Postcards from the Alps

 

This year, we decided to escape the January blues and run off to the French Alps for a week. The only thing Dave loves more than snowboarding is drumming, and he usually manages to go boarding every year or two, so this year I went with him and ticked something off my bucket list - I learnt to ski! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and we had such a beautiful week, we’ve decided to make it an annual January tradition. It was also the perfect way to spend my 27th birthday!

We didn’t realise until we got home how much snow had fallen across Europe last week, but fortunately we had just the right amount. The sun shone across blue skies for most of the week, with two days of snowfall that made everything soft and feathery. We stayed with the UCPA at Tignes, a cluster of villages near the Italian border, just across the mountain from Val d’Isère.

We took half-time lessons, which meant Dave snowboarded in the morning while I skied, and then we could schuss down the mountains together after lunch. I had a great time learning to ski (although the steeper slopes were a little daunting) and Dave went off-piste with the advanced group, carrying shovels and radios in case they got lost!

I became fascinated by the flocks of black birds that lived around the village centre - they had the colouring of blackbirds but sounded more like starlings, and it wasn’t until I asked my instructor that I found out they were called chocard à bec jaune, or in English, the Alpine chough. They are one of the highest-dwelling birds in Europe and belong to the crow family.

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I loved the mountain air - so unbelievably cold and fresh, and when I was skiing down a fast slope with the sun bouncing off the snow, it was, quite literally, breathtaking. I’ve also never done so much exercise in my life - for the first two days I had to spend ages stretching my calves or I’d be unable to hobble down to breakfast the next morning. But what a lifestyle! Fresh air, sunshine, exercise, great food in the hostel, deep sleep - all surrounded by the beautiful mountain landscape.

My birthday was on the last day, so after an afternoon of skiing we headed to the Cocorico bar for cider, après ski and dancing outside under the stars. We had the most wonderful week and can’t wait to return to the mountains next year!