Monster Ski 2011 - Tignes. 3rd February 2011. 90,000 vertical feet in 3 days! This was one of my favorite trips I've taken since I started working at Ski Independence and it was a huge success. I've always wanted to lead a Monster ski since it was set up by Mike Laver in 2007. Not only does it raise huge amounts of money for the MS Trust but it is proof that being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis doesn't mean you can’t go out and do the things you would normally do. Saying that, skiing the vertical of Mount Everest 3 times in 3 days may not be classed as a particularly normal thing to do which made this trip and the challenge all the more exciting. Tignes and the expanse of the Espace Killy area was our destination and you truly can’t get a better place to get a ton of good skiing in with lots of wide open groomed slopes and 3 – 4 lifts that will give you over 3,000 feet vertical in one run. I have to say as soon as I met the group at Geneva airport I knew everyone was going to gel and we were in for a good trip. On the trip there was Mike, John, Victoria, Alison, Andy, Robin, Sarah, Louise and Siobhan. There were 10 of us in total and it was really nice to see a mix in genders and ages with 5 girls and 5 guys. 3 members of the group have MS and the rest of us have family members or know people who have been affected. Once everyone met up in Geneva, we were whisked off on a private transfer with Alp Line through Annecy, Albertville, Bourg then up the valley to Tignes. Normally this transfer takes around 3 hours but we were up in resort in 2 ½ with clear roads and good road conditions. This gave us a good amount of time to check into our lovely hotel – L’Ecrin du Val Claret, get ski hire sorted and meet up with Ken from Progression Ski & Snowboard School based in Val d’Isere. We were to have 2 groups on the mountain, which I was to lead one and Ken kindly offered his instructors to take the other group over the coming 3 days. I have to say everyone was a wee bit nervous about the challenge ahead and its one of those things that you just want to get going so there wasn’t a huge amount of ale consumed at the bar but we all managed to consume a few glasses of wine to wash down our amazing meal in the hotel restaurant – rude not to! DAY 1 This was really a first lift/last lift kind of thing and once suited and booted we were all warming up at the base of Val Claret up and down the Bollin 6 pax chair. [caption id="attachment_1957" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Andy's team on Day 1 of the challenge"][/caption] It was so important to warm up as quite a few of us were skiing for the first time this season and we were about to ski more than your average holiday maker would do in a week. Certainly no 2 hour lunch or a cheeky wee Vin Chaud stop. Progression’s instructor Amigo (half Dutch/Austrian - so not too sure where the name originates from ?!) showed up who is a top bloke and took the fast group. Conditions were surprisingly very good on-piste with excellent groomed grippy snow. Most of the morning was spent over in Val d’Isere and we had a refueling lunch at a great wee restaurant towards the bottom of the mens downhill run that goes down to La Daille. [caption id="attachment_1958" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="This was really what it was like! Maybe without the cat suit…"][/caption]

Armed with a Suunto altimeter we had just covered over half our required vertical for the day by lunch (around 18,000 feet) but we had a fair amount of skiing to cover so it was back over to Tignes and a trip up the Funicular to the Grand Motte glacier which takes you up over 1,000 meters in around 7 minutes. By the end of the day we were all flagging a bit but we managed to bag another 3,000 feet with a run down to Tignes Le Lac to take my group over the 30,000 feet for the day – a massive well done to Sarah, Louise, Siobhan and Robin for that first day in was a superb performance.

After another champion dinner at L’Ecrin du Val Clarets restaurant it was an early night for all to feel fresh for the following day's challenge. DAY 2 We were met by another of Progressions great instructors – Woody who teaches skiing in the winter and is a postman in Cornwall in the Summer. Another top bloke and he led my group from the day before whilst I took Victoria, Alison, John and Andy. There’s no better place first thing in the morning than heading up to the Grand Motte Glacier and it seemed like we had the place to ourselves with fast and carvy circuits of the “Plan chair” followed by a trip up the cable car and a non-stopper down the immaculately groomed black Leisse run. This was the best run of this I’ve ever had with previous experiences having to do circuits of huge slushy bumps in BASI exams. With a trip over to Tignes Breviere, run down to Le Lac then back over to Val Claret we had nailed around 20,000 vertical feet by the time we staggered into the Aspen café. After a massive “Aspen burger” we staggered out and cruised it around the Marmottes and Grand pre lifts in Val d’Isere and by the end of the day we got a whopping 32,000 vertical feet. We met the other group who had had an awesome day with Woody and enjoyed a celebratory drink at Grizzly’s which is a bear themed bar in the centre of Val Claret. [caption id="attachment_1959" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Superb atmosphere with bear skins covering sofas and chairs, heavy carvings, logs, open fire… perfect apres ski!"][/caption] DAY 3 So far so good and just one more day of hard core skiing to complete the challenge. The girls who were in Woody’s class the day before were delighted to have him guiding/teaching them again and both groups had their game plan to bag the last day and get that final vertical to get the total of 90,000 in 3 days. A trip back over to Val and the long runs on Solaise clocked up huge amounts before we stopped for lunch at La Fornet. To be honest everyone was feeling it by the time we stopped at Le Signal restaurant and the daunting thought crept into our minds that we were the furthest we could be from Tignes. You could see the lifts at Val Claret way in the distance and we all knew we had to get going. I’m delighted to say by the time both groups got back to Tignes we had all smashed the target despite the throbbing legs and there was a real sense of achievement. I’ve never been so proud of a group as when I saw everyone come into the bar/café at the end of the day. It was a massive challenge and not only did we all meet it we exceeded our targets. The only thing left to do was celebrate which we did without much persuasion. [caption id="attachment_1960" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Monster Ski Team 2011: (from top left) Alison, Louise, Sarah, Siobhan, Victoria. (from bottom left) Andy, John, Robin & Mike."][/caption] The girls dressed up, we presented Mike with a gift as a sign of our appreciation for setting up such an awesome challenge and headed into the restaurant for a Savoyard dinner where we consumed enough cheese to feed Napoleons army! What a trip and well done to all that took part, there was sun, snow, tears, lots of laughter and a huge sense of achievement. Monster Ski takes place every year and if you fancy a challenge and want to raise money for MS keep your eyes peeled for next seasons trip on the MS Trust website. To find out more about Monster Ski and it's origins click here.