This is the third and final post about how to annoy the locals merely by celebrating a birthday.
After causing frowns for asking for a drink in a bar in Croix Fry, then paying far too much for terrible service and not much food for dinner, the birthday of my French friend Elodie was almost over. The fun part had arrived – sliding down the blue piste from Beauregard back to Croix Fry after climbing it earlier on the way to the refuge.
Our group had brought a variety of objects to slide back down on, from the local parait sledge to snowboards and skis. The piste had been groomed and light rain was falling, making the piste soft and deep to step on. We hurtled down the first hill, then reached a flat area and paused while a dameuse (a machine that flattens the pistes) approached. A dameuse‘s function is a serious one: over the course of a day, a ski run will get bumpy and icy in places, and there may be mountains of solid, man-made snow ready to be spread across the piste. The driver of a dameuse must not only flatten the bumps, cover the ice and spread the new snow, but also ensure the camber is maintained across the piste. They work at night so that the pistes are in pristine condition in the morning for everyone to enjoy.
The piste we had just slid down had been flattened, and the wetness of the snow meant our marks were very obvious, with footsteps, toboggan lines and even dog paw prints embedded in the flat, previously perfectly groomed piste. When the driver of the dameuse saw the damage we had done, he drove very close to our group and put the brakes on. We said ‘bonsoir‘ in high spirits, and one of our party pointed to Elodie and said in French that it was her birthday. The driver was unimpressed. ‘So?’ he said. ‘Look what you’ve done to the piste. I spent ages flattening it and now it’s damaged.’
Of course he was right, but given that there are at least two restaurants open in the evenings at Beauregard, this must be a regular, even nightly, problem. Do the locals expect us to walk in the heavy, deep snow on the side of the piste when we all live here for the joy of sliding down the mountains? What’s the point in walking to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere if you can’t enjoy the thrill of a night-time slide on the way home? Has La Clusaz not thought about perhaps preparing this piste later in the night or first thing in the morning? I know that some work in the morning because they hold up the opening of La Balme after the security staff have declared it safe for skiing after a big dump of snow. Why not do the same at Beauregard?
But back to The Night Of The Angry Man In A Dameuse. He ranted for a few minutes about the state of the piste and a few of us said sorry. His rant continued and he was aggressive with his words. I wondered if everyone else felt as much like a naughty child being told off by an angry teacher as I did. He drove off in his dameuse, missing a snowboarder perched on the side of the piste by centimetres — perhaps to emphasise his anger. If his over-the-top anger hadn’t already spurred some of us on to dig more heavily into his piste, his closeness to one of our group fueled the motivation for the rest of us. We hung around until he was out of sight, then carried on down the piste towards Croix Fry. Had he found us again, I suspect we would have witnessed a scene out of a C-grade horror film (surely named ‘The Night Of The Angry Man In A Dameuse‘), and I wouldn’t be here to tell the story!