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Craig, P & Chip in Chamonix - 26 Jan - 2 Feb 2002

After the success of last year's boarding trip to Andorra, Nick P & Craig decided once again to take time off and risk life & limp in sub zero conditions… and this time Chris came along to show them how to do it properly.

The journey started with at 04:55hrs arrival at Gatwick South Terminal, courtesy of Young & Hope Cabs (very reasonable rates and fine service - call 01403 263119 for booking enquiries). As soon as the luggage was booked in, it was time to savour "the cornerstone of any nutritional breakfast"… no, not a Big Kahuna burger, a beer! Before long it was time to catch the flight to Switzerland and this provided a chance to experience JMC's "quality" in-flight catering and the awesome views over lake Geneva ("Whoah maaan, those mountains are huuge!" was just one of the comments heard… little did they know what was to follow!).

On arrival in Switzerland there was a long wait while Craig's snowboard eluded the luggage handling staff, but it then time to begin the coach journey over the boarder into France. On arrival, Chamonix seemed sort of… well, normal really. Nothing special. A continental version of Broadbridge Heath… only with Europe's 2nd tallest mountain about 1000 metres away. Lots of police everywhere too, on virtually every street corner (someone must have told them who was coming). After check in to the apartment (which was delayed to 17:00hrs even though arrival in Chamonix was 13:00hrs! Naturally, Mr J. Daniels helped the wait!), it was time for some sight seeing. Somehow the team ended up as spectators at some kind of suicide Rally where 8 competitors tried to destroy their cars on the snowy tracks around the foot of Mont Blanc. The winner, strangely enough, was a Toyota Yaris (complete with some kind of loud rocket launcher device). Odd.

The next day was the true start of the campaign. Conditions in Chamonix-Sud village were rather rainy, but this wasn't the case at the top of the first resort visited. The journey to the top of the run known as La Flegere took place in a wonky cable car about the size of a box room. This was crammed to capacity with around 471 skiers and boarders all fighting for elbow room and an escape from each others garlic soaked halitosis. The juddery car eventually arrived at its location and the conditions soon revealed themselves as being more like a scene from the planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back… howling winds delivering vast quantities of snow. This was more like it!

It took a while for the team's boarding skills to settle in the tricky conditions (i.e - all week!), and taking on a red run as first tour of the day was rather silly. But they made it to the bottom unscathed and confidence started to grow from there. In the afternoon, a trip to the 2nd resort La Brevent followed and conditions here were equally tricky. La Brevent had a great blue run which the chaps got into straight away. The day ended with Nick, Chris & Craig enduring hail and high winds stuck on a chair lift and, drench and exhausted, it was time for bed.

Next morning, Drill Sargeant Sawyer of the US Marine Corps set about the task of trying to wake Nick & Chris. It was a task that would trouble him for the remainder of their stay. Achey limbs and tired lungs were already affecting his troops, but he wasn't gonna let that get in the way of a 04:30hrs start. After banging a metal dinner tray with a spoon for 30 minutes, he changed his approach and put the Kenny Loggins track 'Dangerzone' from the Top Gun soundtrack on the stereo. Immediately, the tired boarders sprang to their feet and assumed full-on air guitar poses. The next days boarding was infinitely more successful. Visiting a resort called Le Tour, Craig decided to shoot some video footage of a great blue run down through a wooded area of the slopes and on to the boarder with Italy. Nick & Chris performed a high speed daring dual run for the camera which involved a two man smash that damaged both their left elbows… but somehow Craig managed to film the inside of his back pack instead! More smooth runs were found over the top of the next mountain and the scenery was made even better by the splendid amount of sunshine.

At the start of the 3rd day, the injury list was starting to grow. Craig strangely enough seemed exempt from boarding injuries, but Chris & Nick's bruises were growing by the hour. It was back to Le Tour in the morning, with time with Nick P on the camerawork. He caught some good footage of Craig and Chris in the now legendary tree run but unfortunately, the first successful Ollie of the holiday was obscured by a strategically placed tree!

By Wednesday, the high speed, no mercy lifestyle was starting to take its toll on Nick P (not the alcohol, honest!). It was now a downward spiral of injury and exhaustion for the frustrated boarder who had definitely passed is physical peak. Craig (still completely uninjured) and Chris (who's body was now immune to bruising, seeing as there weren't any places left to bruise) on the other hand were going from strength to strength. While Nick took the morning on his own to try to remember how to turn a moving snowboard, they pitted their wits on a vicious little kicker ramp (see the photographic evidence of their jumping skills). Here Craig finally sustained an injury! Falling badly on his wrist, he was left wearing a wrist guard for the remainder of the week and having a French chalet maid help him during his morning shower (the moans of pain to be heard from inside the bathroom were truly agonising*).

On Thursday, Nick P went for a sight seeing tour of Chamonix in the hope that his body would recover for one more day of unadulterated action. Chris and Craig weren't so wimpy. They were straight back on the slopes for more high speed runs on La Flegere. Nick P joined them in the afternoon for what was probably the combined best afternoon's boarding. More jumps were performed, with Nick P getting air of up to 3mm at some points.

Friday came and went in the blink of an eye. More runs on Le Flegere were the order of the day, with Nick P & Craig going it alone for most of the morning while Chris went home to collect his gloves, hat and lunch! During the morning run, Craig witnessed Nick P pull off the finest face plant of the holiday which left him seeing stars just like in the Tom & Jerry cartoons. This was followed by him somehow pulling a muscle in his stomach that proved to be the nail in his snowboarding coffin for this holiday. Chip was soon back with lunch and, with Craig, put in some seriously consistent runs to bring an end to the boarding in Chamonix for 2002. It was then time to go home and tidy up the apartment. Washing up after a day in the snow doesn't seem as bad somehow!

Attention now shifts to the next excursion… will it be Whistler in Canada? Soldieu in Andorra? Denne Hill? Stay tuned to find out!

Full List of Accident/Injuries during the Chamonix Tour 2002

1. Elbow Injuries - Nick P & Chris
2. Sprained wrist - Craig
3. Groin strain - All (due to chair lifts)
4. Damaged nether regions - Nick P (Kids: use Deep Heat spray with care!)
5. Burnt Fingers - Nick P (blowing out candles will generally suffice)
6. Bruised forearm - Nick P (caught in the doors of a moving bus)
7. Bruised foot - Nick P (caught in doors after freeing arm in moving bus!)
8. Damaged Coccycx - All (due to icy slopes and misusing basketballs)
9. Bruised temple - Nick P (due to super face plant)
10. Fibre glass splinters - Nick P (from broken bowling ball! Odd!)
11. Flu - Nick P (how unlucky?!)
12. Bruised side - Unknown man (trying to nick our beer, eh??!)
13. Vandalised Light Switch - Burton Rippey goes crazy and attacks the entry hall


* Kath - this bit is not true.