It started snowing on Christmas Day which was the best of presents, and kept up all through Boxing Day. The kids were still jet-lagged and/or ill and woke us all early. I got up to placate and get them back to bed, and as the weather started to lift it became apparent that the day would be clear. I decided to skin up to Col de Loze for the sunrise and headed off around 0500. The avalanche risk was obviously sky-high, as the GASEX were already firing, so I chose a gentle slope that had been groomed overnight. As I got higher, I could see a bunch of pisteurs lighting firecrackers up on the Loze ridge, and soon the air was full of smoke and sonic booms. Love the smell of cordite in the morning.
At the end of the day however, there would be a dozen deaths in the Vanoise and Ecrines, including the guardian of one of our favourite summer refuges who triggered a massive slide whilst skinning up to Roc Merlet in Les Avals with his 10 year old son - he was also the cousin of Pierre, a guide and friend of mine. Michael Schumacher would also end up in hospital with a head injury on life support.
The sunrise was truly spectacular, and I topped the Col at around 0700 for some amazing views. Were it not for the risks, I could have had one of the all-time powder runs - however not a good idea when in plain view of ski patrollers lighting fuses. Today was also the anniversary of Pierre Edouard, and so I had a glorious run down to Courchevel picking the easy and obvious safe powder lines in his honour, where I bought some roses for Anne and then hiked back up to the chalet.
Marie-Laure and I had breaky followed by a few bluebird powder lines together, and then went back to get Anne and Dom and the kids. With bad weather and tired wombats, I had been making slow progress with Balti, however today I finally coaxed him out from between my legs and onto a leash and harness with the aid of an edgie-wedgie. I don't think there's any other way to do it with a three year old. Skiing with him between my thighs was doing my back in.
Our aim was the Belle Air, which is one of our favourite en piste restaurants on the mountain, but a long way to travel with kids. Charlotte and Lucie were starting to ski well though by now, and we had an excellent meal in the sun before the mad rush to get the last lift enabling a home run as opposed to the bus.
As we arrived, Jean-Jaques and Olivier were just heading up the hill for the evening phoque and so I joined them. We skinned for an hour and a half up to the top of Chenus, and then a thrilling chute down the mountain in dark by headlamp.
Raclette accompanied by Dom's usual incredible accompanying wines for dinner topped off a very special day.
This was really our first proper day's skiing as a family, and a memory that I will always treasure.