Board ‚Äì check
Bikini ‚Äì check
Large numbers of shoes ‚Äì check
I didn‚Äôt think I‚Äôd over-packed for this trip. Yes I definitely packed a few extra summer bits and pieces but I didn‚Äôt exactly have to hire a crane to get my bag down the stairs.
Not that you‚Äôd guess from the attitude of the British Airways staff at Heathrow.
They were intent on charging three us almost ¬£170 in excess baggage for our gear. Luckily a lovely man called Ricardo saved the day and after a six-way argument with the three of us and him versus his two check-in colleagues, we got the excess down to ¬£49.
So be warned ‚Äì BA have gone evil on their baggage policy. Whether you are allowed 23kg, 28kg, 30 kg or another random figure really depends on whether Ricardo is there. It‚Äôs a bit of a lottery ‚Äì and there ain‚Äôt no jackpot.
Arriving in Lyon after a flight punctuated by screaming children and several lunch-lurching turbulence drops, Olly from the Just4Girls crew picked us and our trouble-causing bags up at the airport and drove us via some pretty hairy mountain roads to Les Deux Alpes. It was a long drive and the poor bloke had to turn straight round and go back to Lyon without so much as a medicinal beer to pick up another two ladies arriving later that evening. That‚Äôs dedication to women‚Äôs snowboarding for ya.
|The Sick and the Mental Inn|
Our accommodation for the week was the Hotel La Meije ‚Äì which in the summer becomes the Sick and The Mental Inn ‚Äì a super chilled place run by a bunch of top British blokes and an equally lovely French one. Every summer it provides budget accommodation and home cooked meals to skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. It‚Äôs the coolest place.
The hotel bar also seems to be a bit of a summer hangout for both British and French snowboarders. Its free pool table sees a succession of international players throughout the day and the evening.
Chatting to some of the British pro riders who had spent time in the resort in summer, it seemed the routine to live by was: get up early, ride til early afternoon, chill by the pool, sleep and then hit the bar til the early hours.
So we settled in for a few beers and ticked that requirement off our daily checklist.
On Sunday morning we girls assembled for our first day of camp.
The week‚Äôs participants were Wendy C, Wendy W, Hannah, Calli, me, Niki, Naomi, Gemma,
|Morning stretch (captured on Lomo fisheye)|
Debbie, Lizzie, and Jo (with Seff and Emma joining us later in the week).
British pro riders Gilly Seagrave and Sonia Shaw were our coaches for the week with help from Olly, Lucy from Project Skate and Pat from K2.
It rained the evening we arrived so there was a nice covering of new snow on the glacier for our first morning. We spent the first couple of hours cruising the nice long learner‚Äôs run practicing 180s, switch riding and ollies.
In the afternoon we had a run through the park to look at some of the toys we could have a go on during the week. There were two pipes ‚Äì the smaller one at the top of the park being the one used mostly by people still learning to ride the pipe. The park itself was huge with a massive selection of rails, boxes, kickers and a wall ride.
It was pretty busy with the long t-bar queues meaning three or sometimes four people clung to each t-bar by the time it made itself to the top of the park. An interesting way to meet people, that‚Äôs for sure.
|Jo and Hannah at the pool|
After a medicinal drink at the bar we headed to the pool for our first afternoon baking session. The sight of about 15 girls in bikinis all laid out in a row raised a few eyebrows ‚Äì as did Hannah and Jo‚Äôs spectacular leaps into the pool in a variety of styles.
Before dinner we met up for a yoga session to stretch out our first day aches. Whilst in downwards dog a local hound trotted into the dining room and gave poor Gemma a fright while she was upside down. It was kinda hard to concentrate after that and we giggled our way through the warrior pose like naughty schoolgirls.
At some point during the afternoon Gilly, Sonia and Jenny Jones spotted an outfit in the window of the Billabong shop opposite the hotel. There was a display featuring a t-shirt, belt and handbag covered in photos. Jenny is sponsored by Billabong and it was her face in many of the photos. Minutes later Gilly and Sonia were sporting the full set much to the bemusement of the shop assistants.
|Pool shark Hannah (on the Lomo fisheye)|
The photographic evidence of their fashion shoot was gleefully passed round the bar in the evening as the girls hit the pool table and Sonia and Hannah thrashed pair after pair of French boys. We were very vocal cheerleaders ‚Äì I‚Äôd like to think we helped.
After a bit of late night, Monday wasn‚Äôt the best of days for me and a couple of others but the park was our destination and the rest of girls made the most of it.
With the sun hanging out with us all day too, the snow conditions changed throughout the day and got stickier as the day progressed. There was a fair bit of crawling over jumps and the hip as the snow got slower and it became harder to judge run ins to jumps. But we still had a pretty good go before abandoning the sludge for some more time by the town pool.
|Grabbing some waxing tips|
Before dinner, Olly held a board waxing and edging session ‚Äì explaining how boards are constructed, why they need waxing and how to wax them. We all had a go at waxing the boards we planned to ride the following day – with most of us choosing demo 05/6 boards from Burton and K2.
The clouds had been brewing in the valley for a few hours and it wasn‚Äôt long before a thunderstorm reached us and we abandoned our metal framed tent for the safety of the bar as the lightning struck the mountain opposite our hotel. Even though we‚Äôd rather have been sitting out on the terrace we couldn‚Äôt complain as we knew the torrential rain in the valley was falling as fluffy white stuff 3000 metres above.
And sure enough on Tuesday morning, there was clear blue sky and a good few inches of fresh snow to greet us at the top of the mountain. The conditions were great and we got stuck straight in after our daily morning stretch session.
First we headed for the pipe where our first lesson of the day was learning to call next run. We were entering from the top of the pipe rather than the high drop in sides ‚Äì so it took a bit of work getting noticed but we soon the hang of it.
After a couple of runs in the pipe we headed down for some more practice on the kickers ‚Äì
|Getting some pipe practice|
the legs were getting pretty tired by this point but we finished the day off with a session on the wall ride. The sticky snow again made it pretty hard to judge how much speed you needed to make it up the run in (I got nowhere near!).
However coach Sonia and a couple of the guys riding with us picked up a bit too much speed over the roller leading to the wall and went straight over the top. There was a good six foot drop the other side but they all walked away relatively unscathed.
Unfortunately our fellow camper Hannah had a pretty hefty slam into the wall and that (and another couple of falls during the day) left her with a pretty painful-looking and swollen knee at the end of the day.
We also did a little experiment to work out if the t-bar or the funicular railway was a quicker way up the mountain ‚Äì and every time it worked out pretty much even. Once we bailed off the huge the huge park t-bar queue and grabbed a few metres of freshies to meet the other piste to try their t-bar and avoid the wait.
Then it was time to get back to the pool ‚Äì but today the sunbathing became a bit of a military operation as the stream of clouds that covered up the sun every so often left us scuttling for our t-shirts. When the sky cleared there‚Äôd be a cry of ‚ÄòDown! Down! Hit the decks!‚Äô as everyone stripped again.
|Checking out some 05/6 boots|
Later in the evening Lizzie made us get our feet out and we had a boot fitting session ‚Äì looking at the shape of our feet and things to look for when selecting boots. We had a good old stomp about in some of next season‚Äôs boots from Vans ‚Äì there were some pretty nice offerings.
Jo fell head over heels with a pair of Tara Dakides boots and insisted on wearing them while going for a wander down the street. I think she might have slept in them too.
Wednesday saw some more kicker practice and a second attempt at the wall ride. Naomi hit
|Niki on the kickers|
it at a crazy speed and slammed straight into the wall. Even at the top of the run in we heard a massive thud has she smacked the wood. Looking back at it on the video later (repeatedly) in slow-motion, it was spectacular. She‚Äôll be dining out on that footage for years to come.
Earlier in the week some of the girls had gone to a reggae dancing lesson and those of us who stayed behind realised we‚Äôd missed out. So on Wednesday night we had a second chance and after a bit of Dutch courage we trotted down to the Avalanche behind our ludicrously energetic instructor.
A live MC with impressive dreadlocks was ready and waiting for us and we lined up ‚Äì a bit like an aerobics class waiting for the grapevine to start.
It started easily enough but then soon the girl was shaking her bits faster than looked humanly possible. I don‚Äôt know what that woman has for breakfast but they should bottle it and sell it to Olympic athletes.
Calli was pulled up on the stage to show us how it was done and we all wiggled our wiggly bits as best we could. I‚Äôm sure we all left there with our bingo wings a bit firmer and our boobs a bit higher.
We arrived back at the hotel to find out that the British boys had wiped the floor with the French competition in the hotel‚Äôs weekly pool competition ‚Äì hurray. So we all celebrated with (near) pints of gin and tonic ‚Äì which had fast become drink of choice of the week after British pro riders Hamish McKnight and Will Hughes started the trend.
Thursday was our first proper hard-packed day on the glacier so while we waited for conditions to get a bit kinder, Sonia and Gilly had us ollying over a pole to improve our kicker ollying and landing skills.
|Jo on the big kickers|
Once the snow softened up the girls had us on the kickers for a marathon practice session which saw some of the girls nailing their first grabs and having a go at 180s. There were major smiles all round by the end of the day ‚Äì we all achieved heaps and cheered our coaches for their ace teaching skills and motivation.
Equally exciting was the fact that there wasn‚Äôt a cloud in the sky when we came down the mountain so we legged it to the pool for a few hours of full-on baking before loading up on boxes of sangria (five euros for three litres!) and heading to a gorgeous spot on a lake a few miles down the road from L2A.
The barbecue was part of the
|The girls at the lake|
Protest day of achievement to celebrate how much progress we’d all made. There were Protest goodies, cheers, hugs and bubbly (chilled in the lake) for all to celebrate. We also got to scoff an ace big cake, handmade by Hannah to mark the fact that it was also the lovely Lucy B‚Äôs birthday.
After some group photos and the Protest prize-giving ceremony we piled back into the van and tortured our poor sober driver Olly with several renditions of Sweet Child of Mine and Like a Virgin.
Sonia then decided we were going out for cocktails that night and ordered us to put our party frocks on.
While polishing, dusting and painting our various bits, the town‚Äôs Bastille Day fireworks kicked off directly opposite the hotel and we had a perfect view from our balconies.
|Our very own fairy Tinkerbell Jo|
Jo appeared in her own version of ‚Äòdressed up‚Äô ‚Äì in a tinkerbell outfit over her jeans and t-shirt but sadly we couldn‚Äôt persuade her to wear it out for our night on the mojitos. Thank god Niki was there with her camera‚Ä¶
Friday was a pretty clear day so we expected to find a nice soft mountain. But a hefty wind had blown through the place just before we‚Äôd arrived and frozen the place solid. The mountain had turned to sheet ice. Even Jenny Jones had decided to abandon the pipe and wait out the freeze in the mountain restaurant.
A few of the girls still braved the conditions while the rest of us went to the caf?© for some caffeine and chocolate supplies.
By mid-day we were back on track and back in the park. Some of the girls had a go at the box and the rail. Debbie ‚Äì only on her third ever snowboarding trip ‚Äì got a cheer from the usually cooler-than-thou boys in the park when she nailed the box (having fallen in the gap between the run in and the box on her first attempt).
Another fine day‚Äôs work ‚Äì even if it did kick off a little later than planned.
Another perk of our ski pass was a set of six free goes on the L2A luge. So after our daily
|Jenny Jones on the luge|
session at the pool, some of the crew headed there to get their money‚Äôs worth.
The girls screamed their way down on their first run but unfortunately on her second attempt, Wendy C was screaming for a different reason.
She came a cropper on the first bend and bounced right off the track onto the grass ‚Äì scraping her forehead, arm and leg in the process. So poor Wend had yet more war wounds to add to her collection ‚Äì this girl was taking a battering after being smacking on the head by a t-bar and scraping her nose during a full-speed faceplant earlier in the week.
|Andy – one of our gracious hosts|
Dinner was a candle-lit barbecue at the hotel and another get together to say thanks to everyone involved in the camp plus another huge round of freebies. Niki got the biggest cheer as she was awarded a helmet ‚Äì we‚Äôd been nagging her to get one all week (especially after watching Wendy getting whacked repeatedly on the bonce).
Back in the bar a huge pile of freebie swag was dumped onto the pool table and a frisbee contest involving people both inside and outside the bar ensued. Out came the gin again and out too went our intentions of getting a decent night‚Äôs sleep before our final riding day as we sat up til late and put the world to rights with the guys at the hotel. Oops.
In the summer, a half day pass starts at a sociable 9.30am so after a bit of a lie in we got ourselves up the mountain ‚Äì checking out the cutesy marmots whistling away on the bare pistes on the way up.
The snow was seriously slushy by the time we made it up ‚Äì which made for some bouncy but fun kicker action. At the t-bar we caught up with Jo who’d been riding the big kickers and was sporting the biggest grin as she‚Äôd just landed her first backside 3.
The mountain was looking in a pretty sorry state by the end of the day. The park t-bar was
|Can you see any marmots? (on the Lomo fisheye)|
a veritable river with deep holes of cold water to negotiate on the way up. The pistes too were getting muckier. It wasn‚Äôt the worst day in the world to be going home ‚Äì especially after the fantastic conditions we‚Äôd had all week.
After packing and saying our goodbyes to the lucky gals who were staying on for another week or two, we headed back down the crazy windy roads to Lyon.
We expected another fight with the British Airways gang but nope – all good. We made sure the people with the least luggage went to the front and we got through with no excess charges this time.
However Air France had a go a trying to make Wendy W pay for her board (she didn‚Äôt pay on the way out) but she was having none of it. They still managed to lose her board bag though.
Airlines please sort it out and stop being nasty to snowboarders.
But even if they don‚Äôt, I‚Äôm sure we‚Äôll be back next summer. Better get the gin supplies ready.
Details of forthcoming Just4Girls events in the UK and abroad will be available at www.powderroom.net/just4girls
Thanks to all the sponsors and participants in the camp including:
Olly & Lizzie from Burton
Lucy from Project Skate
Pat from K2
Emma from Protest
Our coaches Gilly Seagrave and Sonia Shaw
All the guys at the Sick and the Mental Inn (www.sickandthementalinn.com)
And all the sponsors who contributed to the massive goodie selection throughout the week – Burton, Anon, Red, Option, K2, NFA, Nikita, Helly Hansen, Etnies, Vans, Aloe Up (thanks for stopping us getting fried in the sun!), Smith, Special Blend, Four Square, Sapient, Salomon, Rude Chalets and Snow & Rock.