“Rep Roaring Fun In the Rock Garden” Published In Ski And Board. Skiing Holidays can be good and bad. In Verbier we had both in one off-piste day which started amazing and ended with a helicopter evacuation.
Skiing holidays – The Good
“It’s that one.”
“No, it’s there, look”. The chairlift rocked as Pete pointed towards a host of potential gullies. I looked back down at the map, maybe he was right. I never found it easy to translate the maps maze of contours.
“You can’t see it yet”, Rob intervened with an authoritative air. Rob was the Verbier ski club rep. He knew the lay of the land; he spoke to powder hounds in bars, skied with the locals and checked out the best routes. That meant all we had to do was roll up to a designated meeting point, shake his hand, and let him select a route.
He had chosen ‘The Rock Garden’ and we made our way up to the top of the Chassoure lift. Traversing under the ridge we continued our pointless game of spot the right col – it was nice having Rob to make the actual decisions.
Just past the Lac Des Vaux, with skis strapped to our packs, we set off on foot and quickly gained some serious height up the gully. After twenty minutes it narrowed and we stopped to take in the view.
On the other side of the resort, a like-minded group was heading along the ridge towards an awesome looking powder face. They were boarders so we decided to stop and watch the show. They dropped onto the face, carved a few majestic turns and then hastily cut across to a rocky outcrop, where they perched for ages. Surely they couldn’t be taking this long to choose a line?
Then we twigged: the angle of the slope, the recent snow. It had probably begun to move beneath them. “Don’t worry,” Rob said, “We are skiing a completely different aspect and angle to that.”
Still, after watching them safely down, I double-checked my transceiver was still flashing.
Breaching the col, the rocks peeled back to the ridge line, leaving us facing acres of broad, untouched. We clicked into our skis and I began pulling out my camera.
“Boarders!” Pete shouted. They were only a few meters down the galley behind this. I quickly thrust the camera back into its pouch. Some sacrifices for art are worth it, but first tracks is not one of them.
Rob lay down a challenging set of perfect squiggles. One by one we skied alongside them. The anger of the slope was perfect for smooth, free-flowing turns. We regrouped, admired our communal signature, then turned our attention downhill and began a keen eyed debate over a multitude of potential lines. Weighing up their various aspects and angles was critical stuff. A wrong decision could mean the difference between skiing powder and great powder – such snow snobbery, how luxurious.
The fun continued undisturbed for another glorious half-hour. “Did you enjoy that?” Rob asked us rhetorically, knowing our response would be a resounding “Yes!”
“Now I am going to take your to my favorite run”, he promised and set off for the lift.
Skiing holidays – The Bad
Then Disaster struck.
The light had suddenly faded, hiding a small compression. Rob hit it hard. He was thrown violently out of the skis onto the concrete like piste. He wasn’t okay. His face was bleeding, he was clutching is arm. While someone rushed off to fetch a pisteur, Rob repeatedly asked, “What happened? Where am I?”
By the time the pisteur skied to us Rob’s memory had returned. He had dislocated his shoulder, but despite the pain, he joked, “What about my rugged good looks?” Ever prepared, the pisteur produced a mirror. Reassured, Rob’s black humor continued, “How about that for great service, I even take the falls for you guys.”
The helicopter arrived and took him to hospital. The good news was, you can’t keep a good man down and within two days he was back on the slopes skiing in a sling.
Skiing Holidays advice: Some ski insurance doesn’t cover off-piste – always check before you buy it.