It occurs to me that working at a French service station in the Alps must give one a very low opinion of the English. Having grown up hearing tales of the illustrious neighbour across the sea, I can imagine the French were severely disappointed to see the sorry faces descending from coaches, characterised by all the emotional range of a wet blanket.
Having spent over twenty hours on a bus, I was in no mood to impress the welcoming party with the full unbridled glory of my iGCSE French while he cut up my rotisserie chicken. Yet, regardless of the journey, the crowded ferry, and indeed Francois’s (admittedly under par) poultry, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement rising in me as we boarded the bus for the final leg of the journey to our destination, Les Deux Alps.
Prior to the trip, I had found that very few people could string together sentences about the annual St Andrews Snowsports ski trip. Utterances of the words “carnage,” “messy‚“ and underwhelming imitations of Darude’s “Sandstorm” seemed to be the closest I got to coherence on the subject. To my surprise, this apparent aloofness about the trip turned out to be completely correct, as on the first night in Les Deux Alps most of the congregation could hardly speak at all. With a great baptism of boxed wine, we found ourselves thrown into a night more intense than any Freshers’ Week evening, curfewed at 2 am.
Punches were made on ceilings, bottles thrown from rooftops. . . Truly the sky did seem to be the limit for the jacket-clad crowd that surged up mountains of snow and flashed contactless cards with no thought of tomorrow’s overdraft.
For a less long winded interpretation of the first night, it is perhaps best to go to first year Jamie Appleton, who simply said “good mates, good clubs, looks lit.”
Apart from the vibrant nightlife that greeted us when we arrived, you’ve probably noticed that there is something else I may have neglected to discuss: the actual skiing. Thanks to the clever placement at the climax of January, SAS ensured that we, unlike many other universities, actually had some snow to ski on.
This was encouraging for a beginner like myself. Now, when I say beginner I do mean beginner, my only previous trip lasting a few days with my school six years ago. Then without lessons, I forged down the slope with all the grace of an albatross having a stroke. Naturally I and those around me were curious to see what form of over-sized bird I would choose to imitate this time.
In many respects, Les Deux Alps is a small resort, but I can quite honestly say that, from the screamers like myself to the blessed carving connoisseurs, we had plenty of range in the runs we could ski (or, in my case, fall) down. The time of the year also rendered the slopes very clear on some days, with certain runs having more open space than Trump’s inauguration.
Once the day ended, over-priced chips lined Canada Goose-clad stomachs in preparation for the evening’s entertainment. First year Isabelle Taylor strongly supported the push for the sacred practice of apres ski, who said, “I love ski holidays, I’m just not a fan of skiing.” Well, love skiing or not, it was a common consensus that the first aprés ski session at Pano-Bar was underwhelming. The usual drain of expensive drinks combined with the generic nature of the bar itself detracted from the energy of what often promises to be a so-called “mad one.” In this disappointing fashion, it seemed that after two more frenzied nights and early mornings, the trip was losing its fabled drive.
Exhausted and underwhelmed, we could barely manage to cook meals for ourselves. Ambitious plans of risotto and roast chickens had dropped first to the level of frozen chicken nuggets, and then to rolling a piece of cheese up in some ham and eating it off the work-surface. I’ll be honest, there was a moment while I regarded my “100% poulet” nuggets and pondered if perhaps the trip was running out of novelty – or perhaps even burning out altogether.
Fortunately, I had made the error of underestimating my fellow students, all of whom possess equal parts stamina, willpower, and an indomitable determination to get their money’s worth, whatever the cost. Following the example of the SAS committee, we hit the slopes with new rigour.
Smiles returned to our worn faces and daily stretching received a place on the itinerary. Optimism did not lead to improvement on my part; I sustained more than a few bruises on the blue runs. Injury was more than worth the enjoyment of the now less arctic slopes, which led to a far more entertaining apres in the resort Umbrella Bar.
At the bar, those who had picked up scrapes needed only take a glance up to see first year Hamish Brady, whose snapped ACL and fracture did not deprive him a single apres ski, night out, or Darude-related mosh pit. Seeing the flap of alcohol influenced crutches was enough to reinvigorate anyone nursing a broken fingernail or case of the sniffles and send them flying back into a chorus of “Sweet Caroline” or “Come on Eileen.”
Looking back now, several days later, I remember one of the tag lines for the sponsored night out, one which regarded SAS’s relationship with The Daily Mail. It is amusing to imagine the idea of tabloid writers there, salivating over the prospect of over-flowing champagne and a clamour of “my father will hear about this” echoing up and down the Alps, poised for judgement.
But I am happy to say that this trip was not for one moment the image of privilege for privilege’s sake. My room featured not panoramic views, but a broken sink, two spoons, and a permanent set of moist patches across the furniture. What I have gained is not an accolade to be bragged about to an aloof relative. Rather, it was an adventure with friends that has given me far more than the price tag ever could have promised elsewhere……even if my self-respect still sits on a blue run in France, where I was over-taken by a children’s ski school.