Accommodation (n): Choice of accommodation is something that will hugely affect your time on Varsity. It is broadly split into two categories:
1.‘Standard’: There is enough room for you, your roommates, and your bags. There is not room for anything else. The experience of one of the writers, in which she accidentally strayedinto a ‘standard’ room belonging to some students from Queens’ and was quickly shuffledout againwith the words ‘I am not joking. Please, get out of my room. I am not joking” speaks for itself. However, the cheap prices, air of camaraderie and proximity to the mainslopes are all points in favour of the accommodation chosen by the majority of Varsity-goers.
2. ‘Upgrade’: Treated with an air of derision by many Varsitonians, those who give in to thelure of the ‘upgrade’ can relax in the knowledge that, though hated, they are living in adifferent world from their ‘standard’ cousins only a few hundred metres away. Rumours ofspas, sitting rooms, ovens and the possibility of opening one’s case without holding it outthe window are all tempting reasons to pay that extra £50 or so.
Après-ski (n): Unfortunately, your GCSE French won’t help you here, as this is somewhat of a misnomer. Generally meant as ‘the drinking and awkward dancing you do once you’re done skiing but you’re still wearing your ski gear’, it should also be noted that, following mulled wine/six pints/raving to weird mixes of Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ you are still going to be expected to ski somewhere, as ‘apres-ski’ establishments tend to be located on an actual ski slope. It’s the equivalent of pubs expecting everyone to drive home, down the same road, at kickout time. Madness.
Carving (v (probably)): These writers’ NUCO rep (see under N, below) offered ‘Carving lessons’ to them on their recent Varsity trip, and added “When I told my last group about this, someone was like, ‘What’s carving?” after which incomprehensible anecdote she collapsed into peals of laughter. Therefore, we have always been too scared to ask. It doesn’t sound great, though. It could be either meat- or ski-related. We have no idea.
Chocolat chaud (n): Hot chocolate. 5 Euros, but always worth it. Irritatingly called ‘Choky’ at the popular lunch spot, VarCity (see under V, below), but try to ignore this and its unfortunate Matilda associations.
Folie Douce, La (n): Google translate will help you a little here, as ‘sweet madness’ is an appropriate description of any form of après-ski, but perhaps especially this particular bar/club. Situated at the top of one of the trickier blue slopes at Val Thorens, La Folie Douce offers pounding dance music, drinks and the chance to run into literally everyone you know at about 4.00 every afternoon.
Goggles (n): Bring these. Sunglasses are not enough. When you baulk at the £30+ prices, start imagining how your face will feel at the -10 degrees that Val Thorens considers a ‘warm weather day’, and take the plunge. For some reason, ‘double lens’ goggles are better. We hear it’s something to do with condensation.
Helmet (n): Wear this. You will fall over.
Lifts (n): these are the ways that you get up a mountain. There are several types:
1. Button: Fairly horrible. You grab onto a ‘button’ and are dragged up the mountain by thearms.
2. Chairlift: not dissimilar from a very slow rollercoaster, these are usually six or four chairs in a row which are gently lifted through beautiful Alpine scenery.
3. Gondola: The Porsches of ski lifts. Slick, warm and comfortable, you and your friends get your own pod, London Eye style, and can regain your strength back before whatever slope is high enough and far enough away to warrant this fanciest mode of mountain transport
4. Carpet: Usually reserved for beginner slopes, these moving carpets (a little like thosestrange flat escalators in airports) are great until you begin to realise that you are sliding backwards slowly but surely, and all you can do is close your eyes and pray that you don’tend up in the arms of the grizzled snowboarder behind you.
Moguls (n): These are bumps in the snow. Beginners hate them, and either get stuck in them or fall over them. Pros love them and fly over them with careless abandon. The marmite of skiing.
Nuco Rep (n): NUCO is the company used by Varsity to arrange the logistics of the trip. While incredibly organised, efficient, and frankly god-like in their ability to get 4,000 useless, end-of-term-weary students to a French resort and through a week’s worth of skiing, NUCO reps are also keen to the point of insanity and appear to function perfectly well in the absence of normal human requirements like sleep, food or ‘not dancing on tables, sober, at 3pm in broad daylight’. One NUCO rep we came across was suffering from whiplash, possibly from the speed at which she was apparently careering through life. Varsity-goers will tend to have a ‘coach rep’ who guides them through the 20 hours both to and from Val Thorens (and who acts as an intermediary with insane coach drivers, who threaten to do things like ‘stop this fucking coach the next time anyone fucking speaks’ or ‘I will leave your fucking bags here in the snow if you don’t stand next to them’,) and ‘room reps’, who visit your accommodation each evening to keep you updated on the weather, special classes, and hilarious NUCO rep injokes (see Carving, under C.)
Poles (n): As one might imagine. Useful for dragging yourself into an upright position once your skis have let you down and gravity has overcome you. The more experienced skier will use them to add flair and panache to turns – think Oscar Wilde on skis. French children will irritate you with their ability to ski without these, or with only one ski, as they zoom down the slope mocking your caution and fear with every parallel turn.
Powder (n): Or: ‘Powduhhh!’ said with exuberance by every experienced skier. Fresh fluffy powder is adored by all off-pisters and possibly allows you to do some ‘carving’, though don’t quote us on that.
Piste (n): Not, as initially believed by your writers, a funny French way of describing an individual who has consumed a large amount of alochol. Instead, the ‘piste’ denotes the bit of the slope that if you stay on it, you are less likely to accidentally plunge into 4 foot deep snow. That said, ‘off-piste’ areas are, like the best things in life, more fun because they’re more dangerous.
Salopette (n): A waterproof article of clothing, not dissimilar to an armless onesie. Not: an animal companion.
Skis (n): Expensive planks of wood bought and worn by the middle classes in order to slide down a mountain in extremely low temperatures for vast amounts of money.
Ski boots (n): Uncomfortable footwear perfect for strapping into skis and skidding down the slopes, unfortunately utterly useless in all other circumstances, including walking.
Stash (n): Worried that your friends may not know you’ve been skiing? Well, there’s no need to worry about the lack of wifi and phone coverage when you’ve got varsity stash! Wear at all opportunities in the weeks to come to ensure sufficient social awareness. This year’s stash comes in the form of hoodies, pyjamas, onesies, polos, tracksuit bottoms, sweatshirts and some really fucking yellow sunglasses. The latter, in particular, will go down a treat at every single Park End Wednesday throughout Hilary. For tips on how to accessorize your stash, see our shoot here.
VarCity (n): Slopeside lunch, waffy and choky spot (see under W and C, above and below). The ability to escape the watchful eye of leather aproned waitress in order to eat simultaneously slightly frozen and slightly sweaty baguettes that have spent a few hours in the inner pockets of one’s ski jacket is crucial.
VinChaud (n): Wine wot’s hot. In French. The French know what’s good for your skiing, and it’s normally alcohol. To become a real pro it’s probably best to indulge in this, avant-, pendant- and après-ski.
Waffy (n): To go with the aforementioned ‘Choky’ is the equally puerile ‘Waffy’. The thing itself is cheap (well, cheap-ish) and cheering in equal measure: a delicious waffle cooked in front of you by a humorourless French ‘chef’ smothered in chocolate or caramel. The authors may have considered placing them every 3 metres along the length of several runs a la Dawn French in the Vicar of Dibley.
White out (n and v): If you’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas, then this is for you. For the skiing population, however, it means having driving snow and ice in your face as you struggle to navigate an icy near-certain-accident-causing downhill slope where the floor is made of the same stuff as the sky and you really can’t see the difference betewen the two.