I’m on an unusual sort of ski trip this week. My companions – some of whom may become new friends – have names such as DeeJayDee, faceplantress, Piste_Rider and Schuss in Boots. Some of them bring laptops to breakfast and there are smartphones, headphones and gadgets aplenty.
No, it’s not some kind of secret conference, but the “pre-season bash” of an internet forum called Snowheads. Or, more correctly, snowHeads. As a recent arrival to the forum, I’ve found it an excellent source of anecdotal info from its opinionated, usually well-informed users. In turn I’ve answered various questions put by other snowHeads, sometimes by linking to a relevant post on this blog. More than 27,000 people are registered to the site, 120 of whom are on this holiday. A friend and I wanted a super-cheap, high-altitude late November ski holiday with some new people, so we went for this.
We’re in Tignes Val Claret, one of a handful of places in the Alps with reasonable snow at the start of a winter that hasn’t yet arrived. Almost exactly a year ago, when I was in Tignes Lac doing the Ski Club of GB leaders’ course, we had daily blizzards and temperatures were as low as minus-30. This time, it’s glacier skiing only, plus artificial snow down to the resort.
However, conditions are surprisingly good; wintry, grippy snow, with the odd slab of glacial ice underneath to keep you on your toes, plus blue skies, and views that look more like the Atlas mountains in summer than the Alps in winter.
It’s busy but not over-run, with French, British, Americans and other nationalities race-training, the French army attempting some off-piste and a ski school or two doing pre-season training.
Several ski firms have brought their latest models for our group to try – and plenty of non-snowHeads are testing them too. Bridget – the friend I’m travelling with – and I enjoyed matching pairs of Kneissl GSes all afternoon: much better on the piste than our all-mountain planks.
So now to apres-ski. The main conundrum: whether to introduce oneself by forum tag or real name? Most people, so far, have been doing both, and it has made quite a good ice-breaker, but I think people will “‘relax” into real names, especially if they venture beyond our hotel bar. After all, when it comes to your round, you can’t really say, “Spud9, are you having the same as Brokenwing, or is HompHomp getting you one already?”
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