Friday, 9 November 2007

Tignes Roadtrip

Mark from All Mountain Performance and I shipped off to Tignes on Wednesday to go rip up the high glacier they've got there. It was awesome, damn cold but awesome.

We set off from the center of a very cold Chamonix (registering -4°C on Mark's car's thermometre) at just past 7am. We were loaded up with cold pizza for breakfast and had orange juice and danish pastries to put some energy into our bodies during the 2 1/2 hour drive down. A few detours, getting stuck behind trucks, some extremely hyperactive conversations and a pit stop at a pharmacy to load up on cold medication later we pitched up at the base of the funicular railway at Tignes. One of the good things about Tignes is that you can drive up pretty high. We drove up to somewhere around 8,000 feet before needing to switch transports. It was cold though, damn cold and all manner of fleeces, glove inners, warm socks and thermal undies were employed to stave off the poking bony fingers of chill.

Of course Mark and I looked totally pro falling out of his people carrier (fully badged up with AMP logos, etc) with pizza crusts and cigarettes in our hand. We looked especially pro because the rest of the car park was full with national ski racing team transports from around Europe. They use Tignes as their base for pre-season ski training.

Off we trotted up the the glacier via the awesome funicular railway that runs inside the mountain. Popped out at the top around 12,000 feet and immediately felt the effects of altitude. I've got to admit I was kind of shitting it feeling a touch breathless just walking around to get to our next lift. I hoped I'd acclimatize quickly and be able to get on with the skiing. It was really cold up high, I'd guess around -10°C with high winds and lenticular clouds around the tops of the peaks near and far.

It obviously hadn't snowed for a while, massive sections of the glacier were just plate glass ice with no snow at all. The dark, forbidding depths of the glacier contrasting with the white, groomed runs they sat inside. With more than just a minor concern for proper riding technique hanging over our shoulders we made our way up the T-bar lift to the top of the first run. Small crevasses were to be avoided being dragged up the ski lift, and if you're a snowboarder then being dragged for 800m up a slope by the inside of your thigh by the lift is not a great deal of fun. "Things" can get pinched and that's a killer. Imagine being led around by your gonads - it's a similar feeling.

We clipped and strapped in at the top of the rain and set off, shaking like a shitting dog with being nervous from it being the first run for many months. The high winds were blasting ice chips around the place like freezing daggers and I was pleased to be wearing my snood to cover my face. Slow and easy for the first run - a few slash turns in the cumulated snow on teh piste corner blown their by the wind and we were both feeling a lot better.

We had a roam about the available ski area for a few runs after - keeping the board as flat as possible when going over the sheet ice sections, more slash turns in the soft snow, a few ollies and flatland tricks. Things were really starting to come together. The nervousness had faded away and we were really starting to get into things. All the time of being on the lifts or stopping on the pistes we could watch the most incredible skiers training and they were FAST. Fast like you'd never believe. Because we could ride next to their courses it was pretty special being able to watch these fluid bullets hurtle past at speeds easily over 60mph+

A quick hot chocolate break to warm up and the temperature started to dip as the day wore on. We blasted a few more runs, starting to throw down some backside and frontside 180's and really picking up speed. God it felt good.

Several hours after we arrived, we were done in - tired, happy and with the warm feeling of apres ski. We chipped back down to the transport, peeled off the gear and made our way home. Unfortunately we'd rather underestimated our energy levels and were like zombies initially in the car. 3 cans of Dark Dog energy drink later we were bouncing off the walls, laughing and joking and chatting the whole way back to the Elevation bar in Cham for a traditional apres-ski beer.

All in all a fantastic day. My gear kept me warm, happy and content. Theere was enough snow to keep a smile on our faces the whole day and for ages after and I'm still chuckling and feeling the love as I type.

Both Mark and I are hyper now to get the season underway in just a handful of weeks. He's back to Tignes to do some pre-season race training courses next week and I might just see if I can slip off over there for a day's riding. The body's a little bit weary from the exertions but it feels great to finally be back on a board.