• Post category:Skiing

This year it was decided to go to the UCPA at Val Thorens in the French alps for the COPSE ski trip. The UCPA centre is situated a little way below the village of Val Thorens but our bus driver didn’t seem to know that he was supposed to stop at the UCPA and took us all the way up to Val Thorens . He then informed us that we had to get the free shuttle bus back to the UCPA. The people arriving from the other airports had the same experience. The UCPA establishment is a bit like a very large youth hostel. It has 4-bedded rooms on three floors, a very large dining area and a large bar. It also has the ski equipment shop and the ski school office. We arrived mid afternoon and as check-in time was only 6pm some of the group set out to walk up the hill to Val Thorens. We were all back for the dinner at 7pm. All the meals including lunch were included in the price we had paid for the week and they were all buffet style which meant we could eat as much as we liked. The food was very good and there was plenty of choice. After checking in and settling in to our rooms the next thing to do was to collect our ski gear and lift passes.
The weather was fine on Sunday morning and some of those who were ready set out quite early after the buffet breakfast. The exit from the room where the skis and boots were kept led out to a trail which led down to a main slope. At the bottom of this slope there were two gondola lifts and two chair lifts to take skiers up to various points on the mountain.
After the day’s skiing, we all attended a meeting at 6:30pm where we were given information about the ski lessons and other things. We had all booked four half-day lessons which took place on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The lessons were graded into five levels – beginner, improver, mastery, competent and expert with the relevant descriptions and we were invited to select a level for the initial lesson.
We had our first lessons on Monday. Because we were in different groups and some had morning lessons and others had afternoon lessons we were rather split up. During the first period the instructors assessed us and moved some people from one group to another to try to get people of similar ability together. The instructors explained what they wanted us to do in both English and French as different nationalities were present. Those who had morning lessons on one day had the afternoon on the next day and vice versa. On the half days when we weren’t having lessons we were free to do whatever else appealed to us but because some of us had lessons at different times from others it made it more difficult to ski with the other COPSE members we would otherwise have skied with.
On Tuesday, the weather was fine again and we ascended via two chair lifts and a cable car to Col de Thorens at 3002 metres. From here there was a long blue run that went down into the next valley. From the Col de Thorens there were beautiful views of Mont Blanc and other mountain ranges and we saw somebody travelling along the zip wire that stretches across the valley between two mountain peaks. That must be quite an exciting experience. The whole Val Thorens area is at high altitude so there are no trees anywhere and the skiing season lasts longer than most of the other places.
There were no lessons on Wednesday so we went out in groups according to what we wanted to do. I went up the Moutiere chairlift which you come to soon after leaving the UCPA . From there we skied a short distance to the so-called ‘Fun Slope’ which is a short course of undulations, bends and a tunnel. I went on it last and the first bit was OK as I went over a couple undulations, around a bend and through the tunnel but after that I started picking up speed and for some reason I didn’t do enough braking and finally went around a bend and over the final big undulations at what seemed to me an alarming speed. I was quite relieved to get off the end of it without crashing. Fortunately we didn’t have time to do it again as we had to meet the others for a trip over the Col de Thorens to the Rosael area which was the same route that I did on the Tuesday morning lesson.
Thursday was the only day on which we had bad weather. It had snowed during Wednesday night and on Thursday morning it was misty and still snowing. The weather cleared briefly around lunchtime but the mist came down again for the afternoon lesson. In these conditions you can’t see the snow surface properly which makes skiing more difficult. Our instructor claimed that it was better when you can’t see the surface as you have to rely on your legs to tell you what the surface is doing and you have to just look ahead to see where you are going. However, I still don’t like it. The weather today was much colder than earlier in the week. One weather forecast mentioned -12 degrees C. On Friday the fine weather was back again. After having my last lesson in the morning I went with some of the others after lunch up a gondola lift then up a big cable car to Cime Caron, a 3200 metre peak. At the top is a viewpoint with a 360 degree view, a good place for taking photos. Here we met by chance other COPSE members who were having a lesson with their instructor. The only descents from here were via red or black trails otherwise you could go back down in the cable car. However, as ‘col de l’audzin’ had been described as a lovely red with a few steep bits on it, I decided to do it with all theothers. I considered the route had rather a lot of steep bits on it all joined together and it was also very long but I got down it OK. I did actually slide over onto my back on one steep section and descended a few yards head first. I thought at the time that this was probably an easier way of going down than skiing.
Back at theUCPA we had a meeting with our instructors and a complementary drink and snacks.
Our lift passes included Saturday morning so we went out for our last bit of skiing. The sky was overcast so we had the flat light that makes the surface details disappear into a featureless white blankness. After lunch we had to assemble at a bus stop on the road passing the UCPA at about 1:45pm to wait for our busses to take us back to the airports. All went well except that our bus broke down on the way to Moutiere where we had to connect with the bus for Lyon. After about half an hour another bus arrived to pick us up and we got the connecting bus which was waiting for us at Moutiere.
We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for the flight and so another successful ski trip was over.