Welcome to pandemonium!

‘Half term’ – The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as ​'(in British schools) a short holiday in the middle of each term’. It’s typically a time when lots of families take breaks and do things together. February ‘Half Term’ has traditionally been a busy time in the mountains with families doing exactly that, taking holidays in the snow.

Dan and I don’t have kids and it’s been a very long time since we were of school age! Half term as an event therefore has not had much of an impact on either of us. The only obvious thing we have noted in the past is the roads are a little quieter during the morning commute and it was easier to find a space in the car park at work in our old life.

WOW! Things change! Half term in the tourist industry is huge! It’s quite obvious when you think about it but given this is our first real foray into the tourist industry and a seasonal one at that its quite astounding to see the impact on a ski resort when UK schools take a holiday. The links and reliance on each other is almost symbiotic.

Obviously we therefore choose half term week to try and complete on our house sale. Thinking, how bad can it be?!? All the while not really appreciating back in January when we set the completion date that half term week might be a little more demanding than normal. Silly us!

The build up to the masses arriving was quite spectacular. The buzz around the resort was palpable and ‘horror’ stories were being banded around between chalet companies and seasonaires alike about the invasion of the ‘children’ (like they are something out of a low budget horror movie) and super demanding parents.

How the pistes would be so full that venturing out during time off this week would be pointless. Lift queues in the 1000’s. Suspicions that the roads would be blocked for miles due to the volume of traffic and there would be cars and people everywhere. That literally everything would be harder during half term.

To top it all off the French unions chose this Saturday change over day to strike and close off the main route into and out of the mountain. Consequently all our current guests transfer companies have been in touch to pull forward any outgoing departures to avoid the expected traffic jams. I talked a little about the strike action a couple of weeks ago – see here

Arguably the busiest changeover day of the season. The unions chose well in terms of absolute potential impact!

Turns out, the Unions did is a favour! For the first few days at least the slopes were remarkably quiet! The mass flight cancellations due to Storm Dennis in the UK also had a big part to play as 40,000 holiday makers were impacted. None of our quests had their flights cancelled but it seems a lot of other chalets were impacted.

In reality the worst bit about this week was actually the fuss and hype leading up to it!

The guests and the children were ace and it made a lovely change to have some little people floating around the chalets. The joy of a kids face bobbing around in the hot tub with their armbands on is just amazing!

What I failed to appreciate is that while there are a lot of small people out on the slopes the majority of them this week seem to be in organised lessons. The consequence of this is that they are everywhere but all in well ordered (normally) little lines following their instructors like baby chicks paddling behind the momma duck! So cute!!

The other awesome thing about there being so many children around is that the baby ski school that is specially designed ski creche was full to capacity. It takes kids from around 2 years old and honestly I could watch them for hours! With their little legs that don’t bend due to the ski boots reaching above their knees and zero coordination or control -they amaze me!

They also quite often make me chuckle with their absolutely fearless approach. Watch long enough and you will see at least one domino effect as a tiny tot at the front of the line falls down and takes each of the others in the line down with them.

The parents all stand around watching and taking photos and videos of their babies and the ESF staff work so hard to keep picking each of the children up every time they fall down and trying to work out why at least one kid is screaming for no obvious reason.

You will also find a handful of kids that just look totally oblivious to whats going on around them…they get on a magic carpet (a moving walk way that takes them to the top of the slope)…they fall off at the top and get picked up then they point downhill, crash into a barrier at the bottom and get picked up then do it all over again.

I would love to share some photos so you can truly appreciate the cuteness overload but as it’s kids and they are not mine I cant. I will however share this photo and say when ever I see some seriously tiny tots skiing it makes me smile all the way to my ears. Such joy! I love it!

Just occasionally a little ‘chick’ will fall out of formation and go hurtling down the hill out of control. Legs pressed further apart than seems physically probable in a panicked snow plough verging on the splits. They tumble, never seem to hurt themselves and wait for either another little chick or the instructor to pick them up and set them on their way again.

The parents on the other hand…and a totally different story!

Whilst the kids are safely in lessons the parents certainly make the most of the freedom and I can safely say that this week has been the most worrying on the mountain as so many holiday makers who’s ability level is far less than they believe take long boozy lunches and then try to ski home in one piece. I had to spend far more time on the piste this week looking over my shoulder for threats coming towards me in the form of out of control adults!

Some days it’s just not practical to get out on the mountain to board. On average we can normally get some piste time on about 4 days a week but on the days where we can’t then quite often Dan and I go for a walk.

This week we ventured up to a little nearby village that literally sits at the end of the road. Hauteville has some truly spectacular scenery and no through traffic which makes it super quiet. A little collection of non uniform properties almost all of which are lived in all year round so its got a lovely sense of community about it.

My favourite image of the village. The roads through the houses are only passable on quads or walking so there is a barn at the entrance of the village that each house has fixed their post box to so they can receive their mail. 10 houses in the village and 10 different little boxes.
The walk up to the village along the river is glorious. The snow melting and making way for some beautiful colours.

I honestly thought that when the snow arrived it would be here to stay for the season but it seems that it melts so fast between dumps that the landscape is constantly changing before my eyes.

As half term week drew to a close we finally got the phone call we had been waiting for! Exchange and completion!

We are no longer home owners in the UK and we now have the capital to purchase in France!

The keys have been handed over and the money has landed into our bank account. The moment we have been waiting for since we put our house on the market in October 2018 has arrived.

I have to confess I teared up a bit when it actually happened! So surreal to know that we wont ever return to that house again! Its been almost 4 years in the making. Renovating the house and getting it ready to sell then going through viewing after viewing until we found our buyers.

We actually got the phone call while we were in the middle of the weekly Chalet shop at a big supermarket down the mountain so you can imagine the odd looks I was getting pushing a trolly around filled with enough toilet roll, bin bags, hand soap and beer for 32 people whilst crying!

I kid you not regarding the contents of the trolly!

Each chalet does their own food related shop each week and I pick up all the booze, soft drinks, toilet roll and cleaning products. The end result is typically a really eclectic collection of just a few items but significant quantities of each!

This week was 10 cases of beer, 6 bottle of coke, 72 rolls of toilet paper, 60 bin bags, 9 packs of kitchen sponges, 18 litres of washing detergent and a tub of bees wax. The looks I get are priceless and then they see my chalet uniform and just shrug like shopping in this way is totally normal in the mountains!

Our great news deserved a little celebration so that evening we broke out our little raclette grill that I had given Dan for valentines and had a wonderful grilled cheese filled evening just the two of us πŸ™‚

Copious amounts of meat and cheese (and the resulting heart burn) punctuated by some serious house shopping and mulling over our options.

There is no earthly way that I can seamlessly segway from raclette celebrations and the house sale to this wonderful sight but I felt I just needed to share with you all.

What else should you expect to see this week when getting off a chair lift at 2400m?

A chappy wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes whilst on skis! Obviously!

People stood around watching and listening in awe. I am not sure if their impressed faces were to do with skiing in a kilt or carrying around his bagpipes all day! Either way an unexpected and impressive sight!

So we survived half term and it wasn’t nearly as terrible as we were expecting. We sold our house and managed to put the money into a locked savings account before I could get over excited and spend it on random crap. I saw a kilted man ski and we found an assorted collection of post boxes. We ate raclette and we managed to not have any accidents with the alcohol infused parents on the pistes. Pretty good week all round!

To sign off this week I shall leave you with this image. Taken by my wonderful Dan. A glorious evening sky over Les Allues. This week has been good to us and we are forever grateful to those around us whos ongoing support continue to make this adventure possible.

You can find out what we got up to last week by clicking here