I am writing this from my window seat of the SNCF 10.39 train from Cluses to Paris, the first leg of the return journey to London after a week of sun-filled skiing on the slopes of Portes du Soleil. I am sitting in a carriage with 23 three friends, 21 of whom a week ago I had never set eyes upon before. I had booked one of the last places in an enormous chalet, organised by Snow Carbon’s very own Daniel Elkan. There’s nothing like staying in close proximity to strangers, getting up early, going to bed late, tumbling on the pistes arse over tit and defrosting in the hot tub to break the ice.
Unlike a lot of other holidays that mainly involve relaxing, sightseeing and eating, skiing requires a considerable amount of effort and I’m not just talking about “bending ze knees”. You can get hot, very cold, sore and very hungry. But at the same time – there’s no feeling quite like it. And it’s a great way to get to know what you and others are really made of.
Dan’s fantastically organised trip was a leveller right from the very start. To have a more fun, sociable and lower carbon journey than flying, we travelled by train, kicking off with an early morning Eurostar from Kings Cross, the group bonding, boosted by our Prosecco fuelled pack lunches.
We stayed in a catered chalet on the outskirts of Morzine, which was stylishly furnished, complete with open fire, honesty bar and charming staff. Every evening we were served up a fabulous three-course meal, they even managed to deal with my extensive list of food intolerances. There was also a cooked breakfast and freshly made cake ready to be demolished when we descended from the slopes.
Of course we were there for the skiing, not the cuisine- (but oh the cheese is so good). We were blessed with a full five days of gorgeous sunshine and one day of snow which despite the plummeting temperatures, provided layers of fresh powder, causing great excitement amongst the Ski Sunday Set. Under Dan’s guidance I had signed up for group lessons every morning, being something of a beginner/ intermediate. Jean-Sebastian was our delightful instructor, whose English was faultless and whose cheekbones were even better. Group lessons aren’t for everyone and indeed a few from our group did splinter off and arrange one to one lessons for more focused coaching. However what the group classes may have lacked in individual attention, they made up for in camaraderie and a wonderful guided tour of the sunny side of the slopes.
At lunch, thanks to the joys of a Whatsapp group for 24 (HOW many messages?!), clusters of us would meet up, have lunch and ski for the rest of the day. I don’t know whether it’s the exercise, the altitude or the Al Fresco but I had two fantastic meals up the mountain; Le Vaffieu for anything involving cheese and La Paika for their enormous tiger prawns and all of their puddings.
Invariably you would end up lunching with the people of your same skiing ability, although we learnt the hard way when one member of the group had to be rescued by a man on a ski- mobile from the side of the mountain as her nerve (and her bottom) couldn’t take it any more. Ironically for me, it wasn’t on the slopes where I thought I might come to a bitter end, but on a long wet walk back to the chalet one night after one too many Morzine discotheques.
The one drawback with our chalet, it has to be said, was the location. It did require a mini bus pick up and drop off to get the slopes every day which the chalet provided (thank you Harry) but when it came to the evening, you were pretty much left to Morzine taxis which we discovered were non existent. Morzine, unlike many other ski resorts, is a fully functioning town the whole year round, it actually has proper shops-not just ones that sell tinted sunglasses. It has a proper supermarket, a school, a church even but no decent taxi service! This was something that was playing over in my mind as I embarked on the two-mile walk in the freezing rain at 4.30am with three other drunk females, desperately squabbling over Googlemaps. Where was the man on the ski-mobile now?
Gladly all 24 of us are returning home in one piece, enriched, invigorated and exhausted. Not only have I now got the skiing bug, I think I can confidently say I’ve also a few new pals to share it with. Allons y!