If your 9 to 5 revolves around a computer, heading to a snowy mountain range is one of the quickest ways to feel like you’re a million miles away. Stick with me, imagine it… you’re at the bottom of a slope waiting for your friend to ski down and catch you up, and as you look out ahead, all you see are white peaks, patches of green tree tops and a crystal clear blue sky. It’s crisp with the cold threatening to bite at your face but the sun is beating down and your rosy cheeks are warm as you look up. Your body would be feeling the chill of the breeze but you’re shielded by a cosy down-lined coat and furry mittens. It’s quiet and still but for the swoosh of snow being sliced by skis and boards. There are giggles in the distance but the snow-covered ground muffles the noise to make it difficult to tell where it’s coming from. This moment is the very antithesis of your daily life, and you’re soaking up every last drop.
Skiing is a sociable sport and whether you go as a big group, a couple or even alone, you’d be hard-pressed not to find new buddies. They’re not likely to be friends forever, but they’ll probably add you on Facebook. You may not even have that much in common in normal life, but your new ski-obsessed self will find the endless chatter about the quality of snow, the merits of this blue run over that red run, overcoming icy moguls or which bar does the best après is actually not banal at all, but surprisingly interesting, and can sustain conversation over dinner, beyond the cheese course and even into late-night drinks.
The two things I look for in a ski resort are the number of long, wide blue and red runs (the medium difficulty ones, sandwiched between easy green and tough black), and the quality of après ski. It’s like this on a ski holiday: you get up early for the fresh snow, spend the day traversing the mountain, maybe stopping for a picnic lunch. Come three o’clock, it’s about time to rest your legs. You’re on a slope and you round the corner in the direction of the mountain-side bar that everyone’s been telling you about. In place of the civilised lunchtime service is a sea of revellers dancing on tables with music so loud you’re worried they might cause an avalanche – but moreover you’re itching to join them. After a couple of hours and a few vin-chauds later, it’s time to catch the last lift down, or if you’re feeling plucky, you jump back on your skis to wind your way back down to the hotel for a slice of cake and a nap before dinner. Considering this is just your average day on the slopes… could there be a more perfect escape? I think not.
It’s not often in life you learn a new skill after you’ve left education, so I’m all for a combining learning with holidaying. I learned to dive last year in Egypt on a solo holiday, which I would highly recommend (but that’s for another blog post). With skiing, yes, it’s tough on your limbs, but trust me it’s worth it. Take lessons at your own pace and savour the wonderful feelings of accomplishment when you’re finally able to snow plough to a stop (without ploughing into the learner in front) or bundle yourself confidently onto a lift – or even being able to name all the lifts and be able to tell the difference (chair, bubble, drag, gondola, egg…). Or when you can glide with your skis in a parallel turn so you no longer feel the pressure on your knees. And even better, when you face the precipice of a black run and you just say “f*** it”.
Alpine cuisine is unctuous, creamy and plentiful. My favourite is a fat steak with tartiflette (creamy and cheesy potatoes with bacon) but don’t leave without trying a warm raclette and whatever local mountain speciality they give you as an aperitif. Oh and did I mention that you can eat pretty much anything because you burn it all off anyway? Glorious.
Convinced you should give it a try? Well here are some of my top tips for first-time skiers:
Is there anywhere you’ve been skiing that you’d recommend? Let us know!