After waiting over a month for a phone call that never came I scrapped my hopes of a full ski season and joined my family for the annual new year’s trip to the French Alps. My position on the waiting list for a ski chalet job wasn’t getting any lower and the prospect of getting to ski without having to do the work was too enticing to pass up. So, after a 12-hour car trip we arrived in Montvalezan. On the approach to the mountains I eagerly awaited to see the fresh powder on the hillside, but couldn’t see any. I turned my sights to the villages higher up and the resorts, but still no sign of snow. A faint dusting upon the mountain tops was all nature had to offer. There had been snow for nearly four weeks, leaving the ski resorts bare and battling to keep runs open. Normally by late December the mountain ranges were covered by deep white snow, and the chalet roofs were hiding under it, but this season the land was green and the roofs black. I would have to wait to test out my new powder skis.
Resort 1- La Rosiere
Being the closest resort to our accommodation La Rosiere seemed like the logical place to discover my ski legs. The San Bernado Pass, (famous for the St Bernard dog) is the ski area’s most attractive feature, a long gentle ski over the border into Italy and La Thuile. Made up of long moderate blue runs and steeper, trickier reds combined with the joy of country hopping by ski this route is popular from both sides of the border. The lack of snow still amazed me, with runs being well groomed and fake snow blasted to stay open, and sections closed off due to rock and grass remaining uncovered. However, the route remains worthwhile due to the hot chocolate at the border and the incredible pizza on the Italian side, as well as the views of Mt Blanc from a few chairlifts.
Resort 2- Les Arc
One of my favourite resorts. Set in the massive paradiski area with La Plagne and accessible from Bourg St Maurice by funicular Les Arc is in a great location. It’s humongous ski area comes with huge versatility from forest intertwining blue runs to steep mogul fields as well as great fun-parks and toboggan runs. Ranging from 1600m to 3200m its easy to have fun down long descents without spending too much time freezing on a lift. The igloo bar is a personal favourite enabling you to have a beer whilst feeling like an Eskimo with some big speakers. Again, the snow (or lack of it) tainted the days spent there as most runs were icey and the off piste wasn’t there but it’s so nice to ski around a giant resort like that without the traffic that normally comes with it.#
Resort 3- Val D’isere
One of the big boys of the ski world. Sharing its ski area with neighbouring Tigne the Espace-Killy resort has over 300km of slopes to enjoy supplemented by beautiful off piste opportunities and has even hosted the winter Olympics down the notorious ‘La Face’. And it’s not limited to just winter with the glacial runs reopened in the summer, for anyone who fancies skiing in their swim shorts. The après goes hand in hand with places like ‘La Folle Deuce’ known throughout the ski world for its Euro pop blaring across the slopes accompanied by musicians and everyone else dancing on the tables. Another Val favourite is ‘Cocorico’s’ for more mainstream tunes and great live bands. I spent my time split between the two this year, managing to remain on then tables after a few rounds and returning home to battle through a family meal with some apparition of sobriety.
Luckily, I have been replaced by wine for the journey home and have no seat in the car so must stay in the Alps. Flaine is the next resort on the list where I’ll meet up with a few fellow gap year friends. I imagine a very different dynamic to this holiday, one which contains more hard skiing and hopefully a lot more powder as well as a lot more après, but maybe not the diversity of different resorts and the Michelin star quality meals cooked by my Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol. Four weeks of uninterrupted skiing seems a more than adequate substitute for my lack of ski season, so bring on the snow.