Club Holiday, Les Arcs, January 2002

by Jonquil Lewis

We all arrived rather bleary eyed at the airport and checked in without any problems although the airport was a seething mass of expectant skiers even at 6am. There was a short delay before take off, but after that all went well until we joined the normal winter scrum at Geneva. We found our rep and had the coach all to ourselves and set off in the direction of the Tarantaise. The original driver had to get his wife to meet him at Aime because he had damaged his back loading our luggage. Barry says it was my suitcase - and he could well be right. The poor chap was in a lot of pain. (Not Barry - the driver).

We arrived at the hotel too late to ski but in plenty of time to sort out hire equipment and to relax. The hotel was very large, the rooms were well appointed and spacious and the ski room led out to the Transarc bubble. The dinner that first night was lovely - good food and plenty of it - the first of seven delicious dinners and six super breakfasts. More of brekky no 7 later. Everyone obviously said their prayers on Saturday night because on Sunday morning it started snowing at about 7am and the precipitation continued all day. Most groups stayed in the trees at Vallandry and had a good day despite the conditions. By mid afternoon however the snow had turned to rain and everyone returned home rather soggy. Even my new skisuit didn't keep me completely dry despite what they said in the posh shop in Courchevel last March. Hey ho. The new, birthday present skis were excellent though.

After skiing, Nigel went to a local bar and managed to negotiate a cut price on beer for all our party. At dinnertime he got his reward - he must have thought he had died and gone to heaven. The meal was a buffet - seafood, charcuterie and salads for starters followed by casseroled and roast meats of every type for main courses. These were followed by cheeses and desserts. You could go back as many times as you wished and many of us did. Of our seven evening meals 3 were buffets and 4 were waiter served. All were delicious and it was impossible not to overeat. The breakfasts were all buffets with every type of hot and cold breakfast goodies you can imagine. At the time of writing I am on 1000 calories a day to try to make amends.

On Monday the sky was blue and cloudless and that's how it stayed the rest of the week. Towards the end of the week the pistes were all rather icy and some were peppered with rocks and bare patches. As usual in those conditions we felt we had been lucky to get Sunday's bit of snow but what a pity for next week's visitors. Sunday happened to be my birthday so Barry and I were delighted to see Giles and his friend Paul for dinner. They had come over for the evening from Courchevel where (as some of you know) they work as instructors for the best ski school in the Alps. (www.skinewgen.com also skiyourbest.com).

On Tuesday Katherine Egan came off the worst from a collision with an out of control snowboarder. After the blood had been removed she was left with two gorgeous black eyes and livid bruising of her nose and face. Her injuries looked more and more impressive as the week went on. However, SCM people are anything but wimps. She carried on skiing all week as normal and refused to let it phase her. Hope your beauty is now fully restored, Katherine.

On Wednesday half the party went on a day out to La Plagne. It was a curate's egg of a day. We arrived in the resort at 10am but because of hassle and lift queues only started actual skiing at 11am. One group met up with Andy Mortimer (who was hard at work at a conference) and went onto the glacier which was a long trek but, once there, the snow was said to be excellent. Other groups enjoyed rattling around lower down. Barry broke a ski at 2 pm so his day was curtailed. He had to fight at the end of the week to avoid paying a huge insurance excess at the hire shop but his calm, polite approach won the day.

On the plus side the sunshine was lovely and the temperatures almost tropical and it's always nice to check out a new resort. On the minus side the architecture is ugly and the lift system is antiquated and slow which resulted in long queues nearly everywhere. The pistes were crowded, even mid week in low season, so heaven help them at Christmas and Easter. The authorities need to invest in modern infrastructure and to develop more interlinking of areas and pistes. The pistes, especially on the lower slopes, were very icy and had not been improved by an almost total absence of snow making machines. The general consensus seemed to be that La Plagne was O.K. for a day drip but a definite no no for a holiday.

On Thursday a small group went out for the day to Val d'Isère and I am told they had a 'perfect' day. Ray West proved himself yet again to be an excellent group leader. He led the group round the slopes brilliantly and was very knowledgeable to boot. They even fitted in off piste itineraries off Le Fornet and Tour de Charvet. Thanks, Ray.

Another small group skied with the SCGB rep. in Les Arcs and had a great day skiing more or less everywhere and having fun doing it.

By Friday Paul Sharp had to forgo his skiing because his leg problem had 'ballooned'. He and Noel, similarly disabled, spent the day lunching and shopping in Bourg which they had reached in the funicular. (or was it Moutiers, I never know). The rest of us enjoyed our last day in the sun, on the icy runs of Arcs.

It was another crack of dawn start on Saturday to begin the journey home. The proper breakfast which Paul had been promised by the management failed to materialise and we had to make do with biscuits and cold coffee in the bar. When we got to Geneva we were therefore hungry and thirsty but the journey home went relatively smoothly. We waited an hour for our bags at Manchester due, we think, to industrial action and then it was the devil's own job to try and get taxis.

The only other criticism of the hotel was some alleged Euro-fiddling by the bar staff which leaves a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth. All in all this was a super holiday. Paul yet again got us a great deal, the hotel was good, the staff all very helpful and friendly and the food was fabulous with unlimited quantities of perfectly drinkable wine. Everyone got on well and we all found soulmates to ski with.

See you all again next year and thanks again Paul for a wonderful holiday.


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