Monday, 27 January 2014

Moving to Meribel in France

After deciding to stop working in Verbier, Emily and I took no less than five buses to move to Meribel-Mottaret in France. Mottaret is a small village about 300m above Meribel and is superbly linked by ski runs and free shuttle buses that run all day and until around midnight. Meribel and Mottaret are part of the three valleys ski area, the largest ski area in the world. Ski runs and lifts join Meribel and Mottaret with Val Thorens, Courchevel, La Tania and a few other smaller villages, including Meribel Village, Courchevel La Praz and St Martin.

We're staying in a tiny 12m x 12m studio, which is directly next to the piste in Mottaret. It's a short 200m run down to the main centre of Mottaret where there are several different gondolas to take us wherever we need to be, or a long flat green [beginner] run straight into Meribel.

Our studio block in Mottaret

We are absolutely loving the variety of pistes that the area has to offer and have made excellent use of our three valleys lift passes, snowboarding all over the place and clocking up huge mileage! I'd highly recommend downloading the Ski Tracks app if you have a smartphone, as it tracks how many miles you have down via GPRS on your phone, along with your top speed and other statistics. At the time of writing this, I am really pleased to have boarded as fast as 38.6mph, which feels like warp speed on a board! 

The apres in Meribel and Mottaret is fantastic, we're really spoilt for choice. Our favourite places to have a few drinks after a days boarding, enjoy live music and have some tasty snack food include Jack's Bar Meribel, Rond Point [The Ronnie] in Meribel near La Chaudanne and Meribar, which is directly next to La Chaudanne. There are loads of great live bands that tour around the various apres bars in the area each week; we're trying to see as many as possible before we go! Firm favourites are Daisy B, The Elements and Bring Your Sisters

We have some friends who are working the season out here and have met some many great people, meeting up with their friends and colleagues. Some school friends also came out here on holiday recently, which was great fun and our good friend Mark also came out for the weekend, so it was really lovely to show him around. It's amazing how well we know our way around after three weeks! Emily's parents are coming out to visit us during our last week, which we're really looking forward to. Being here in January has been great as it's been very quiet, missing the Christmas and New Year mayhem and before the three week French half term period.

A couple of weeks ago we had a great day celebrating Emily's birthday. There's a photo below of our friend Aimee and I surprising Emily with a birthday cake at the top of the mountain. Sadly the candles wouldn't light, but we pretended they were and sang Happy Birthday. We also had a lovely meal out at a local pizza restaurant and had a few drinks. I also managed to combine Emily's love of snowboarding with her Hello Kitty obsession and bought her a Hello Kitty buff!

Mountain top birthday cake

Check out this video of me landing my first box in the Courchevel Family Park. I was absolutely delighted to have landed it and have made some great progress since. I definitely need to invest in some knee pads though, as I am building up quite an impressive collection of park related injuries! Nothing too serious though thankfully.

All in all, Meribel has been even better than we ever could have imagined it would be. A fantastic ski area, with equally great apres, amazing company and a lovely little studio as our base. We have two weeks left here before we return to the UK, so we'll be heading out as early and until as late as possible to make the most of it before it's time to go.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Hello again and Verbier

After an incredibly busy 2013, it has been over a year since I last updated this blog. With the very best intentions, I am hoping to post much more regularly this year and post about some of the more interesting things I did last year.

On 1st December 2013, my girlfriend Emily and I moved to Verbier in Switzerland to start working a ski season in a hotel. We spent a long time buying lots of great snow gear, which I'll blog about in more detail soon. We ended up taking three suitcases and a large board bag between us, which was a nightmare to carry! As always when travelling anywhere, we've discovered that we could have managed without a large amount of it.

Departures at Heathrow Airport

We met a lot of the people we would be working with beforehand on Facebook through staff forums, and managed to find a lot of them at the airport. Look how nervous everyone looks in the photo below! 

After a few initial teething problems with our accommodation, we settled in very quickly. There are 16 staff in the hotel in total, including management, hotel assistants and the kitchen team. We got to know everyone very quickly through working, socialising and living together 24/7.

Verbier itself is infamous for being a hub for the super wealthy, which is evident from the adundance of shops and bars aimed at affluent tourists. I'd only ever been to Tignes in France for a snowboarding holiday in the past, but I gather that Verbier is very different to a lot of resorts in terms of the clientele and the entertainment on offer. The main ski areas are around a 25-30 minute journey via gondolas, which is quite time consuming, especially when you only have a few hours off in the day between shifts to have fun on the mountain. The views and pistes are great when you get there though, even if they were unsurprisingly very busy around Christmas and New Year.

Our first afternoon on the mountain. 

One of many chair lift selfies!

On top of the World!

New Year's Eve was absolutely incredible in Verbier. We weren't aware before we got there, but Place Centrale in the middle of Verbier, which is where we were based, is a meeting point for many thousands of people on New Year's Eve for a giant street party. It's a little scary at times when fireworks are being let off in the street all around you, but with a DJ set up on a balcony providing a great soundtrack and our friends partying with us, it was an amazing experience. At the strike of midnight, everyone was showered with champagne and the cheers were deafening. This video that a friend of mine filmed sums it up perfectly!

Despite making many great memories in Verbier and meeting some completely excellent people, Emily and I decided the job was not right for us. We have set a limited amount of time aside to do some travelling, see the world and get away from normality for a bit, so didn't want to stay somewhere where we weren't completely happy.

The photo below is from leaving meal at a cheese fondue restaurant. It was very tasty, but incredibly rich as you can imagine!

Our alpine adventure doesn't stop here though, as we are currently enjoying a five-week snowboarding holiday in Meribel, France. I'll post more about that soon.