Riders on the Snow Storm. Les Arcs 2017.

This winter we decided to stop riding waves and start riding mountains instead. Gathering a group of 22 from Wild West Wales, including the Totally Minged and Big Lush crews, we flew to Chambrey, France.

From there it was a two hour transfer up into the Alps at Les Arcs.

In Les Arcs the villages are named after their altitude in meters, Les Arcs 1600 and Les Arcs 1800 for example. We had to go to the top, didn’t we? We got a fantastic Chalet in Les Arcs 2000.

Living at that altitude was surprisingly challenging. Climbing a flight of steps will take your breath away even before you start skiing. The air was also very dry, and with unusually sunny weather when we were there, the Chalet was boiling hot.

Exploring the mountain was great and Sharon and I really enjoyed the mountain villages.

Though we had days of glorious sunshine these were interspersed with massive blizzards and snow dumps. We weren’t short of fresh snow. Folksey here taking a breather from riding powder.

We skied everyday, even in the snow storms. Though sometimes we did have to retreat from the whiteout…

…or just face it head on.

Snowboarding and skiing is really grueling but massively rewarding. You really appreciate the rest you get on the chairlifts, and Les Arcs is full of great chairlifts.

Not content with living at 2000m, we tried to ski as high as we could. The Totally Minged guys made it to 2700m, but bad weather stopped skiers going any further.

Before snowboarding down Ben found probably the highest altitude toilet in Europe.

They did allow Donna, Sharon and I up to Aiguille Rouge at 3200m on foot which put us at the top of the alps. Donna’s phone even welcomed her to Italy! Sharon insisted on getting a photo at the top with her Onboard Surf & Coffee Shop T-shirt, as we had started our holiday week with a bacon and cream cheese bagel there back in Swansea, days ago.

There is something very calming about being at the top of the Alps.

The views were fantastic, almost as breathtaking as the altitude. We skied the whole mountain from 2700m all the way down to 1800m. It was great to be in a big group of fun characters, from the flying dragons…

…to the relentless energy teenagers Ben and Ellie.

And it is good to be with your mates when you have to do that hard climb out of a wrong turn.

We should have read the sign.

I took a wrong turn off piste that left me a long way from the path,chest deep in a snow drift that took 15 breathless minutes to climb out of. Oh well, bad decisions make good stories and Folksey is still laughing.

It was not the only time that I was reminded that you have to respect the mountain and respect the weather, and that if you look after your kit it will look after you. My snow goggles saw some serious use (and less serious photo use).

They saw action from sunrise…

…to sunset.

The need to respect the mountain and weather was emphasized daily as the helicopters dropped bombs and triggered controlled avalanches, like this one above our resort.

I think you can see that solemn respect* in these guys as they are about to hop on to a red run in a blizzard. *cough.

We all survived, grinning ear to ear, but we were far to soon back on the plane and heading home. Great days and nights with great people. All that was left to do was leave the snow sunsets back in Les Arcs.

I admit, I am hooked, lets do this every winter, DimExcuses.

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Seen from a watcher’s point of view. DimExcuses Behind the Scenes Christmas Special.

DimExcuses

When not writing and photographing Wild West Wales, I like to get in the water and try and get some waves.  I am often dragging my long suffering girlfriend Sharon down the Gower, West Wales, or even on the ferry over to France. Like me Sharon likes to snap away when we are on our adventures, you can see our 2013 France trip here, and our 2014 trip here.

DimExcusesSurf

As a change from normal proceedings I have got Sharon’s camera and have put together the best shots of me on our travels. A behind the lens look at the man behind DimExcuses.

DimExcuses Pobbles Bay

From the sunniest Pobbles Bay, Gower gets above, to beaches of Brittany, France below.

Wave Graffiti

Our long stays in Newgale West Wales ensures that we see some good waves. Getting bashed by them…

Taking a hit!

…and occasionally riding them.

DimExcuses Newgale

Always accompanied by Molly the French Bulldog / Boston Terrier cross (Frenchton).  she is my surf coach…

DimExcusesSurf Bulldog

…Lifeguard (please note I am in the photo below too)…

Molly the Lifeguard

…equipment checker…

Molly Equipment Checker

…and chief mechanic! Here she is helping Dennis Halpin get his exhaust back on.

Molly Bulldog Mechanic

It would have been a logistical nightmare to take Molly to France, so we left her with the Cwm Tawel Yurt Glamping Crew in Bridgend, and got back out to the French sun and surf.

Cote Sauvage

Catching some waves on the Cote Sauvage.

DimExcuses Cote Sauvage

Obviously it wouldn’t be true DimExcuses behind the scenes without a apres-surf glass of French Wine!

Wine Time DimExcuses

Here is the full gallery of my DimExcuses adventures (click to view the slideshow)

Sharon, Molly and I hope to get up to similar adventures in 2015! So Merry Christmas and Nadolig Llawen from us here in Wild West Wales, have a good one, DimExcuses.

The Celtic French Connection. DimExcuses Surf, Quiberon, Brittany, France, July 2014.

Quiberon

Last year we had our first DimExcuses surf trip outside the UK, visiting Brittany in France. You can read my blog about that here. We had such a good time we went back this year, but this time basing ourselves on the Quiberon Peninsular, just 5 minutes away from the Cote Savage where we enjoyed surfing last year.

The savage coast

 

We choose a Flowers campsite, L’Ocean that was perfect for us. A fantastic Breton campsite, we were the only English speakers.  The DimExcuse T5 VW Surf Bus with the GB sticker did make us stand out quite a bit in the campsite but everyone was really welcoming.

West Coast Quiberon, Cote Savage

There are two main surf beaches on the Cote Savage and we mainly surfed the most northern one which is accessed by a short walk from a free car park. The first thing I learnt was that the break can only be surfed on the lower half of the tide. At high tide the beach is too steep for a ride-able wave. This means that you can have half the day surfing and half a day exploring. Just make sure you get a tide time table.

A tale of two coasts.

There is no need to leave the Quiberon Peninsular, there are lots of villages to explore with traditional cafes and bars. The west side of the peninsular has the Atlantic Ocean pounding against it, with Cote Savage in the north and the main Quiberon town beach in the south. The east of peninsular is sheltered from the Atlantic so has crystal clean and calm bays in which to swim and snorkel when the tide is too high to surf.

Calm Bays

Breton people are very friendly and have a Celtic tradition that isn’t too dissimilar to the Welsh. There is many a Celtic connection, with the two languages sharing several words. Bars often have Ty in their name which is Welsh for house.

Sunset Portivy

Here is a gallery of photos from our trip, you can click on the images to enlarge them. DimExcuses surf, stuff & nonsense from Quiberon, Brittany, France.

You can take the boy out of Wales… Surfing France 2013

French Beach Break

I just realised that I hadn’t posted these photos or video.  Back in July we decided at DimExcuses that we would take our van and boards and go and surf some french beaches in the sun for a change.  Taking the ferry across to Brittany, we headed for the Cote de Sauvage.  And what a beach and break we found!

Matt catches a sweet one

With the sun shining, we went in with bodyboards and Mini Mal.  We had an epic morning session just wearing boardshorts.

Surf France

After a break to shelter from the midday sun, we went back in on the incoming tide.

DimExcusesSurf France

The waves were a lovely size and the french surfers were really showing us how it was done.

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I had got my short sleeve summer suit on at this time because the water was reasonably cool.

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It was a lovely change to be in the warm European water.

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There was a great shape to the waves too.

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The riders on the SUPs and longboard were able to take the waves really early.

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They still left a few waves for me.

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There were some really great lefty breaks, which was brilliant for me as a goofy footer facing the wave (balls to the wall).

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What a fantastic sunny time, but all things must come to an end, and we had to load the van up and come home to Wales.

Van

Here is a short video slideshow of the whole trip.  Music by Incubus ‘Wish You Were Here’.  Definitely coming back next year, DimExcuses.