The Beast from the East, that trapped nerve and holidays have conspired to reduce my cycling mileage down to a (very) disappointing figure. But, despite all this, I have not been as inactive as maybe this blog would suggest and whilst I now stare at the snow falling outside, dreaming of blue skies and warm days on the saddle, I also yearn for the adventures of next winter.
The pain in my neck discussed in my last post (A right pain in the neck) turned out to be a trapped nerve, leaving me struggling to get about. With less than a week to my first ever snow holiday I was in a panic, would the trip go wasted with me unable to pick up my board, let alone ride it!? I booked in a session with a local osteopath, followed by another session later that same week, a desperate hope that massage, back manipulations, ultrasound and acupuncture would provide some relief. Unfortunately not, so my packed bag resembled a pharmacist with an array of painkillers.
The trip was to Les 3 Vallées, staying in Les Allues and had been brilliantly organised by our friend Jenny. Flights to Geneva, transfers and the chalet were all booked and ready, removing stress of our first ever ski trip, thanks Jenny! I’d ridden indoor slopes sporadically for a few years so was excited to get out and finally do it for real. Being out on the mountain and riding the board is only part of the trip, sitting for lunch with 10 others, proper espresso halfway up the mountain, chalet dining and, of course, the après all combine to make a memorable holiday. The lift system in Meribel is very good, consisting of a high proportion of gondolas making it easy to get between the three valleys. It was day 3 before I had to take my first dreaded ride on a chairlift, with everyone poised to laugh at my first attempt I was grateful to not fall over at the top!
Unfortunately Leah took a fall on day two, fracturing her wrist. Glad we took all those painkillers as she definitely needed them more than me! Even so, she managed to enjoy the rest of the holiday, riding the gondolas and lifts around the beautiful scenery and meeting us for lunch (and drinking plenty of Vin Chaud!).
A sunny snow holiday is also the perfect setting for capturing excellent GoPro footage, the film from the trip is below.
Upon returning to the UK I was riding the metaphorical waves of snowboarding memory highs and post holiday blues, possibly amplified by watching the Winter Olympics on TV. Speaking to friends at work, I told them of the sadness of having to wait another year to get out on snow, only to be told they had a spare space on their trip in a few weeks, I practically ran to my boss to request holiday and let the excitement build for another trip away.
In the intervening period the weather once again schemed to disrupt any hopes of miles on the bikes, if it wasn’t snowing, it was blowing 50mph winds. Though at least this meant I did manage to snowboard on real snow in the UK! With my commute no longer being a 4 mile dash and given that I take no joy in being out in overly adverse conditions, I barely pedalled 100 miles in a month! On one of the few occasions I did get out, my bottom bracket decided it would grind itself to pieces, bringing an early end to that ride too. Any thoughts of mileage targets for the year are rapidly disapearing.
As the second snow trip loomed, the so-called “Beast from the East” hit, three days of travel disruption served to replace excitement with anxiety of whether we would even make it to the flight or would it even depart? We got a hotel local to the airport, set off 13 hours earlier than originally planned, the flight was then delayed by nearly 2 hours and the 2 hour transfer at the other end took 10 hours, not 2. From leaving home to arriving in the hotel was around 33 hours, poor weather at one end and French half term the other really taking it’s toll.
But the pain of travelling was forgotten the moment we hit the slopes of La Plagne in the Paradiski area. The confidence and skills gained from the first trip a few weeks previous meant I hit the ground running (so to speak) and even being struck down by a cold couldn’t ruin my enjoyment. The small apartment was not as luxurious as the chalet in Meribel, but with only four of us on the trip this wasn’t such an issue.
In some ways I was spoiled with my first trip being to Meribel, the ski area is huge, it was out of school holidays and The 3 Valleys are very well connected with good lifts. The Paradiski area is a little more spread out and whilst the pistes seem less extensive and half term left them far more cut up than The 3 Valleys, the tree lined runs seemed more extensive, accessible and enjoyable. Once again the GoPro was perfect for the snow environment and the resulting video is below.
So now I am back in the UK I sit mixed with excitement that the weather might finally get better (as it snows outside, again) so that I can finally enjoy being out on the bikes, especially as bikepacking trips at Easter and in May are coming very soon. But I’m also hopeful for booking some snow trips for next season. Leah fancies Meribel again (so she can actually get out on the slopes she saw!), whilst I fancy trying somewhere different, maybe Tignes or the Dolomites which always look amazing in photos.