Outside the Auditorium in Méribel's main square, a miniature snowpark had been set up.
As the music blared, slightly drunk snowboarders queued up to have a go at sliding down the rail. One by one they fell off ignominiously, to laughter and cheers from the raucous crowd. The jib session was one of several dozen events in the third annual Altitude Festival, when comedy and music take over the French ski resort for a week in low season and give the mainly English skiers something else to do than just get tanked up during happy hour. It was as good a warm-up as any for the comedians inside – better, in fact, than the official warm-up comic, Mark Walker. (Laughing at your own feeble jokes as you deliver them is not a good idea.)
The next act up, Nick Doody, was an improvement, but his obsession with explaining why he didn't want kids wore a bit thin. He fared better with his "Clown Song", a cheerful ditty that echoed what most people think about clowns: they're scary, they're likely to kill you and your parents and they come from Satan. It was hard to disagree.
Professional cockney Micky Flanagan was an excellent replacement for the cancelled headline act, Rich Hall. His background provides entertaining fodder: originally from the working-class East End of London, he's now in a middle-class enclave in East Dulwich and amiably rips both to shreds. He recalled a classmate at school who was scoffed at for having grand ambitions to be a van driver. "No one from this school has ever gone on to drive a van. We're the people who carry the stuff to the van," he said. "I left school with nothing – except a bottle opener. We made ashtrays in the first year, bottle openers in the second and prams in the third."
By late evening, the auditorium had filled up with a lairy crowd that had waited specially for the Improv Allstars: Steve Frost, Rufus Hound, Ian Coppinger, Andy Smart, Dave Johns and the festival's co-founder and keen snowboarder, Marcus Brigstocke. They're old pros, and knew how to get the best out of the audience's increasingly lewd suggestions for their improvised routines. They got their own back by taking the mickey out of the cream of the young English middle classes sitting before them. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.Reuse content