By Rebecca Lee
Skiing is something I had always promised myself I would try at least once, if not a few times in my life. After ignoring my travel bucket list for numerous years, I had finally reached the cool conclusion that it was about time I stuck those skis on and hit the slopes.
Getting my ski legs
As someone who prides themselves on being adventurous, I must admit I was fairly anxious to see how I would fare in the Alps. After all I’m not a fan of heights or speed and I’m not keen on cold weather and snow so as you can see I made an ideal candidate! Still, curiosity continued to ripple inside and I longed to try my hand at skiing the piste (which is a marked ski run) and I can safely say I’m glad that I did.
Before embarking on my first ski journey which would take place in the picturesque area of Paradiski in La Plagne, I decided to enrol in some basic lessons so that I would be familiar with the gear and be provided with a sneaky a taster of what was to come. I signed up for beginner classes at The Ski Club in Kilternan. The club which is outdoors prides itself on its snowflex surface and travelator, which after my trip I discovered wasn’t too unlike the real thing. There I received some enjoyably intense one on one instruction from experienced hardcore skier Stephen Howe who ensured I felt both prepared and comfortable with the prospect of shooting down the side of a mountain at super speed.
Armed with the basics, I made my way to La Plagne which is located in the Northern Alps in France. The resort which features a whopping 225kms of piste, has something for all ages and all levels of expertise from beginners to absolute pros. The area surrounded by alpine peaks consists of 10 villages, each of which has its own distinct character and feel and varies in attractiveness, altitude and services. A three hour transfer from Lyon and a bus ride up a long, winding road led me to the pretty resort which not only boasts world class skiing facilities but beautiful wooden chalets, a selection of pubs, restaurants and shops all surrounded by mountains dusted with snow not too unlike icing sugar. It also offers ice-skating, a bowling alley, skidoo diving and the famous Olympic Bobsleigh at Plagne 1800 which despite my fears I simply had to try for the purposes of this piece (and believe it or not I’m still here to tell the tale!) One of many pro-points of this resort is that there are facilities to cater for people of all ages from babies to teens to adults. It also has a wide range of crèche and nanny services so both mammy and daddy have a chance to put their skis up.
Wanting my trip to be extremely different from other adventures to date, I opted to stay in a deckhouse than a hotel. I booked myself a bed in one of Topflight’s impressive new ski chalets which consisted of eight bedrooms, a kitchen, living and dining room areas, a log fire and wait for it a sauna! Apart from giving me that ‘home away from home’ feeling that I sometimes crave when in another country, it included catering which allowed this self confessed hunger monger dive into a delicious selection of canapés, delicious dinners and sip some fine wine after many a successful hardcore session on the slopes.
My Skibeat ski chalet- tres magnifique altogether!
Being a ski virgin I must admit there was nothing quite like the buzz of changing into all the gear. There were skis (obviously!), ski boots, helmets, waterproof pants and jackets complimented by goggles that guard your eyes from the piercing UV rays the sun provides. Safe to say I felt like a pro in my clobber before I even hit the slopes!
As I was away with a group who ski religiously, I decided to book my own instructor through the famous Oxygène Ski School, located in the heart of Belle Plagne. The benefits of having one to one lessons rather than group classes were enormous. It saw me progress from flying 100 metres down a slope on my behind like Bridget Jones (yes, it actually happened!) to powering through some of the most advanced pistes at 85k on day four.
My first day was the most memorable. It began with a quick briefing on my ski gear and the colours of the different slopes. Green was the most basic and black was the most advanced. Before I could say bonjour, my instructor Maurice literally swept me off my feet and guided me into what I am told was a most modern chairlift in ski land. It carried me and my lengthy skis up along the side of a snowy mountain to the top of the beginner’s piste. Here I was taught two moves the first of which was how to push myself off and the second of which, ‘the snowplough’ was how to stop (I’ll admit I took a shine to the second one!). Feeling the ground slide under my feet for the first few minutes ensured I looked like a new born calf who was trying to find his feet. A mere hour later however and I was on my merry way, gliding from one slope to another at a graceful speed, admiring all the young and old skiers around me who used the slope to give them a mere taste of the pleasant piste action to come. I must admit I was surprised that I had only fallen twice over the course of the entire day (and I was secretly delighted that I didn’t have to use my padded pants as much as I thought!). I was then brought up higher slopes in uber modern ski lifts which ensured some unbelievable panoramic views of the surrounding snowcapped mountains and some serious heart pounding moments.
Pretty La Plagne
Four days later and I was jumping into the chairlifts like they were my favourite funfair ride at Disney. I honestly couldn’t believe how much my confidence and skill had developed over the course of what was a very challenging yet enjoyable active trip. Sure there were moments in the beginning where I screamed, there were instances where I fell and there were moments where I admired the many handsome ski instructors who held my held on as I slid down the highest pistes La Plagne provided but I survived and found I really enjoyed the entire experience!
One of the great aspects of skiing is that each day is more challenging than then the next. You’re also constantly crafting your technique so you can fly around the many twists and turns that the pistes provide, allowing one to experience exhilaration in its truest form. La Plagne was truly magnificent in that it had all the facilities could possibly need and catered for all standards of skier from the once petrified to the now passionate.
Another high point of my ski holiday and any ski holiday that absolutely has to be mentioned is the après ski. The pubs in La Plagne were thriving with people and a lively atmosphere saw many a gluvine consumed and many a laugh had in front of some luscious log fires. Safe to say my first ski experience ensured I conquered my fear of heights, sealed the deal on my ski skills and I can’t wait to go on the piste again.
Topflight offer holidays to France, with charter to Lyon direct from Dublin this season. Chalet Bartavelle is just one of 50 new chalets Topflight offer. It sleeps 15 and costs from €849pp. This includes flights, transfers and a fully catered chalet service which includes breakfast, canapés, apertifs, afternoon tea, wine and soft drinks with dinner.
A 6 day La Plagne ski pass costs 241 for adults, while the Paradiski lift pass costs €285
For more information contact your local travel agent, phone Topflight on 240 1700 or see http://www.topflight.ie
For some pre-ski lessons in Kilternan see www.skiclub.ie or phone 295 5659
As featured in The Mail on Sunday