My friend Mario had rounded up nine guys for a week's skiing holiday in the French Alps.
Our flight from Gatwick to Grenoble was ridiculously early - there wasn't a lot of chat as we assembled near the check-in desk, the coffee yet to kick-start our personalities.
Mario is an experienced skier and also experienced at finding a good deal on a ski holiday - for this trip he'd opted for an all-inclusive Club Med package to the resort of Les Deaux Alpes.
The Club Med operation is quite impressive, demonstrating seamless organization - transfers, luggage, ski hire all sorted painlessly.
Although the headline price of an all-inclusive package can seem a little daunting - it generally works out the most cost-effective approach. Organizing everything yourself is hard work and (by the time you add on ski hire, lift passes, and the various accoutrements required for a ski holiday) the costs quickly add up.
All-inclusive does, however, require a little self-discipline. When all the food and alcohol is effectively free, things can get a little out of hand - another drink before dinner? Sure! Shall we get another plate of raclette and chips? Why not!
Although I learnt to ski on family holidays in Australia, since moving to London I haven't been able to get to the slopes that regularly and so I'm not the most confident of skiers. Fortunately the Club Med package includes lessons by the iconic Ecole du Ski Français (ESF) and you self-select into the skill level best suited to you - I signed up for 'intermediate' along with my friends Bill and Nico. Our instructor was Geraldine who spoke a lot of French and a little English - I speak no French, but the way Geraldine was disappointedly shaking her head I got the sense that she wasn't particularly pleased with my parallel turns.
I find the pressure of the chair lift quite daunting - you have to get the timing right in order to push through the gates, get into position, and then sit down just as the heavy metal chair swings around behind you. I only had one major chair lift disaster on this trip - I somehow got a bit confused as to which part of the sequence I was up to and sort of ended up in the wrong position with a bewildered looking guy sitting on top of me as the chair lift took off up the mountain. I guess I panicked, but my instinctive reaction was to push him off so that he fell face first into the snow and had to be helped back to the start of the queue. It was an awkward ride up the mountain with his friends on either side of me, muttering angrily.
We quickly settled into a comfortable routing of everyone meeting back in the hotel bar at the end of the day, downing coffee with a slug of brandy to try and restore some feeling into our cold and tired bodies, and then heading to the gym which had a jacuzzi, sauna and outdoor heated pool, where we could swap stories from the day's adventures.
Club Med holidays are big on entertainment, and our team became a formidable force on the pre-dinner trivia quiz. Bill was always our appointed spokesperson: "Mamma Mia Moi!" was the call you had to make if you knew the answer to the question - very difficult to say quickly, especially after a few drinks.
On our final day, with our lessons finished, our troupe of nine skied happily together before ending up at Le Pano bar where each afternoon the music gets turned up and everyone tries to dance in the snow - although it is a bit difficult to bust moves while wearing ski boots.
As we dragged our weary bodies, goggle tan lines, and assorted minor injuries back to Grenoble airport we were tired but happy - a great skiing holiday with a great group of friends.Suggest a correction