It was the first time for all six of us to go skiing, and what better place to learn than the beautiful resort of Avoriaz in the French Alps. A week before, I had met my press trip travelling companions at the Ellis Brigham store in central London, where their expert team had measured each of us up for our very own pair of stylish ski boots. During our first encounter we all spoke of our excitement about the getaway, and we also shared a few pre-trip nerves. What if I just can’t do it? What if I crash into someone? What if I get laughed at?
A few days later, after a short flight from London to Geneva, followed by an hour’s transfer to the mountains, we arrived in Avoriaz in the heart of Les Portes du Soleil. Being a traffic free resort meant we took a delightful horse-drawn sleigh ride from the entrance of the village to our self-catered accommodation.
On arrival we were met by David Morgan from UK tour operator, Inghams. David has worked in the ski industry for 20 years and lives and breathes winter sports. He is passionate about Avoriaz and told us that the conditions were perfect; we were all set for an amazing experience.
We checked into our cosy apartments at the Pierre & Vacances 4* Residence Electra, an impressive property overlooking the centre of Avoriaz with stylish Alpine architecture. Each apartment was well equipped with an open-plan living space, which included a kitchen, balcony and comfortable lounge area.
That afternoon we ventured into the vibrant town, which was a like a scene from a fairy tale with hundreds of conifers with twinkling lights crisscrossing the snow-covered streets. After a round of drinks, we met up with the team from the Avoriaz tourist board who treated us to a fabulous dinner at La Cabane. Serving traditional meats, fish and cheese dishes, the place was jumping – I particularly enjoyed the live singers who would serenade diners with well-known jazz, blues and rock numbers as they ate.
The next morning we woke to clear-blue skies and a crisp, but pleasant, temperature. After picking up our equipment from the conveniently located onsite shop, we met with our wonderful ESF ski instructors Patrice and Julien.
Being a ski-in, ski-out destination, meant we didn’t need to worry about a transfer, we could just gear up and go. All suited and booted, our highly-skilled instructors gave a quick briefing before we set off, explaining a few ‘need to knows’: “to move forward do this…..to slow down do this….”. Unfortunately, during this conversation instead of paying attention to Partrice, I was concentrating on adjusting my helmet and newly acquired SunGod goggles. This meant hitting the piste pretty much the moment we set off on the gentle incline from our apartments down to the town below. Thankfully I was not the only one, with only two of our group managing to stay upright as we travelled the mere 200 yards to the nearby training slopes. Although it would not be the first time we would fall over, all of us quickly got the hang of the basics.
Patrice and Julien
Indeed, by midday, we were boldly cruising down the green slopes, our patient instructors expertly guiding us and filling us with self-confidence as we went. It was about this time that I stopped just staring at the ground in front and properly looked up to take in my surroundings. Beautiful mountain scenery, perfect white powder and a group of complete novices loving every moment. Stopping for lunch at the on-slope rustic restaurant Les Cretes de Zorre, provided the perfect opportunity to dine on simple but delicious Alpine fare, and for my new friends to chat, compare notes and laugh about the exhilarating morning session.
Later that afternoon, we plucked up the courage to try some of the local blue pistes. I took a tumble or two, but by now, like my companions, had mastered the basic skills needed to control my speed, ensuring my confidence and sheer enjoyment levels continued to grow. Then, as the sun began to set and our energy started to wane, it was time to hit La Folie Douce. When we arrived, the bar was pumping, a DJ was playing alongside live musicians and singers, with every table in the house filled with dancers and buckets of champagne and cocktails. This was my first experience of après-ski and I loved it.
Before heading out to dinner, we all decided to spend a little time at Aquariaz, a leisure complex in the middle of town that combines all the thrills of a family water park with a spa like area in which to relax and unwind after a day on the mountains. Feeling rejuvenated, my new ski buddies and I headed to the Village Igloo. As the name suggests, the structure is made entirely of snow and doubles up as a restaurant and hotel. Guests wrap themselves in warm blankets as they dine on the best cheese fondue in town and admire impressive ice carvings throughout. My companions and I must have been there for hours, drinking plenty of wine and beer along way, sharing our new ski stories and looking forward to the next day. As much as we were enamoured by the Igloo, we were all pleased to return the Residence Electra for a well-earned rest.
Over the following days our technique continued to improve and we went on to explore more challenging slopes, enjoying every experience thrown at us. Our skiing sessions were punctuated with incredible meals and we took full advantage of the town’s fabulous après-ski offering at every opportunity. At the end of trip, the six of us had become firm friends and developed a genuine love for all things ski. My only regret is not taking a ski trip sooner!
Written by Tim Blostone