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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Piste Off

It’s a very expensive way to buy some scent cheap, but the thought of that knock-down, duty-free Miss Dior drew me on through those giddy circles of hell, the online booking forms.
The only true way to afford skiing is to hover like vultures circling the price drops, deaf to the inward tutting at just the scummy places being left, blind to the blanching at the cost of extras breeding like flies.
“Helmets,” muttered Lorraine not quite under her breath, “£42…”
“£42,” I said, joining in. I join in on the silences a lot, I think of it as being friendly, dreaming of a “friendly” button allied to “give big discount” button on their keyboards. “That’s not bad,” I said. “That’s, what,” I calculated, “Just over a tenner each.”
“Nah,” she said. “That’s each.”
“We’ll buy them out there,” I said slightly snappily, consigning the friendly button to the bin.

So, having done the surprising thing of establishing at the beginning of the process that we can afford it, I found myself on various ski sites, chasing deals round the internet and becoming frightfully weary in the process. I filled in Enquiry forms, and made quick checks on various unhelpful helplines (“please note our agents cannot help with ….”)
It was exhausting. So much so that staggered from my chair almost thinking that I had been skiing. Dizzy with alpine views and dazzled from absorbing the inside of each and every chalet in France. Ooh, nice sofa. Hmmm, bleak bedroom. I was in severe need of a vin chaud. Or froid.

I grew to loathe the mouse. Every site required the inanity of details, of clicking, of Inputting my Requirements. 2 adults, 2 children: age? Drag click 12; age? Drag click 14. I’d press Submit eagerly only to have the site collapse on me with a reproachful “select departure airport.” Irritably, I’d snap on South West, cursing (there’s a lot of cursing, the dog covers her ears) that I can’t chose London and South West but I can’t, so I sit back and wait.
“Thank you for your patience,” whirrs the website, giving me a slowly revolving egg timer to assist in the notion that the waiting has a purpose. I picture the website sitting back on its rocker, having a cup of tea and a laugh. The egg timer shooting tetchy glances, “what? You want me to go round again??”

Up come some options. Hoorah. All flying from Manchester at 6 in the morning. I no longer wonder why they wanted to know where I’d prefer to fly from: unless there’s a by-product perk in pissing off the hapless holiday maker by trilling “South West! Peek-a-boo! Can’t seeee yoooo! Heh heh heh!!”
3 chalets with drop dead gorgeous prices don’t allow children (drag click 12 …) and there are endless gummy looking apartments, all requiring us to crowd in together to a 18m square space. Whatever that means. But I’m guessing no love is strong enough to share it with F12’s chaos. What that child can do with an open suitcase would bring dictators to their knees. Where’s Franco when you need him. Same with the unappealing phrase, “quad room.” No, he can share with the luckless T14. Besides, where’s the ‘holiday’ bit in stirring some grim pasta in a bleak flat while damp salopettes steam in depressing contiguity? Carrying shopping in ski boots is not an option.
Option is, however, a favoured word in any given web site but what’s annoying (lots is annoying) is that you have to opt for one thing when you want two: catered chalet, or hotel and when you’d really rather opt not to have one thing, self-bloody-catering for starters. You see. It gets confusing.
Now and again interesting looking possibilities arose. By now the true hydra headed nature of choice has kicked in. There’s no such thing as a “that’ll do,” not when you have the horrors of being able to cross check.

So off I scurried to Trip Advisor to check on the remnants of availability, witness the hotels put through their paces. “A great shame,” puffed one reviewer, “that there were no tea and coffee making facilities in the room; it is on this basis that I can only give 3/5.” What?! Go without. Go to the bar. Another couple had “had” to downgrade their accommodation (how easily one adopts the parlance) due to the “unfortunate incident” involving someone else’s child having been sick on the coach.
Trip Advisor is the home of the green inked psychopath and he’s going to wield his power. A deal is made of momentary power, while the bi-focals are busied about on the bridge of the snout and “a 3? I think? Overall? Muriel? given the scarcity of matutinal bakery items?” The question is of course rhetorical for Muriel is otherwise occupied sorting out the squalid end of the suitcase and muttering mantras of “honour thy husband …. Thou must not stab...”

Half a memory of a really good looking place about 4 websites ago goaded so. Which called for urgent back clicking, the computer freezing, the sites flashing past my eyes. "Session timed out" announced the site in question. "Please re-submit your details." My need for a glass of vin chaud increased to a pitcher.

Then I thought, are we quite mad? The snow’s not brilliant, so round and round the websites once more I went, perving over webcams, gleaning hope or desperation from static shots.
I phoned random people in random resorts, plucked unluckily from pages on Google
“Eeese snn-ow dewww?” they parrotted back at me perplexedly. “Lurrr slurps eese gud.” “Yess Yess,” said another, “hi-yup, hi-yup, eese gud.”

I dithered.
Exit or Submit.
Submit or Exit.
I clicked.