Annual SAS trip hits slopes of Val Thorens

Neil Graham landing a jump. Photo by Jonny Hawkins

After months of eager anticipation, 250 students from across the academic spectrum geared up for the annual St Andrews Snowsports ski trip on Friday 20 January.

Selling out in less than 12 hours, this was the biggest ski trip to date and with the exams finished, everyone was ready for their journey to the French Alpine resort of Val Thorens. A week of skiing, snowboarding and socialising was in order and no one can do a ski trip like St Andrews Snowsports can.

With a ‘Noah’s Ark’ theme planned for the bus journey down, a whole menagerie of tigers, lions, rabbits, unicorns, Pikachus, seals and dinosaurs boarded the buses down to Dover and across to France.

While the journey is long (30 hours from St Andrews), it’s on the buses that trippers, especially first years and snow virgins, meet up with friends and get to know the other people on the trip that they’ll be shredding slopes with – nothing brings people together more than sharing a room during the ski trip.

Sunday morning dawned with bright sunshine for the first day of skiing and while the experienced seasonaires were able to get up at 9am for the first lift, beginners hired their equipment and met their instructors.

The Alps had experienced heavy snow over the past few weeks, so the good weather meant excellent conditions for those starting off, while it also allowed ski trip veterans to find the freshest powder and make their mark on the mountain. Val Thorens is in the fabled “Three Valleys” of snowsports lore, allowing access to the renowned resorts of Meribel and Courchevel for those who paid for the upgraded lift pass.

With the largest ski resort in Europe at our feet, there were plenty of runs for all abilities: smooth blues for those wanting to build their confidence, fast reds for the racers and several large and all-encompassing snow parks for anyone who wished to show off their tricks.

With the ski trip taking place at the end of January, the slopes were welcomingly quiet for the majority of the day, allowing a full seven hours of skiing with minimal queuing for lifts. Elizabeth Renwick, a first-year History student who had never skied before, found that at first the lessons were “daunting but fun” but it was the après ski that really helped make it one of her “best weeks of  uni so far”.

For the rest of the week everyone was able to be on the pistes all day before skiing on down to Bar 360, whose DJ played mixes that really got the blood pumping. The bar created an amazing atmosphere and for the six days of the trip everyone made it to 360 at least once, if not every day.

Of course half the fun of the trip is the night-time entertainment and every single night brought a themed social. The first major event was ‘Mime Time’, which resulted in the entire St Andrews contingent putting on their white face paint, stripey jumpers and braces and hitting the town’s bars. Mimes can be frightening by themselves, so having over two hundred march into a bar at once must have been a sight for the bartenders.

Other nights included themes such as ‘S Night’, which saw individuals dress up as such things as Smurfs and snow, while ‘White Night’ at the end of the week was yet another success that allowed everyone to daub each other’s T-shirts (and other parts of the body) in as much permanent marker as possible.

Following ski trip tradition, the Valley Rally was a further fancy dress accomplishment, with Oompa Loompas and Jedi being but some of the costumes seen racing down the slope. 

Perhaps the most popular night and biggest achievement was the “Mountain Meal”, hosted at Bar 360 on the slopes. A meat fondue, with plenty of wine on the side, was described as “one of the tastiest, messiest and best meals of his life” by Pete Stranger, a first year who claimed to be the best skier on the mountain. After the meal, students skied back down to the hotel with flaming torches, an experience they’re unlikely to forget!

Every year SAS have tried to make the trip bigger and better for those who manage to book on and 2012 has proven to be the best success to date. With no broken bones or major injuries, excellent weather and fantastic snow conditions, everyone who came along got what they hoped for.

A tremendous amount of effort was put in by trip organisers Anna Balm and Ulrika Nilsson, without whom the trip would not have been a success, while the reps from Outgoing were also extremely helpful and enthusiastic.

SAS are always looking ahead, with the BUSC Easter ski trip taking bookings and the Snowball set for 3 March. The ski trip reputation has grown fantastically over the past three years and with the triumph of the Val Thorens trip, SAS can’t wait for another exciting and challenging trip in 2013.



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