On the Italian Slopes at Easter

Monday April 2nd

47 students and 6 staff (Mr Webb, Mr Gibson, Mrs Gosling, Mrs Harvey, Mr Parish and Mr Elvidge) set off from Morrisons Car Park at the unearthly hour of 2.15 am.  Marvellous!  We arrived at Liverpool Airport at 5.00 am and flew at 7.25 am.  We landed at Geneva Airport and had a very pleasant 138 mile drive to Sauze D’Ouxl.  After sorting out the rooms we had our ski fit at 4.00 pm.  It took about an hour for everyone to get kitted out with their skis, boots, poles and helmets.  There was then ‘free time’ until dinner at 7.00 pm.  This allowed everyone the opportunity to unpack and explore the village.

Our Hotel was conveniently situated in the centre of the village, within the pedestrianized shopping area.  We had a short meeting at 6.00 pm to go over things such as noise, litter, signing in/out if going out of the hotel before dinner etc. This was then followed by a brilliant buffet dinner, with an extensive choice of food (though the chips seemed to disappear rather quickly and had to be constantly replenished). We then had another meeting in order to run through the arrangements for the following day and to issue everyone with their Lift Pass, EHIC, Medicard and Contact Card. We also introduced James, our Courier for the week, to the students. (James runs his own website, www.sauzeonline.com which you may find of some interest). By 9.45 pm all the students were in their rooms and all was pretty quiet by 10.30, not surprising after the early start.

Tuesday April 3rd

The staff did the ‘wake up’ round at 7.30, ready for breakfast at 8.00.  As with the evening meal, breakfast was very impressive.  As it was our first day we decided to leave for the slopes at 8.45 even though we were not due to begin skiing until 10.00.  The ski bus to the chairlift was only metres from our hotel and it only took about 3 minutes to get to the lift station.  By 10.15 all the ski groups were sorted out.  We had 5 ski instructors for our 47 students +5 girls from the High School who made up the advanced ski group (with 6 boys).  The 2 beginner groups went straight to the nursery slopes, whilst the other 3 groups went straight to the chairlift to access the higher slopes.  The staff joined different groups.  I (Mr Elvidge) began skiing with the advanced group.  I spent the morning with them and soon realised that I would be unable to keep up with them at this pace all week (and they would only get faster as the week progressed).  Old age must finally be catching up with me!!

The snow and weather conditions proved to be far from ideal.  There was low cloud, making visibility rather poor, and the pistes, whilst OK, did not consist of the ‘powder snow’ we had hoped for.  Without a downfall of snow, this did not bode well for the rest of the week.

Lunch was at 1.00 pm at the Triplex Hotel on the mountain. We had lunch with the High School staff and students.  Not a very impressive lunch.  We all thought the pasta dish was the starter.  It turned out, however, to be the main course.  Not surprisingly, we had words with the Hotel Manager!!

The afternoon skiing went well (2 hours), although the lower slopes back to Sportina became rather sugary/slushy.  The low cloud base was keeping in the heat and melting the snow.  We left our skis and poles in a designated room in the Triplex hotel, though we decided not to leave our ski boots here as originally planned as there was not much space.  We then took the chairlift back down to the village, got the ski bus and returned to the hotel.  There was then free time until dinner at 7.00.  We suspected that many students opted to get a takeaway in the village to make up for the lunch.  Dinner was again substantial (with the opportunity to go back for seconds if required). The Apres Ski option of bum boarding had to be abandoned as there was no snow on the piste that was allocated.  As the lifts were closed, we could not get up the mountain to the slopes with snow cover.  As an alternative, 17 students and 4 staff went to a local bar to watch a Champions League game (James managed to secure us a ‘private’ room).  Everyone else stayed in the hotel, playing pool or watching a DVD, though many took the opportunity to ‘chill’ and have an early night to recover from the first day travelling and the 5 hours of skiing.  As with the previous night, all was quiet by 10.30.  We, the staff, were very impressed!

Wednesday April 4th

7.30 wake up call and the routine as the previous day. A few minor changes were made to the ski groups eg we moved 2 students from the top intermediate group to the advanced group.  The weather and snow conditions were the same as the previous day.  However, a bonus, it was snowing and continued to do so for most of the day. Lunch at the Triplex was much better, a massive Pizza.Everyone skied well despite the conditions.   One of the beginner groups moved from the nursery slope to one of the Blue runs in the afternoon.  Very impressive! No injuries.

For the apres ski, (following yet another hearty dinner), we went to a local games arcade (for our exclusive use).   Mr Gibson took on all-comers at Pool and table football, defeating everyone.  Clearly Mr Gibson had honed his skills whilst at University many decades ago.  There were table tennis tables, TV screens showing the Chelsea v Benfica Champions League match and the usual arcade games, which gave to the winners, ‘tickets’ which could then be exchanged for quality prizes (imagine the stalls at Hull Fair!).  Some of the students ‘won’ over a 1,000 tickets, enough to secure, well, not very much!! A fun couple of hours though. All in rooms and quiet by 10.30.

Thursday April 5th.

Magic!  Woke up to blue skies.  From our room we could see the snow-capped mountains for the first time. It must have snowed all night as the trees on the mountains had snow on them.  This could make all the difference. Emphasised the need to ‘slap-on’ plenty of sun tan lotion today! Much better snow conditions today.  There must have been about a foot of snow.  Many of the bare patches beside the pistes and around the hotels/restaurants were covered in snow.  Everything looked better! 3 students did not feel too well in the morning.  To prevent them falling behind the others in their ski group, rather than not ski at all, we got them to spend a leisurely morning on the nursery slope, working on their technique, supervised by our staff.  After lunch, they all felt well enough to rejoin their ski group.  A nice pasta lunch.  A very warm day today, so by the late afternoon the areas around the hotels/restaurants had lost all the previous nights snow.  Apres ski – a ‘free night.  We did however offer students the chance to go back to the games arcade, to meet up with the High School party.  24 students took up the offer.  The rest either, played pool, watched a DVD or chilled (again a number had an early night).  Surprisingly, there were few takers for my mega ski trip quiz!!! (by few, I actually mean none!!). Yet again, all in bed and quiet by 10.30ish.

Friday April 6th

The ski instructors (who were proving to be excellent, some the best we have ever had), felt that 4 of the 5 ski groups could cope with the more demanding slopes of the adjoining resort of Sestriere (used for the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics).  The students picked up a packed lunch at the Triplex Hotel and set off for the ‘away day’.  The other group continued to ski the runs at Sauze, with their instructor and 2 staff.  We had to take 2 chairlifts and a cable car to get to Sestriere.  The advanced group and the top intermediates skied demanding Black runs virtually all day (Mrs Gosling was exhausted by lunchtime!).  Considering that some of the top intermediate skiers had never skied on a mountain until this week (their skiing consisting of lessons at Xscape at Glasshoughton), the fact that they were able to negotiate virtually all of the Olympic Black run, except the very steep top section (used for the mens downhill in 2006 and regularly used on the annual World Cup circuit), was testament to their skill and the quality of the tuition.

After dinner 30 students, 3 staff and James (courier) went to the local sports centre to play 5 aside football (though the staff didn’t play as we clearly did not wish to crush all the teams with our silky skills. Plus of course, H & S prevented us joining in!).  The rest stayed in the hotel playing pool etc. Some took the opportunity to start packing as Saturday would be a very busy day. Yet another early night.

Saturday April 7th

A sunny but cooler day.  Much better conditions as the afternoon conditions would be better ie less sugary/slushy lower slopes.  Higher up in the morning the Blue and Red runs were pretty icy, but great for skiing.  Much quieter today, despite being Easter Saturday.  Many of the school groups went home on Friday, leaving the pistes almost deserted. Wonderful! Due to the cooler weather, this proved to be the best day for skiing. Once off the mountain, we all returned our ski gear to the rental shop in the village.  We then had the presentation of ski certificates and badges by the ski instructors in the hotel. (The advanced group received theirs on the mountain at 4.00 pm as the group contained some High School girls).  In return, each ski group presented their instructor with a gift to thank them for their excellent help throughout the week. After these formal presentations, the staff awarded a number of certificates eg most dramatic fall of the week, moment of the week etc.

After dinner we went to the Havana Club for the traditional last night Disco.  It got off to a slow start until the High School party arrived.  Soon however, the place was rocking.  Another great night, though rather loud for us ‘oldies’!!  The disco ended at 11.00.  Straight to bed as we had a 4.00 am wake up call.  Wonderful!

Sunday April 8th

4.00 am wake up.  The hotel kindly provided a breakfast (rather than a pack-up).  Whilst rather early for breakfast, at least everyone got something to eat and drink before we got to Geneva airport.  We left the hotel at 4.45 am (as people were leaving the nightclub across the road!!).  We said goodbye the James and left at 5.00am. After a very, very quiet journey we arrived at Geneva airport at 7.30 and swiftly got through check-in and passport control.  This gave us about an hour before boarding.  There was some disappointment at the lack of a Burger King and McDonalds at the airport (do people rely need these so early in the morning?).  Everything was mega-expensive at the airport. Switzerland is not cheap!!  We landed at Manchester on time, but our return to school was a bit late due to an accident on the M62.

Summary

The 6 ski staff had an exhausting but wonderful time and really enjoyed the company of the students (virtually all of the time!!!).  The students were a credit to the school and we received many compliments about their manners, behaviour and attitude.  The hotel staff, from the manager to the waitress kept on telling us how brilliant the students were.  A representative from the Ski Club of Great Britain spent a lot of time in our hotel (this was his base during office hours etc).  On Thursday evening he came across to see the staff and complimented the students on their manners and behaviour.  This was particularly pleasing.

James, our courier, was particularly good.  As he lives in Sauze for the ski season, his knowledge of the resort was excellent and he was able to provide us with invaluable help and support.

The hotel staff proved to be excellent.  They made us feel very welcome, kept us well fed, and went out of their way to help us eg providing as 4.00 am breakfast on the last morning!

The snow conditions were far from ideal. However, the snow that fell on day 2 really helped.  For everyone to make such excellent progress (and avoid any skiing injuries) was testament to the quality of our instructors and the hard ‘work’ of the students.

Your son, especially if this was his first skiing experience, has learnt a skill for life. Skiing is like riding a bike, once learnt, never forgotten.  Hopefully he will ski again either with school, family or when older with his friends.

Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues. They all gave up a week of their Easter holidays to come along.  Taking a ski trip, with 47 students is a major responsibility.  They all worked hard before the trip, attending numerous staff meetings and helping to sort out the mountain of paperwork, and made a massive contribution whilst on the trip.  A lot of work goes on behind the scenes before and during the trip.  Without their support and professionalism the trip would not have been as successful.  They really deserved a nice long rest on their return.

C Elvidge,  April  2012


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