Yesterday afternoon the big moment arrived when around 40 sealed envelopes containing course results materialised in the salon of Hotel Levanna. Everyone who passed has been given a Ski Club of GB Leader grading (A to C), a ski grading on- and off-piste (purple to gold, as for Ski Club Freshtracks trips) and a fitness grading (1 to 10). There was celebration, relief, surprise and – for just a few – deflation, but our mission was far from over, as there was a final important hurdle to clear: Thursday night’s cabaret act, to be performed by our seven ski groups and our team of trainers.
Action off and on the slopes and a lively bunch of characters in terms of both candidates and trainers provided plentiful material for the sketches – which ranged from a shockingly frank poem to a hilarious horse race to a one-man stand-up (one group was badly hit by injuries). For me, the trainers’ effort in ripping us mercilessly apart was the winner, and an hour some had dreaded left most of us crying with laughter. I’d love to tell you more, but I’m afraid the content was rather too juicy to describe on a family website…
Yesterday was also race day, preceded by a fascinating visit to the Toviere pisteurs’ hut and a team photo after breakfast, in which I suspect some faces will look rather wild-eyed: Jack’s nightclub has been raking it in the past few nights. Olly Sloper – the youngest on the course at 21 – was the one to beat in the giant slalom Phil Smith set on the glacier, and he and I were the only trainees to have done significant racing (mine in the very more distant past than his…). Olly duly tore down in about 41sec and I was a couple of seconds behind. Yes, I admit it, both of us had our skis filed and waxed – but to counter that we stayed out trying to sabotage each other until 4am the previous night. Three of my Patagonia team-mates – also keen party people – did great runs to take the next few places.
There were certainly no catsuits on display: at 3pm it was minus-20 at Val Claret and the gale on the glacier made our race venue decidedly chilly. The past few days, in fact, I have been feeling like the Michelin woman, wearing two layers of Merino wool and two of cashmere, two sets of long johns and a pair of disposable toe-warmers. During our brilliant performance session with Phil Smith on Wednesday, some members of Patagonia group were breathing on each others’ cheeks to ward off frostbite and some reported icicles in their socks. In another group, would-be leader Jim Costelloe’s big toe went white and numb with frostbite: word has it he has been prescribed Viagra to ward off gangrene.
So the results are in, we all know what we think of each other, and some of us have been allocated exciting leading slots for the coming season (see the reps’ section of this website in due course to find out where we’re going). And suddenly, this morning, as we opened the curtains to a blanket of new snow – still falling softly – the adventure was over. Well – almost. Lost keys, unpaid bills and missing persons delayed our bus’s 8.30am departure by 45 minutes. Then reports started filtering in that Geneva airport was closed. Then we heard that Heathrow might be closed. At Bourg Saint Maurice our bus’s electrics gave up and we transferred to another one. On through the snow we ploughed, arriving in Geneva a good two hours later than scheduled. But no worries – Geneva is in chaos, all flights are delayed, and everyone is taking the opportunity to say their goodbyes over a final beer in the bar!
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