Chapter one

What a difference a day makes

On a very cold January morning in 2001, I woke up feeling a little apprehensive. I was on a "lads" adventure holiday snowboarding and skiing in the French Alps. The night before we had planned to ski off the back of the infamous mountain, Pic Blanc in Alpe D'huez.

I'd been there 10 years before so I was well aware of the mountain that boasts the longest black run in the world and a terrifying icy tunnel and a severe drop mogul field. If that wasn't enough, we were planning to go off the back of the mountain into the land that time forgot.

Lawrence Jones

I had hoped when the bravado had waned along with the alcohol from the previous evening, the chaps may change their mind; no luck! I remember opening the shutters to find the mountain shrouded in cloud with severe weather conditions. I was relieved to say the least. Yet the boys were undeterred.

Not one to back down or show my fear, I ate my breakfast contemplating the morning ahead and hoping the lifts would be closed.

When we arrived at the lift station, they were all closed. I breathed a sigh of relief and envisaged a much more relaxing day boarding between restaurants and racing around the slopes. I turned around to see a couple of the boys marching towards the mountain rescue building. They came out a few minutes later with a few Frenchmen hugging and kissing them with beaming smiles shouting; "we're in luck!"

They had organised a guide called Stephane and they were opening the two lifts especially for us and we had a helicopter for the return trip, as we were heading deep into French National Trust land. You can imagine my joy!

After a serious briefing we put on our avalanche detectors, strapped our helmets picked up our tackle which including lightweight shovels, then followed Stephane to the lift.

Read on...