My introduction to Snow skiing was by my ex-girlfriend, Cindy, her husband Joe and brother Mike. They took me and my wife Wendy to the Snowbird resort in Utah. Wendy spent the 3 days honing her après skiing whilst I became accustomed to snow rather than the water I was all to comfortable with. On the drive from Redondo Beach in California where they lived the snow was merrily falling at Snowbird and by the time we got there we has fantastic conditions. We stayed in one of the studios with a loft at The Lodge - great to come back to a roaring fire in your room and a hot tub out in the snow.

James at Schwefelberg

My next opportunity to meet the slopes was in '94 when I joined a bus load of friends and went to Schwefelberg-Bad in Switzerland. A long old bus ride but worth the trip. Wendy chose to give it a go this time. Because of the remote nature of this health spa hotel and the length of stay Wendy had to persevere. At the end of the week she even began to enjoy herself and wasn't falling down so often.

I managed to progress comfortably to red and blue slopes and gave the occasional black a look! My friend James Newby who was much more accomplished than I showed me the things that were possible as he was prepared to take the risks on slopes I certainly wouldn't have.

James and I had spent many hours water skiing and barefooting together but this was a new departure for me. Over the course of a week I learnt to combat my fear of steep slopes. I still have this apprehension at the beginning of a ski holiday when approaching that hump in the piste ahead. 

Some years later (Christmas 95 & 96) after James and his wife Karen emigrated to Chicago we went and stayed over the Christmas/New Year period, for two consecutive years. While there James and I had an overnight ski at a small resort near Portage, Wisconsin called Cascade Mountain. Albeit a small resort, its only 3 miles drive from Chicago and caters for the full range of skiing abilities. James and I left our wives - doing their nails, and drove up for the late night session which began at 4pm and finished at about 1 or 2 am - can't remember as my brain was frozen! The first year we slept in a motel before going back and skiing till 4pm the next day. The following year we tried to sleep in the pickup truck cab having to leave the engine running at various times during the night to keep the frostbite at bay. By this time I'd managed to accumulated 11 days skiing.

In 97 David our son arrived. His extensive needs, due to his severe disabilities, put paid to future trips, or so I thought! During a phone conversation with Steve, a longtime friend he managed to persuade Wendy that I should be allowed to go skiing with the lads. Who was I to get in the way of that agreement, so the winter of 2000 I went on a lads skiing weekend to Les Mosses Switzerland. We traveled by bus across the channel at Dover and stayed at the Hotel Le Relais Alpin. The rooms were well appointed and the hotel well situated across the road from the slopes. Our group that year were Tom, Tony, Mark, Liam, Kevin, Paul, Steve, Richard, Steve and I. The weekend was met by a fresh fall of snow just before we arrived which helped the few of us who'd never been before.

Steve, Kevin, Tony, Steve, Liam, Martyn, Richard, Tom, Mark and Paul

Martyn Mark Kevin Steve Tom Matt Paul Mark, Paul, Matt, Tom, Steve, Kevin and Martyn Martyn Mark Kevin Steve Tom Matt Paul

In 2001, Tom organized our trip to Brides-Les-Baines with Ski Weekends, a subsidiary of Harris Holidays. Brides is a small town at 600 meters connecting to Meribel, the middle resort in the 3 Vallee range via a three stage gondola in 20 minutes. Our trip to Brides on the bus was uneventful and smooth with transfer across the channel via the tunnel (my first time!) When you arrive at Brides you'd be forgiven for thinking your trip was in vain because at 600 Meters there's not much sign of snow. The Hotel Le Verseau is run by Australians and is reasonably comfortable. Our group this year were Tom, Mark, Liam, Kevin, Paul, Steve, Matt and I. The snow was beginning to get worn in places toward the end of our short stay and the north facing slopes were icy during the late afternoon. The south facing slopes in contrast were very hot and you couldn't stay still for to long before getting hot.

In 2002, Tom said he wasn't going to come with us, this left us with the dilemma as to where we where going to go. Mark chose to do the organizing this time and after some short listing we settled on St. Gervais in the Mont Blanc Region of France. The trip was organized through Ski Express part of the APT Holidays group. This trip gave us an extra days skiing but the hotel we stayed at in Le Fayet was a little basic and Paul and Kevin drew the short straw room with a shared bathroom/toilet - was that a door I heard slam! The snow was beginning to get patchy when we turned up but overnight the groomers managed to push any snow they could muster back onto the piste for the following morning.  The snow remained ski able for the time we were there although five of us went to Les Contamines the day before we left where the snow was considerably better.
Kevin, Rob, Mark, Steve, Tom & Matt

Our group this year were Tom, Mark, Kevin, Paul, Steve, Robbie, Matt and I. The transfers from Le Fayet left a little to be desired and the hotel was little more than basic but a good time was had by most. The trip back across the channel was a little bumpy by boat but not as bad as 2000 when the ferry bashed into the dock side when attempting to reverse into its berth. We assumed a bow thruster was damaged during the crossing when an almighty crash surprised all on board.

Martyn, Tom, Steve & Rob

This year 2003, it has befallen myself to organize the trip so I've chosen to take us back to 3 Vallees. This decision was based the majority of the group going for a week whilst still accommodating the three who could only make it for the weekend. Every time we suffer a trip on the bus we all think that flying would be a better idea. When it comes to booking the following year everyone can't afford to fly so we all find ourselves sitting on a bus again. The group this year are Myself, Robbie, Mike, Matt, and Steve for the week and Tom, Eddie and Chris for the weekend. Mike, Eddie and Chris are new to the group but should fit in just fine with most of us being of a similar standard. This year got off to a rocky start when the French closed their roads to heavy traffic (Coaches, Trucks, etc) due to artic conditions through northern France.

The bus from Victoria was delayed for 24 hours after which Matt, Steve, Tom, Eddie and Chris joined Myself, Robbie and Mike who decided to travel by Air from Heathrow to Lyon where Frank Harris collected us the following day.

We had more than enough snow this year with runs opening up down Brides-les-Bains, something that only happens once every few seasons. There was plenty off-piste skiing which was great for the boarders but for the first 4 days visibility was grim at times. The lifts were shut to the top on a number of days due to the high winds and the amount of unstable snow. Eddie and Chris extended their stay by an extra day to accommodate to day they lost due to late arrival and Tom managed to extend his stay for the rest of the week. Steve surpassed himself this year with those imortal words 'Come on you Woosies.....' ending in a spectacular wipe out which ended up with a broken ski - thankfully nothing else! Mike made a name for himself with the saying 'If you don't mind!....' being the only one who doesn't snore.

The Olympe3 Gondola lift station
The plans for this year 2004 got off to a fine start, booking with Harris Holidays to accomodate any who would like to go skiing for the weekend and keeping the cost low. With the last payment made made just before Christmas, Harris turned the whole thing on it's head by cancelling the trip due to lack of numbers on thier bus (6 in total). As the group was small this year (Matt, Steve, Rob and Myself) we decided to do a search. Matt found a great offer which was booked with two weeks to spare. The weather forcast was looking great and the webcams showed lots of snow, but the week before we were due to go the rain came -129mm of it over 3 days. Thankfully followed by 2 days of heavy snow.

Robin, Martyn, Steve, Matt and Mike - Bergin Saulire (2739m)

Our arrival at the SkiWorld Arolla B chalet was early afternoon on the Saturday after an early flight 7:10am. Mike started his holiday with a severe cold/flu but battled through to be well for going home. The weather started with low cloud and snow for the first day but cleared for the Monday when we joined a SkiWorld guide round Courchevel. We went to Val Thorens on the Tuesday but the weather was back to low cloud and snow where Mike led us to a great Ski School. Lunch got it's own back on Mike with a chewy steak. The following days were good weather and all the lifts were open. we made extensive use of our 3 Vallees lift passes visiting St.Martin be Belleville, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, Meribel Mottaret, Meribel, Meribel Village, La Tania and Courchevel 1850, 1550
Steve found a new name for Mike during a decent of Mont du Vallon on the rather lumpy Combe Vallon red run - we found out why everyone else was going down the Campagnol run instead.
Garry, Rob, Matt, Mike, Stewart, Tom & Steve down at the Chaudanne lift area This year 2005, the site was not as forthcoming with options for our January dates. An extensive trawl of the web turned up a good deal at ter being pipped to the post for a Ski Chalets in Mottaret called Laitelet1. We chose to go to stay in the 16 bed Chardonnet chalet hosted by Neilson afThis year we had 2 extra additions with Stewart from Southampton and Garry, a New Zealander working with Steve. Our fellow skiers in the chalet were 4 guys from Illfracombe (Jason, Paddy, Andy & Nigel), Tom and Louise from Corydon and Justin and Natalie from Kent. Tom spent some of his time trawling the slopes with us while Louise was taking lessons. The Neilson chalet hosts were Helena and Shirley and the reps Sam and Barney.
The first couple of days were glorious sunshine, having arrived at the resort in unseasonably warm tee shirt weather. At the end of the first day I managed to make a total hash of a jump on the last run of the day and landed up uncomfortably on my face. Stewart managed to pull a muscle in his knee which kept him off the slopes for a day. From Monday night onward the weather produced some much needed snow into the resort. The weather, although heavy at times enabled us to visit all  3 Vallees although we spent most of our time between Courchevel 1850, Meribel Mottaret, Meribel, La Tania although we did take some excursions to St.Martin be Belleville and Les Menuires.