A week ago we were lucky enough to enjoy a few days skiing in the Alps on surprisingly good snow under blue skies on all but one day. Good Friday and yet another school holiday provided a spontaneous opportunity to get out for one last slide of the season. So with the kid’s skies freshly serviced by Blues master technician, Stuart, we headed North on Thursday evening in anticipation of an early start on Friday. I had spent the previous week on a pair of Salomon ENDURO XT 800 which I found excellent – stiff, stable at speed and with loads of grip, the only downside was that they are heavy.
This made chopping through sugary snow with tired legs at the end of the day hard work so I decided to try out a lighter alternative which wouldn’t compromise pace and enjoyment. Following consultation with the Blues gurus at Tiso Perth Outdoor Experience I found myself with a set of lurid yellow Black Crows and a personal assurance I would thoroughly enjoy myself. First impressions were good – they felt fully half the weight of the Salomons.
The car park was surprisingly quiet at 9am the following morning and having purchased our passes on our way up from the hotel (top tip – most hotels in the area sell ski passes so it can save time on queuing) we avoided the line at the desk and proceeded directly to the train. The next four hours were spent under a cloudless sky on piste which was predictably limited but of impressive quality – credit is due to the team at Cairngorm Mountain who are doing a great job of pisting what is left of the snow. The Black Crows (Orb Freebird) felt pretty lively at first on snow which had not yet felt the heat of the sun but came in to their own as the day warmed up. As I got used to them I quickly fell in love – they are a fast and fun ski but (in my personal opinion) probably best suited to fresh snow and off piste.
The kids meanwhile were having a great time – this was only the second time on snow for my partner’s children but they quickly found a groove with my two and all four skied happily together with us through lunch (another benefit of a stop at the hotel – the breakfast!) when we had the slopes to ourselves. When we finally stopped we elected to sit outside and enjoy the view with our sandwiches and watch the snowboarders demonstrating their skill and bravery in the snow park.
At about 3pm we decided to call it a day. Sadly it will be our last outing this season but Cairngorm Mountain is committed to keeping the hill open for as long as there is snow so if you are planning a last trip don’t forget your Outdoor Experience card qualifies you for 10% off all Blues product including what’s in the Sale which is still on. Tradition and cries for juice from the back necessitated a stop at the Old Bridge Inn by Aviemore on the way home. We sat in the beer garden with Mountain Bikers and together watched kayakers paddling past down the river – who says you need to go to the West Coast of the US to do all three in one day? As I so often do on such occasions I reminded myself how lucky we are to have all this on our doorstep.
With longer and hopefully warmer days to come my attention and energy is turning once again to biking. My trusty Trek Madone 5.9 has just been serviced by the boys at Alpine Bikes on Hamilton Place, Edinburgh and will be coming out this week. I did the Etape Calendonia last year which was my first closed road event and loved it. This year I have entered the Tour of the Borders (also closed road) which takes place in August so training will commence soon, time to dig out the chamois cream…