Monday was the first day of the French ski instructors’ week-long competition. “ESF” stands for Ecole du Ski Français (French ski school), and their outfit, as seen on the roundabout here in St Jean de Sixt, is red. A friend and I drove to Chinaillon — part of the Le Grand Bornand ski resort — where all the action was happening, but we discovered a bit of action on the way there. As we drove through town in my very old Golf cabriolet, people in red outfits were everywhere, and while we stopped to let some walk across a pedestrian crossing, one yelled out in French: “Oh, a convertible! Here, I’ll just put my skis in the back.” Thankfully, before he could do so, the other instructors had cleared the pedestrian crossing and we were on our way.
In Chinaillon, the red outfits outnumbered the rest of us. We sat at a café at the bottom of the pistes to watch the entertainment. We couldn’t see the races, but lots of instructors had taken advantage of the pub further up, and they found some innovative ways to get to the bottom of the piste. One sipped his drink while flying past at high speed, as if relaxing on a sunlounger rather than bouncing down the lumpy piste. Many others had empty plastic beer cups hanging around their necks. One instructor skied over some skis laying on the snow, left by one of the other café customers who either didn’t see or didn’t mind, and then a couple of ESF cowboys skied past, complete with fake guns, cowboy hats and gingham shirts. One poor instructor tried to get a lift down on the back of his mate’s skis, but he skied off too quickly and the instructor slid down skate-style in just his ski boots. Funniest of all was the instructor piggy-backing another instructor. It was going really well until he had to slow down, and then there was a crash, a tumble and lots of laughter.
On the way home, we passed the decorated roundabout in St Jean de Sixt, which has changed a few times already. On Monday morning, a policeman mannequin was arresting a ski instructor while the other three ski instructor mannequins (pictured in last weekend’s photo) continued to ski down their plastic slope. By Monday afternoon, the policeman was gone and a ski instructor mannequin was installed on the roof of the little roundabout house — complete with his competitor number on his bib. Can you guess what the number was? If you guessed higher than 68 and lower than 70, you’d be spot on.