Early Season Weekend in Avoriaz

The early season snow reports, together with the arrival of my new 99 kit (Custom 60, Burton step-in bindings and Drifter boots) really wet my appetite - I had to get on snow soon. So after a few emails and some phone conversations a plan started to come together. I found that we could fly with easyJet to Geneva for 68. - this would be cheaper than driving even with 3 people in the car, and much easier. Also, Ian Trotter of Chalet Snowboard had space in one of his chalets for the dates we wanted, and would do the airport/resort transfers for us. Having stayed with Chalet Snowboard several times before, I new that we would get well looked after.

We arrived in Geneva on Friday evening, and propped up the airport bar while waiting for Ian to pick us up - he was delayed due to an accident closing one of the roads. The two teenagers in the party amused themselves, us, and many other people by skating up and down the airport on their Force 9 longboards - the usually strict Swiss authorities seemed to be having a night off. When we finally got going we were in the middle of the Geneva rush hour, so the usual one hour plus transfer took two and a half hours. But when we got there we found snow in the streets, and after a hot meal and wine everything seemed right with the world. That night I was like a kid before Christmas, and could barely sleep.

First day on the slopes was Saturday. Despite being Avoriaz's official opening weekend, there were no crowds - maybe this was because the whole resort was open, unusual for this time of year. The snow was pretty fresh, but the light was very flat, so we spent the morning getting our legs back on the Arare run, and trying not to fall over on the bumps that were impossible to distinguish. Around lunch time it started to snow, so we went to the Linderet area, which is a little lower and in the trees, and gave much better visibility. Unfortunately the snow turned to rain, making the off-piste powder pretty heavy and sticky, but we stayed out until we were fairly wet and very tired. After a hot shower and some tea and cake (how English!), I felt much better, and dinner made me feel very mellow. Being Saturday night some of our party felt obliged to go the pub, but only the die-hards stayed out past midnight - we must be getting old (actually, some of us are old!).

Sunday was even better. The cloud was still low on the top of the mountain, but in the tree runs visibility was good, and after a good nights sleep we were all fresh and ready to rip it up. In the afternoon we met up with Sean, our Kiwi chalet host, board technician, guide and all round good egg - however, he'd only arrived in France the week before, so a couple of us knew the runs better than he did. In the afternoon the sun came out, and we had some fun with the video camera. We also opened up some access to a powder field, which finished the afternoon off nicely. The rain had made the snow very heavy, but with my bindings set back to the position behind 25 back (is this 50 back?) the Custom floated nicely. It also carved really well, so I've decided to leave it like this.

On Monday the resort was even more deserted - the weekenders had gone, and there were very few tourists around. Ian Trotter cam out riding with us, and we had a high old time trashing what was left of the soft stuff. The weather was bright and sunny, and temperatures were surprisingly warm - the snow and temperature were more like spring than December. The off-piste had a crust on it, but as it warmed up it was easily broken and the corn snow rode quite nicely. We rode all the way down to the bottom Super-Morzine lift just as the sun was setting and the lifts were closing - we'd caught almost the first lift in the morning, so we'd had a pretty full day on the hill.

Tuesday was our last day. We rode the trails, built and hiked a hit, bounced over the trashed powder looking for remnants and generally rounded the trip off. We were meant to be leaving the chalet at 3:30pm for the airport, and predictably we couldn't tear ourselves off the hill, resulting in a flat out blast down the Super-Morzine runs; I got back to the chalet with 15 minutes to shower and pack - no problem.

We got to the airport just in time to check-in, walked straight onto the plane and returned to real life.