecar stop on Les Jeux. This is 2km long with 240m of drop. It seemed longer to me.
We were taken down single file, playing 'follow my leader', but I found this hugely terrifying. The gradient was not uniform, and in some places it was extremely steep to my eyes. It did not help that it was icy too.
I fell over, lots and lots. I arrived at the bottom physically and emotionally drained and shaken to the core. It took me about 30 minutes longer than the slowest boy. I was expecting a bit of a ribbing when I arrived, but I thought the boys were excellent, they seemed to appreciate the fact that I kept getting up again and eventually made it. I would not try that slope again until I had had lots more practice and a good snowfall. As it turned out I was not to try again at all, as I never felt I was ready.
I returned to Le Rif Nel.
During the week I did take some cablecar rides up high, this is a view from Pic Blanc at 3330m high, 10925 feet.
Though at the start of the week we were on the dregs of two week old snow, as well as artificial snow, by thursday night we had a big snowfall, and the mountains turned white. This gave the odd sensation of skiing sometimes in soft snow, when my skis would glide beneath the surface. This was fun in a straight line, very tough to turn.
On Saturday, it seemed that skiing would be cancelled. The weather was clear and still, but there was a strong gust from time to time which meant that the lifts were shut. We walked to the slopes to find the drag lifts open, and as the day went on the other lifts opened.
A colleague, myself and a boy started the day on 'Eclose', this is a short green run, 252 metres long with 30 metres of drop, so it's steeper than Le Rif Nel. We walked to the slope and joined it just below the top (it is at the bottom of the town). The steepest part of the slope was covered in soft powder, and so was very hard work - I only fell once (nice and soft) but I didn't care for the slope much.
We took a connecting chair lift over to the foot of Le Rif Nel and found that a new intermediate slope had opened. This was 'Poussins' and was the interemediary I needed earlier in the week. It was steeper than Le Rif Nel, though not as long as 'Les Jeux'
I did this slope a few times and then had a final blast on Le Rif Nel to finish on a high note. I went down the slope full pelt. Not tremendously fast by many standards, but quite enough for me. Unfortunately I forgot to time it!
Overall my progress has not been rapid, but it has been progress - and at the end of the day this is the benchmark against which I can judge things, to the eyes of a skier it may not seem like much, and god knows it isn't much - but to be frank, I don't care.