88 – Le Grand Bornand

I could have easily eaten four plates of the spaghetti carbonara I’d made for myself last night instead of the two. Another day of speeding up and down the ski slopes had created a kind of hunger in me I might feel if allowed to eat once every twenty five years. The same period incidentally since my last visit to Le Grand Bornand: a ski holiday with my parents when I was 13.

We’d been to Valloire the year before and it was the best holiday I’d ever had. The snowy woodland trails winding through the lush Alpine forests to Hansel and Gretel style villages, had only ever existed in Bond movies. Yet this place was real.

An actual village where school children skied on Wednesday afternoons instead of slogging it up Welsh hillsides in cross country competitions for which the prize was a glass of weak orange squash and a bourbon biscuit. In Valloire afterschool activities probably consisted of steam baths, fondue suppers and hi-tech video analysis of every twist and turn.

I was excited about the holiday. So imagine the absolute crushing, total, sheer, pure, complete, overwhelming disappointment when I looked out of the hotel window on that first morning to see a sea of green. A eye stretching landscape of rolling verdant hills and ocean grey rock.

I’d seen more snow Christmas shopping in Leicester a few weeks before the holiday. And that was only because somebody had dropped a cup of slush puppy in a car park. Devastation wasn’t the word. More like saturation. Stomping furiously to the shop that morning in the pouring rain to buy a postcard that I’d promised to send to my Gran.

Dear Gran. Having a great skiing holiday. Wish you were here. See you next week. Love Philip.

In the end, the company we were with bussed us out every morning to the higher attitude resorts in the region. One of which was Valloire that prompted me to ask my dad the question: why the hell didn’t we go there again?

So. Such a difference 25 years of global warming makes:


The conditions yesterday were as good as you can get: fresh snow and intense sunshine. It was cold. Freezing cold in fact. Minus 14. But a great contrast to last week’s City of Alpe D’huez. Le Grand Bornand is small and friendly. Even the ski lift attendants who are notoriously moody, were helpful. Once they even stopped a chair lift after someone had fallen off so that the poor bugger wouldn’t get her head sliced off by the next one powering up towards her.

I’m not a serious skier. I do it for fun. To spend a day in the mountains larking about and watching people fall over. A good helping of schadenfreude is a great boost for the confidence. ‘Look at that clown! What a tumble! What an idiot!

It’s an unhealthy addiction I know. But it’s difficult not to laugh at somebody else’s expense when you know full well that the guy who’s just crashed into the ski barrier at full speed, would be the first to laugh at you in a similar situation. That is. If he ever makes it out of hospital.

Skiing is just an excuse to fart about in the snow. Like children. Fall over a bit. Breathe in the mountain air. Get an adrenaline rush. Try not to break too many bones. Eat excessive amounts of ham, potatoes and cheese. Drink strong red wine. And enjoy the view.



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