POSTED 31 January 2017 BY Andy IN Ski
In December I was given the opportunity to visit The Three Valleys and spend a week in Richmond’s Chalet Elise in Bettaix Village. I had only ever skied on a dry ski slope before, so I was excited to ski on real snow! Over the week, I kept a journal of my experiences learning to ski and on what I should remember next time…
Arrival Day – Travelling with my brother, we caught the afternoon flight from Norwich to Chambery Airport. We were on the first Norwich flight of the ski season, and when we landed at Chambery, the airport staff greeted us with a cake to celebrate the beginning of the season! Following this we made our way through the airport to meet Joe, a member of the Richmond Team, who was waiting to drive us to the chalet. Although we were the last to arrive at the chalet we were greeted by the warm smiles of the staff who showed us to the dining room where we enjoyed a delicious meal. After chatting with the fellow guests and hearing their ski stories, I was looking forward to skiing in the morning!
Day 1 – Boots on and skis at the ready I was introduced to Batiste, who was to be my ski school instructor and (much to my relief) was fluent in English! He started the lesson on a shallow gradient where he taught us how to snowplough. The rest of the group’s skiing experience ranged from a few previous ski lessons to needing to re-build confidence after a long break from skiing. We learned how to turn and to link the turns together. Sinking into the hot tub back at the chalet was a wonderful feeling after my first lesson on the slopes!
Day 2 – As I was the slowest in my group, it was obvious to the instructors that I needed a bit more help, so they made a slower group for me and a couple of others. Again we tackled the snowplough and also headed to the ski conveyor belt to take us to a higher gradient. This proved tricky for me as I still had not mastered the snowplough and so couldn’t stop. This became painstakingly obvious as the rest of my group demonstrated perfect snowplough turns and stopped in formation half-way down the slope meanwhile I zoomed past, trying my hardest to snowplough but not actually stopping until the bottom of the slope, in front of amused onlookers, with cries of ‘English! Come back!’ from behind me!
Day 3 - Finally I mastered the snowplough! I was pushing my legs out as far as I thought humanly possible (so much that I was cramping in my glutes), but my instructor demonstrated to me that I could actually push further. Once I had broken this barrier, I was able to join the rest of my group in the snowplough formation down our first Green slope. As I comfortably cruised down the slope at a leisurely pace with the rest of my group, I noticed that we were all elated to be doing REAL skiing! As I admired the incredible snow-covered mountains and snowy pine trees along the slopes I finally understood - this is why people love skiing so much; the thrill, the skill, the elation, the view!
Day 4 - Today Batiste let loose our new-found skiing skills on some more challenging slopes. Our group tackled Green and Blue slopes as well as ski lifts and gondolas. We even had our skis together for the vast majority of the slopes and were parallel skiing! Following my lesson, I was able to head out with some other Richmond guests. This was great for my confidence as they were encouraging me and offering some different tips. A huge achievement of the day was that I skied 1000m of decline over the afternoon, on mostly Blue slopes! I compared my learning curve today to that of Bambi learning to walk: while I did fall over on the snow (a lot), the elation once I skied all the way back to Chalet Elise was worth pushing myself that little bit more.
Day 5 - If you told me at the beginning of the week that by Day 5 I would be flying down Blue slopes (and even a Red) and really enjoying it, I wouldn’t have believed you! Today, I was in control of my skis and pushing myself harder with each slope. I have gone from being the slowest in my group, to the fastest and most confident and have now moved back into the more experienced group! During today’s lesson we were skiing on one leg to distribute weight more effectively, progressing to parallel turns and even trying a bit of backward skiing! It is astounding to see how far you can progress in just one week of lessons out here! Again, during the afternoon I headed out with other Richmond guests to the top of the mountains - the surroundings alone make the holiday worth it! I have to say that after another full day of skiing my legs were definitely feeling the burn. An evening spent relaxing by the open fire, dinking vin chaud and joining in with The Big Quiz was the perfect remedy!
Day 6 – On our final day myself and another Richmond guest decided to take a day off from skiing! In true Bear Grylls fashion, we hiked up the mountain opposite our chalet that we had been eying up over the last few afternoons from the hot tub. Although it wasn’t actually much rest for the legs, walking amidst the stunning nature in the mountains refreshed my whole body, mind and spirit in a way I didn’t even realise I was lacking. There is something about getting close and personal with God’s beautiful and pure creation, trekking up through deep snow to fantastic viewpoints that illuminates the soul and reinvigorates the whole person! After we returned from our adventure, we ended the week by heading to the Reberty Chalet where we met up with everybody on the slopes for champagne and snacks. It has been an amazing week – learning how to ski and enjoying the incredible scenery of the snowy mountains.
Funny Story of the Week:
I took my biggest tumble when showing off on a steep Blue slope. Whilst clowning around and chasing after my brother my ski got stuck in the snow and I flew out of my skis in a spectacular dive – I landed metres from my skis that had gone off in opposite directions. I continued face first, sliding down the slope, eventually coming to a stop in front of my chuckling brother!
Andy’s Top Ski Holiday Tips:
- Visit La Chouette in Les Menuires – a café that serves delicious crepes and hot chocolate, which is also great value for money.
- Bring swimmies - there is nothing quite like heading back to the chalet every evening and relaxing in the hot tubs and sauna. Or if you want even more relaxation, then in Chalet Elise there are two rooms with jacuzzi baths, so that you can start the morning with a relaxing bath!
- Make extra notches on your belt - the food is incredible and portion sizes are plentiful. Not only that but the catering team, and chalet team in general, are absolutely fantastic, they are professional, approachable, and always happy to help.
- Bring lip balm and maybe sunblock - while the winter weather is stunning, it does bring with it harsh conditions. I didn’t bring any lip balm with me and my lips soon perished because of it. A small price to pay for such an awesome experience nonetheless.
- Push, then push a bit more – to get the perfect snowplough, you must work for it! Even if you think you’ve reached the full extent of pushing out your legs, there is always more to give, so just keep pushing.