Words: Dirk van den Berg ǀ Photos: Various Photographers Video: Albert van der Wat & Dirk van den Berg
Meriek back on the slopes after injuring her knee ligaments!
in Les Deux
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Don't you just love that liberating feeling you get when you activate your ‘out of office’ reply: "…. I will be out of the office with no access to my cell or email …" Nod if you can relate? If you are like me, it really doesn’t matter where you are going or what you plan to do, as long as you can get out of the house, suburb, province, and heck, even out of the country! I had the pleasure of activating my out of office to go snowboarding in France with some friends - and there was no way my boss was getting hold of me there! Months of anticipation saw our once sporadic communication grow ever more frequent. Formal emails filled with mundane travel arrangements, visa applications, and payment details suddenly started to give way to excited WhatsApp chatter and Facebook comments. We were more psyched up than the blue-faced Scotsman in Braveheart! Before I knew what hit me, I was ordering champagne on a ridiculously large Airbus A380 and heading for Les Deux Alps, in France, for a week of snowboarding and fun! Our group consisted of an amusing mix of people. There were complete novices to the more advanced snowboarders and skiers, with the inevitable jokes and arguments from both sides regarding which discipline is best. I think we settled on the following: skiers go faster and snowboarders have more fun. We also had engineers, some young corporates, teenagers, and grandmothers, and then there was an ex-Tequila rep and Café Mexico's owner, who sold the most tequila in South Africa last year … hence a party really was unavoidable. We had heaps of snow, which meant excellent conditions, specifically deep, soft powder and the ability to have some serious off piste action. So, for the next week, we hit the slopes daily and partied nightly.
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PJ cruising down a nice long slope.
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1 2 FROM LEFT TO RIGHT 1. Cloud cover spoiling your view? No problem, just go higher. 2. Epic Go Pro shot from Albert’s home-made helmet bracket. 3. Perfect day for snowboarding. 4. Breathtaking view from the top of one of the glaciers. 5. The Polar Bear Pup – one of many, and the perfect places, to celebrate a full day on the slopes.
About the resort The name Les Deux Alpes translates to 'the two Alps' and refers to two glaciers on the mountain range in which the ski town resides. At 3,600 metres above sea level, the two glaciers are high enough and cold enough to support snow throughout the year. This makes the resort unique in that it is possible to ski all year round. The town itself is much lower, at a more manageable height of 1,300 metres above sea level, roughly the altitude of Pretoria. Well known as having an exceptionally good après-ski (after ski party), there's an abundance of bars, clubs, and lively restaurants scattered all over the resort. The resort has quite a few interesting accolades to its name. It offers 100 runs, which convert to approximately 220 km of marked pistes, a 2,300 metre height differential from top to bottom, 51 ski lifts of various shapes and sizes, and 214 snow cannons to add a bit of snow in the lower sections when the temperature starts to creep up at the end of the season. It also has one of the most modern lift systems in Europe, the highest funicular (underground train) in the world, and the fastest gondola in the world.
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Amazing view from the top might as well pose for a quick foto.
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The views are spectacular, especially from the glaciers, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it will blow your mind! So do take your camera with you. Just remember to keep it warm, as lithium ion batteries have a tendency to freeze rather easily when exposed to those cold temperatures. Then there is the snow park. This truly is the playground on the slopes and the best thing is that there are two of them. On the one side you have your normal small to medium jumps, fun boxes, rails, and a half-pipe for novice to intermediate riders who just want to have fun or practise their jumps. The second snow park is for the really advanced guys and gals. It has jaw-dropping jumps that give those who attempt it a ridiculous amount of air time and are the type of jumps you see at the X Games. It's all inspiring to see people land those insane jumps and going down those jumps can only result in either indescribable glory or pain.
One thing worth mentioning is the fact that the resort is really well run. They have thought of everything and even offer a world-class app for your smartphone that will locate you on the slopes and provide you with all the relevant information on piste layouts, restaurants, bars, ski lifts, weather, webcams, and more. Lastly, the resort offers a giant inflatable stunt cushion at the end of a steep ramp that enables you to practise those big-air tricks. It provided us with our fair share of exhilaration and laughter, as we watched each other attempt the big jumps. There were some funny screams and utterances that I can’t mention here, but then again we can always just replay the video evidence J. Perhaps the funniest scene was the ramp operator who walked up to a member of our groups, who had just wiped out in spectacular fashion on the ramp itself, and gave him his money back after stating that that was the most remarkable fail of the season. He was asked not to try again. So if you have an insatiable affliction for the white stuff, this would be a brilliant destination to visit. • If you want to know what all the fuss is about, check out the video from last year when Dirk and friends went to another resort in France called Tignes. If this video does not convince you to go, then nothing will. If you feel it’s time to tick a ski holiday off your bucket list, Dirk recommends visiting the following websites: www.winter.les2alpes.com/webcams-2-alps.html, www.ctheworld.co.za/ski
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Useful tips • Never been on a skiing/snowboarding holiday before? Here are a few things to consider.
• It’s really not that expensive. Just save a bit every month throughout the year and choose a good value-for-money travel agent like Ctheworld.co.za. I have been on two trips with them and can really recommend them from a price and service level point of view. • You need to be fit! I know this is probably stating the obvious, but trust me on this one. Train in advance, but know that you will still be sore, stiff, and tired because there is no real training that can simulate your exact movements when skiing or snowboarding. Being fit will, however, help speed up your recovery time, increase your stamina, and ultimately add to your experience as a whole. • Attend a ski school at the resort if you have never been on the snow before. You will learn the correct techniques and how to shorten your learning curve, so that by the end of the week you will be able to ski or snowboard with confidence. You could attend one or two classes in South Africa before going, but that is rather expensive compared to the instruction time you can receive for the same amount of money at the resort’s ski school. • Go with a fun crowd and bring the best positive attitude that you can muster! Know that you are going to fall numerous times a day, guaranteed, but that laughter is the best medicine. Just get up and do it again. So get your mind-set right from the beginning. • Ensure that you have proper travel and ski insurance! My girlfriend injured her knee on the slopes and was it not for the insurance, my credit card would have taken a serious beating. Plus we got to upgrade her ticket to business class on the return flight, to enable her to keep her leg straight. Insurance is a must. • Remember the medical aid kit. Start with the basics: vitamins, pain killers, anti-inflammatory, generic antibiotics, flu medication, something for a runny tummy, and of course the essentials to help with those post-party hangovers. You paid a lot for this trip, so you don’t want to waste one single day feeling sick or sore. • Capture every possible moment on film. If you can, get a robust action camera, like a GoPro camera, so that you don’t have to worry about keeping it dry. You also get added peace of mind that it can take the beating of a hard fall. And of course there is nothing better than capturing the moment when someone wipes out on the slope! Replay it in slow motion and laugh out loud. • Sunscreen. In the immortal words of Baz Luhrmann, "Trusts me on the sunscreen." Unless you want to end up with a distinctive racoon tan? You will definitely need a good product for your lips as well. • Consider planning your trip at the end of a ski season. The advantages are that it will be cheaper and less crowded, you will have more sunlight during the day, and the weather will be more forgiving. Plus you will find that there are always worthwhile end-of-season sales at the ski shops. • Lastly, remember to have fun! •
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Imagine being trapped in a snow globeâ€Ś this is what it must look like.
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