It isn't unusual to be asked to take part in a torchlight descent during the February holiday period, in fact working for the Méribel ESF there is an expectation of this. This winter was no different, but with a couple of twists. Firstly, it is the 70th anniversary of the ski school this winter, well worth shouting about. And secondly, the 'International Space Station' was making an appearance above Méribel. How does this all fit together........
Currently the International Space Station has a French astronaut on board, Thomas Pesquet. And someone had the bright idea of Meribel sending some love to Monsieur Pesquet, by way of an illuminated heart shape on the mountain. Méribel's icon is the heart, being in the heart of the 3 Valleys ski area, so this was a great reason to help celebrate. The authorities marked out the heart by using accurate GPS readings. Various ESF ski instructors, including yours truly, were assigned to take part in this exercise, along with a select number of resort workers and holiday makers.
After a day of teaching up the mountain, we were directed to the Plan de l'Homme chairlift and sent to the top at about 5.30pm. Being up the mountain at this time of the evening is a very special experience, watching the sun go down, and seeing mother nature paint beautiful colours in the sky.
The sun was due to set at around 6pm, with the International Space Station (ISS) due overhead at exactly 6.12pm. So we had a bit of time to kill. As is customary at such events, cheeky drinks help keep one warm. I completely forgot, but thankfully my friend and colleague Ian Saunders remembered a couple of small Welsh whisky tasters! Spot on.
So time ticked away, we put the world to rights, and gradually it got closer to 6pm. At which point, we all started to get organised. The heart shape was being prepared by colleagues with blow torches, and we all fumbled around with trying to light the ski instructors torches.
With a few minutes before the arrival of the ISS, it was time for people to take photos and record the event. Here I am with Ian Saunders. Not quite sure what the young girl made of us to be honest!?!
Then the countdown started, and right on time, the ISS flew overhead at 6.12pm on 15th Feb 2017. I had been told to expect to see the Space Station, and sure enough, you could with the naked eye. It was exactly like a bright shining star moving gradually across the sky. It was amazing.
I've just lifted this image from the official Méribel page on Facebook. This was taken by a drone high above us. How cool does this look? The idea was for Thomas Pesquet to take a photo of the heart from the Space Station, but we were to find out the following day that due to technical difficulties it wasn't possible. Fingers crossed Thomas still felt the love so to speak. Oh well, we tried.
So that was all great fun. It was then time to report for another duty, taking part in the 70th ESF anniversary. This wasn't due to start down in Chaudanne until it had turned dark. So more time to kill. Ian, myself and my fellow ski instructors left the heart behind and changed location. Where some refreshments were being provided.
What looks like a prop from a Harry Potter film was actually a pot of steaming vin chaud. The evening just kept getting better. It's easy to generalise about things in life, but please don't think that all ski instructors love a drink or three! But how else were we to kill the time?
After about 30 minutes or so, we were getting news from Chaudanne that the big spectacle and show was coming to an end, and we had to prepare our torches again. This time we didn't need military precision thankfully, unlike earlier with the heart.
The route we took was from the bottom of the Cave drag lift, across to the top of the Olympic race piste (Stade), and all the way down to the bottom. Skiing in the dark, on a steep icy race piste after a cheeky vin chaud has its challenges. All great fun though.
When we arrived safely at the bottom there was a short fireworks display which marked the end of the 70th anniversary show. As ever, it was a fun event, and great celebrating with colleagues.
The main British half term holidays have now finished, and we are in the last week of the French holidays. Vitamin D continues to be available most days, i.e. it's stunning weather most of the time. However it looks as though we are about to enter into a period of unsettled weather which should provide us with a few snowfalls. I'll keep you posted on social media. I hope you enjoyed this blog post with a difference, the French call it 'dans les coulisses', in the background or backstage. Don't forget that you can follow mh2ski on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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Hi everybody, and welcome to the first blog post of the 2018/19 winter, direct from Méribel. All went well with the big drive down from the UK to the Alps. Since then I've been gradually settling in, and have so far managed five days of skiing in Tignes, Val Thorens and Val d'Isere. So what are the all important snow conditions?