This year the COPSE skiers went to La Thuile in Italy. The resort is situated close to the French border about two and a half hours by road from Turin. Nine of us stayed in the Hotel Planibel with another two in adjacent apartments. The hotel complex which included the apartments and some shops, cafes and bars, was right next to the ski lifts; a gondola and two chair lifts. The group flew out from Gatwick very early on Sunday morning and arrived at La Thuile about 12:30 pm. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing at the hotel, collecting ski equipment, sorting out our rooms etc. Our stay at the hotel included a very good buffet dinner and breakfast.
On Monday the weather was fine. Some of the group, were having lessons every morning. The rest of us went up the Gondola lift then up a chair lift, Chalet Express, to get started on some blue runs. In Italy the piste classification system is a bit different from France. In France the easiest slopes are marked green, intermediates are blue while red is ‘difficult’ and black ‘very difficult’. In Italy there is only blue, red and black so the blue really combines the easy and intermediate slopes. On Monday evening we attended a welcome meeting with the Crystal rep. He told us that the previous week the weather had been terrible with so much snow that a large part of the resort had been closed. The weather forecast for our week was pretty good so we were really lucky as we have often skied
on the earlier week in previous years. The ski area of La Thuile is connected to that of La Rosiere in France so one can ski between the two countries. At the Monday evening meeting the Crystal rep described the route from La Thuile to La Rosiere and we all decided to go to La Rosiere on Tuesday, apart from those doing lessons. The weather was fine again as we set off up the gondola lift then up the Chas Dura Express chair lift to Col de Fourclaz. This is the ridge from which the route descends into the next valley. There is then one more ascent to Belvedere at 2641 metres. From here there is a good view of the mountains. The route then descends across the international border into France. After another two ascents and two descents plus an extra red run that we added on, we reached La Rosiere about midday. Here we stopped at a café close to the end of the ski run for lunch. The local language had now changed to French but, as in all these ski resorts, everyone speaks English in the cafes etc. It’s usually not much good trying to practice your French or whatever as they just answer you in English. We set off on the return trip at 1pm. This allowed us plenty of time to get back into Italy. You have to be careful not to leave it too late and the latest recommended time for departure from there is 3pm. The last link back into Italy is a long drag lift that closes at 4:20 pm and if you miss it you would be stuck in France for the night. It wouldn’t be much good trying to return by road as we were told it’s an eight-hour trip via the Mont Blanc tunnel. There is a direct road between La Rosiere and La Thuile but it goes over Col du Petit Saint Bernard at 2188 metres so in the winter it would be under a lot of snow. In fact one of the ski runs that leads down into La
Thuile is a snow-covered road.
On Wednesday some of us went up to Belvedere again and descended the red number 7 run that partly uses the snow-covered road to go right down into La Thuile. Most of it was quite gentle and twisty. On Thursday I shared a two-hour private lesson. We went on a few red runs and got useful advice from the instructor about our technique. In the afternoon the weather, which had been good until now, became quite cloudy and windy with
some snow. I went up the Chaz Dura Express chair lift to Col de Fourclaz to go down the red number 9 run. I had done it two or three times before and it wasn’t too difficult. However, this time, because of the cloudy sky and flat
light I couldn’t see the snow surface very clearly. In these lighting conditions you can’t see which way the ground is sloping or distinguish edges etc clearly. On the initial steep part of the run I became a bit disorientated and completely misjudged a turn and went right off the edge of the piste into the deep snow that sloped fairly gently downhill. My skis dived down into the snow and detached from my boots and I came to a halt a few yards further down the slope. Looking round I saw the ends of my skis sticking out vertically from the snow. My legs sank down deeply
into the snow so I more or less crawled back to my skis and yanked them out. I was then able to haul myself back to the edge of the piste and climb out, finding more solid ground underfoot at this point. I hadn’t seen anyone else up there the whole time. After spending a few moments trying to get my skis back on I decided not to bother and just walked down the steep part to a flatter narrow part and put them back on there. The remaining steep slope was very wide so wasn’t really a problem. After that I decided to give up for the rest of the day and skied back down to the gondola to descend to the hotel.
In the evenings we usually had dinner in the hotel from about 7:30 pm. There was also a large bar area in the hotel and there was a pub outside which we visited. One evening we had a party at the apartment.
The weather was fine again on Friday. During the afternoon I went with the beginners up a short chair lift called Maison Blanche from which there is a short blue run back to the hotel level in La Thuile. There was a fairly
steep stretch on it which the beginners, who had now finished their lessons, found rather challenging but we all got down to the bar at the bottom where we met some of the others. After this it was time to return to the hotel down the final bit of the run.
On Saturday the weather was cold and windy. I did some of the more local runs but it got so cold and windy on the chair lifts that I decided to call it a day about 2:30pm and returned to the hotel. I think some of the others finished early too. We had to get ready for an early departure on Sunday. We had to be on the bus at 5am and the hotel opened the breakfast room at 4:30am with a restricted range of breakfast items so we could get some refreshment before starting the two hour journey back to the airport.