On The Road: Saved by the sun after a ride in an airborne freezer


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The Independent Travel

Despite a thorough layering technique, investment in the best thermals money can buy and the consumption of a cheeky vin chaud (internal warming – very important), we were frozen to the core.

After three days of heavy snowfall, the resort team at Les Arcs were fighting hard to stabilise the mountains and open lifts but, for the time being, choices were limited.

We jumped on to the Pré Saint-Esprit chairlift after a fabulous, if limited-visibility, run through virgin powder on the Cascades. We were desperate to gain further height and maximum skiing time.

A great idea in principle. What we hadn't factored in was our less-than-speedy ascent in one of the resort's more ancient lifts, or the wind-chill factor for us, high above the piste.

Five minutes into the journey and the conversation died as we decided a "mouth closed" approach might save us from the searing tooth pain which conversation presented. Another five minutes and my eyebrows had frozen, turning me into a Steve Martin lookalike. Furthermore, I'd lost all sense of feeling in my liner and glove-covered hands. Loss of feeling in the rest of my body came shortly afterwards as we passed the 1,950m mark, and I realised we still had a further five minutes on board this airborne freezer. Boy, was it cold.

At the beginning of December there was no sign of snow in Europe and the fear was that a mild winter would result in the worst skiing in years.

Mild winter? You've got to be joking. Through non-verbal communication it was decided that enough was enough – we'd ski down from the top of this lift and straight back to the chalet.

Finally we reached the top of the lift, and seemingly as a reward for our patience, the skies lightened, the snowfall stopped and the sun made an appearance. Even the hardiest skier will agree, mountains basking in sunlight are so much more attractive than those hiding behind a white-out, and impossible to resist. Chalet? What chalet?

Footprint's Skiing Europe is available now (£19.99)