It’s an odd paradox that the holiday punter on his third day in resort usually has a much better idea of what runs and lifts are which than does the seasonnaire who has been here since day one. Which may have something to do with the fact that while the holiday skier spends his evenings poring over the piste map and boring everyone with the day’s exploits, the grunt serving his dinner legs it out of the door as soon as is decently possible and proceeds to get completely blotto on whatever unspeakable vodka-and-syrup combo the local bar is punting out for free this week.
In fact it’s characteristic of seasonnaires that they never bother to look at the piste map at all after the first week, during which they aren’t actually allowed out on skis anyway until they’ve cleaned everything to within an inch of its life. As a result they never have any clue about what anything is called and spend their entire season referring to The Run Off The Back Of The Eight-Man or The Secret Red, much to everyone else’s confusion. It’s quite surprising how few of them turn up late for the evening shift having got hopelessly lost on the mountain.
The punter, on the other hand, is forever getting lost. Or losing his children, spouse, lift pass, you name it. This leads to mobs of them cluttering up the junctions and passing soggy piste maps around or shouting “Broadsword to Danny Boy, I’m next to that restaurant we saw yesterday, over” into cheap two-way radios from Curry’s. The radios are no doubt a great idea when you have a UK phone and roaming calls are charged at a fiver a word, but they have the unfortunate side effect of making you look like a mad survivalist with military delusions. Still, needs must, and there’s no point in asking the rest of us where anyone is as we’ll be in the habit of referring to the run they’re waiting at as That Beginner Bit That’s Always Carnage rather than Grand Nord.
Apparently 2Alpes has a bit of a reputation for presenting a navigational challenge to the holiday skier – I can’t see it myself, though as a serial seasonnaire who can ski most of the resort blind in a white-out (but still doesn’t know what anything is called), I’m probably not the best judge. But the problem has been deemed serious enough to justify splashing out a million or so euros on new signs and incidentally renaming most of the pistes and several lifts. (Not that this will make any difference to those of us used to referring to what is now Glacier 3 as That Steep Bit Off The Signal Chair.)
I was initially less than impressed with the idea of numbering the pistes, though further perusal of the new piste map reveals that the cunning plan is to name every run for the lift which serves it. This should make it marginally easier for gormless tourists to reunite themselves with the rest of the family, as the name of the lift for which they are headed is clearly plastered all over the piste markers.
The strategic name changes to the lifts will be particularly welcome though, because let’s face it, calling almost all of the telecabins Jandri was frankly perverse. We’ve all had a bit of laugh at our visitors from time to time for behaving like complete nincompoops, but in that particular case they probably had a point. Renaming Jandri 1 (or was it II?) the White Eggs changes nothing but the signage since all of us – visitors and residents alike – have been calling it that for years. But I think they missed a trick in naming the big cable car Le Telepherique, a bit pedestrian compared to Le James Bond, which is what all the Brit seasonnaires call it.
But all this spangly new signposting is bad news for the resort regulars because if it does its job properly (and at that price you have to hope it will) it’s going to mean that the one-weekers finally find all those hidden runs whereas before they were sailing blithely past and leaving acres of untracked powder for the rest of us. Bugger, quite frankly.