Back to Morzine. I remember a springtime visit 10 winters ago, when Richard and Fiona had bought the old barn on the edge of Morzine. I slept on a concrete floor and then Richard and I went up to the top of the Avoriaz and talked about the future. Then we boarded down in the spring sunshine and it didn’t seem real.
Fast forward to 2017 and we are back in the Alps. The sun shone again and this time I’m on chair lifts with my Violet and Hazel. Sitting at the top of the resort looking out over the mountains, still thinking about the future.
Earlier in the week someone asked me if I was enjoying my time in the mountains “in spite of the weather” - as if somehow the wind, rain, snow and (occasional) sunshine were somehow separate entities from the Alps themselves.
The sun hasn’t shone everyday, and the reality of bringing two small children on a snowboarding trip has meant that there hasn’t been a huge amount of actual boarding.
In the pockets of time in between (ski school, getting children back to sleep, sneaking off to grab a late lift) - it’s easy to see that it’s a great time to be in the Alps.
The season is turning, little streams opening back up, small birds flitting between the trees on the lower slopes. A feeling that another winter has been marked off and observed. And as a family the trips at this time of year are becoming our own way of marking the end of winter. The point where we start to move our horizon beyond the next few weeks and to start to think about the spring and summer that lie ahead.
Just over a decade ago I went on my first snowboarding trip with a group of friends - a lads week away. I didn’t really know what to expect - I’d never been to the alps (or any other major mountain range outside of the UK). In the back of my mind it was the start of some cool, extreme sports based adventure of jumping off enormous kickers, getting lost in powder fields followed by some serious partying.
Fast forward to the present and I’m sat in a chalet next to a baby monitor whilst the rest of family are off to catch a late lift to ski school.
Over the years I’ve realised that the thing I love about going boarding isn’t booting it over enormous jumps or dancing on the bar (though those things are pretty good), but just being out in the mountains. Nothing beats a day when the snow is good and the sun is out, cruising along with a view of some far off peak and no agenda except making sure you enjoy yourself.
Which is why we are here, dashing late to ski school, dragging a pushchair up to nearly 2000m and sledging in the afternoons. Not because skiing is an essential skill for the girls to learn, but because a love of the mountains and having fun is something that’s worth passing on.
Pacing a film seems to be a fading art, a skill whose time has passed, left only to the dedicated craftsmen. Fortunately one such cinematic artisan is Eric Guirado, the director of Le fils de l'épicier (The Grocers Son). The film, beautifully shot by Laurent Brunet, is a gentle tale that combines stunning Hautes-Alpes scenery with the tensions of familial obligation and the decline la belle France.
French cinema seems to be going through particularly nostalgic phase at the moment, and although Guirado’s first ‘fictional’ film showcases the beauty of rural France, with sun drenched valleys and sleepy villages, it doesn’t pull too many punches. There’s an all too direct undercurrent of anger and alienation, not amongst the young urban poor, of the kind explored by Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine, but an older, bitter and subtle disaffection of the those at the end of their youth whose lives are drifting.
There’s a wonderfully naturalistic feel to the film, especially in the performances of the elderly villagers, perhaps aided by the directors long career as a documentary filmmaker. The camera is allowed to linger and pause and the film breathes at a slow pace. Unfortunatley the ending is strangely rushed, and after such a largo rendition the finale seems to tumble slightly out of control towards it’s conclusion. Despite this the film is a beautifully observed piece with some lovely performances. One to watch on a Sunday afternoon, perhaps with a small pastis or two.