snowboarding in the pyreneees

I don’t believe in God, I don’t think there is some almighty divine power driving my existence nor do I believe that I am just living out a pre planned destiny. There are times however when the word coincidence just won’t cut it.
Juan bought himself a car last week and three days later the Pyrenees saw an unprecedented dumping of snow across all of it’s northern ski resorts. There was only ever going to be one outcome and by Wednesday the road trip had been planned for the following weekend.

There was however a small hurdle to overcome. Juan had put his car in to have the timing belt changed and the garage had managed to break something else in the engine while fixing it, we weren’t going anywhere till this was done. Friday afternoon was a nail biting affair as we all waited in anticipation for news from the garage, at 6pm it came, the car was ready but we couldn’t get it till Saturday afternoon. Hearts dropped, we all knew that a day on the slopes needs a recovery day after and the idea of a Sunday bashing the slopes followed by a Monday at work dealing with the aches and pains didn’t appeal. There was however no choice because we were all determined to get on that mountain so Sunday it was.

I woke on Saturday morning to torrential rain and I checked the weather forecast to find the Pyrenees was in the grip of a snowstorm. looking in dread to what Sundays forecast said i found… snow in the morning then nothing but blue skies and sunshine. I couldn’t believe our luck. Had we gone on the Saturday we wouldn’t have been able to see four feet in front of our noses and now we were on course for a perfect day.

We left Barcelona for the Pyrenees at 6.30 in the morning and arrived at Font Romeu, France to a snowy welcome. There was even a chance we wouldn’t make it up there without snow chains on the wheels but Juan’s trusty steed saw us get there in one piece.

We headed straight for the hire shop and quickly adorned ourselves with the necessary attire. We were bundled into the little gondola that swept up the mountain and as we rose higher the sun started to break through the clouds.
The first half of the day we split up. While I showed Carmen some snowboarding basics Juan, Marine and Zarzar went in search of some powdery goodness. Carmen was doing surprisingly well only toppling over a few times without injury, so after I was confident she could get herself out of any uncomfortable situations promptly took her to the top of the mountain and threw her down a red run full of powdery soft snow. In at the deep end as it were.

After a brief stop to admire the incredible views from the top she started confidently then at the sight of the huge drop in front there was refusal, followed by an argument, a few tears and then eventually courage, the courage to stand up and head into the unknown with only a mornings worth of training under her belt. Before she had time to think she was snowboarding, albeit a little gingerly, and loving it.

We found the other guys and joined them for some beautiful, soft, quick, fluffy, confidence inspiring…yeah you know where I’m heading… powder. We were all flying down dangerously fast which meant the wipeouts were equally as awesome and besides some slight whiplash, largely injury free. A couple of times I did get to the bottom looking like a snowman but a snowman with a huge grin across his face.

The late afternoon saw tiredness begin to creep in but pure determination saw us carve up the slopes till sunset and Carmen come down the entire mountain unaided.
We all met at the bottom station cafe and decided it was time find a change of clothes and some hot food. So once more we squeezed into the gondola cabin swinging in the air and watched the sun go down as we slowly bobbed down the mountain.

Now we were starving, all that hard work had given us all a mighty appetite and it was going to take something special to quench it. We wandered all over town getting hungrier by the second but nowhere was open, we found a little cafe but sadly it only did sandwiches. We found a restaurant with a warm fire in the middle of the room, but it was a thirty minute wait for food. No way we could last that long. Eventually, tired and cold, we were resigned to the fact that we may have to wait until we got back to Barcelona, but then, out of the darkness a small sign was spotted. A small sign, for a small restaurant that did burgers and fries, what turned out to be some of the best burger and fries I’ve ever had. Perfectly grilled ground beef on a delicate layer of salad encased in wonderful French bread. Even now when I think about it a warmth spreads through me like the warm summer sunshine. Or maybe that’s just the whisky. Anyway, it was superb, the burger guy had saved our skins and made lifelong customers at the same time but now it was time to go and Juan, bless his little cotton socks, drove us all back to our homes and a hot cup of tea in Barcelona.

This was the first of what will surely become a succession of legendary visits to the French/Catalan Pyrenees not only for it’s slopes but for its cuisine also.

All hail powdery snow!