Downhill skiing


It started so well: a week away skiing in the French Alps. Our flight was delayed, meaning that we would miss our transfer from Geneva to the resort but lady luck smiled and the bus was also late leaving: result! As we cruised past the beautiful Lake Annecy and then upward into the Alps the excitement grew with the realisation that for a whole week we could explore the mountains and wonder at the stunning scenery, all hopefully etched out against deep blue skies.

Day one brought some welcome snow for, although it lay some metre and a half deep on the piste, as any experienced skier will tell you it is all about the top ten centimetres. So time to reacquaint one’s legs with the slopes and look forward to perfect conditions tomorrow. And so it was on day two: the fresh snow allowing even a pensionable skier to approach all slopes with confidence. Total freedom to take lifts that feel as though you are being transported to the top of the world, before gliding effortlessly down with little more than those blue skies and perfect white slopes for company.

Little did we know how things were about to change. But it wasn’t a skiing injury that stopped the fun and eventually led to the trip being shortened: it was a bug! You know how you settle into your flight and suddenly people swap seats and your new elbow buddy clearly has the cough from hell! Three days incubation and the mountain air was about to be polluted by a vicious man-cough. One of such intensity that it prevented any sleep and sapped any last remnants of energy from within one’s heaving body. I struggled on but with no sleep, no appetite and no energy skiing days got shorter and suddenly that idyllic week in the Alps wasn’t.

We decided to leave a day early and find some solace in the familiarity of home and the NHS. Arriving back at Geneva we requested to be switched onto a flight that day but it was against the rules. We could pay an additional £330 or wait until a flight early the next morning. Somehow a point of principle emerged and we prepared to wait overnight at the airport; that is until we were informed that it was only possible to stay in the airport between midnight and 4.30am if we had valid tickets for an early flight, which we couldn’t get until the next day! From reaching the dizzy heights of the top of the Alps just four days later we had hit rock bottom and I was ready to beg. After fifteen minutes of pleading my case to the airline counter staff and subsequently to the manager, the airline in question showed its compassionate side and gave us the final two seats on the next flight that day.

From a free spirit on the mountain to a limp beggar on his way home in just six days!



John B Philpott

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