Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Val d'Ese and the ski station

Yesterday I was sent some ancient photos of Propriano which were incredible and I wanted to try to re-create them for a ‘before and after’ blog, so this morning saw me out and about on the port bright and early.

Unfortunately, the sun was in the wrong place for the shot I wanted, but I did get a lovely shot of the coloured buildings lining the main street. At this time of year the cafés are open so I decided to make the most of the glorious weather and have a quick coffee in the sunshine.

So imagine yourself on an island like Corsica where the beaches are empty, it’s already 16 degrees at 9am and you have a day off. What would you do? That’s right, I decided to go skiing!!

I’ve never been to the Val d’Ese ski station before, so it was quite an adventure. We passed Bastelica, famous across the island for the charcuterie, and nearly made some of our own when a pig leapt out in front of the car with its babies. Fortunately there was no traffic so I just stopped in the middle of the road to take a quick photo.

The road from Bastelica is long and windy, but very picturesque, so we stopped a couple of times to take photos. It’s amazing how quickly the temperature drops and I was glad I’d brought some proper ski clobber to put over my t-shirt.

It was quite surprising to arrive at the parking area and discover that the ski station itself is basically a shed! That said, as it was Wednesday (no school in France) so there were a fair few people skiing with the kids. As well as the hut selling tickets for the chair lift, there was also a hire shop for skis and raquettes (snow shoes) as well as other ski equipment.

As always seems to happen in Corsica, I hadn’t even finished putting on my new super-duper walking boots when I bumped into a friend from the Valinco! I have a serious affliction whereby in any given set of circumstances, I can always be relied on to have a freak accident, so we decided not to ski, but instead to follow the walking trail.

This area is actually very dangerous for walkers and it’s always best to take a guide even if you’re not going far. This is because it’s covered in Pozzines which are small holes, often filled with water, like little ponds under the snow.

The top layer of snow melts as the air temperature rises (9 degrees may not seem like much, but it’s still warmer than freezing point!), but what you can’t see is that the water underneath is melting the snow from below, so what you end up with are very thin layers of snow covering holes full of icy water – lethal!

We decided to be sensible and follow the snow shoe tracks on the basis that – in theory at least – someone had passed that way before and it should be safe. Of course it wasn’t long before we were distracted by the pretty waterfalls and the amazing colours of the river, and had wandered ‘off-piste’.

Fortunately this time it wasn’t me who got their foot stuck in a hole – hurrah! – although I did almost get mown down by someone practicing their luge technique (unsuccessfully) for the next winter Olympics!

Amazingly, given the size of the ski station, there is a little café at the top where you can sit and top up your tan and maybe indulge in a Figatellu sandwich, but as it was a bit overcast today, it was too cold to sit still for long, and we decided to head back down to the coast. What a fab day!

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