Keep sch­tum as you swoosh down slopes

Reporter AMITA JOSHI went to the French vil­lage of Samoens to ex­pe­ri­ence what the his­tor­i­cally rich spot has to of­fer those look­ing for a snowy re­treat but doesn’t re­ally want to share it with any­one else

Harefield Gazette - - LEISURE -

IDON’T gym it. I don’t run, un­less there’s free pizza in­volved. So what on earth am I do­ing here?

My head raced and my teeth chat­tered as the chair­lift lurched higher and higher into the moun­tains, climb­ing 2,500 me­tres above the Samoens val­ley. What an id­i­otic idea this was. It was my first ski­ing trip and my sec­ond to­day in the un­de­ni­ably breath­tak­ing Samoens vil­lage in the Rhone Alps, a mere hour’s drive from Geneva.

I was the only be­gin­ner and had nat­tered loudly at sup­per the day be­fore about how my clum­si­ness will en­ter­tain ev­ery­one - “Brid­get Jones has noth­ing on me” - but as we mounted higher, laugh­ing was off the cards. I was noth­ing short of ter­ri­fied.

Fast for­ward to the end of the trip and I was hooked and could think of noth­ing else ex­cept how I could get back to those gleam­ing slopes. Bruised, aching, but im­mensely ex­hil­a­rated and ea­ger to re­turn.

Sure, there were mo­ments. An en­tire chair­lift car­ry­ing peo­ple had to stop be­cause I fell back­wards whilst try­ing to ski off, and yes I did zoom away and land in a pile of snow af­ter los­ing my grip on a horse which gal­loped as I skied be­hind it. But ev­ery­one’s first time has a few glitches. Let’s start at the be­gin­ning. Land­ing in Geneva, we were taken to our chalet in the Samoens ski re­sort.

Hô­tel Le Gai Soleil was jaw drop­ping, every bit as ro­man­ti­cized as log cab­ins can be. My suite’s dou­ble doors which stretched across the room opened out to a bal­cony sur­rounded by views of the moun­tains.

Samoens has an ir­re­sistible sense of au­then­tic­ity which makes it su­pe­rior to the usual ski spots. Here, there are fewer tourists, less English is spo­ken, and more par­ents pick­ing up their chil­dren from the lo­cal ski schools, strolling through the vil­lage go­ing about their ev­ery­day busi­ness.

Such is the sense of it be­ing un­touched, you al­most don’t want to tell others about it in case the spell breaks.

From there, we were whizzed off to the cor­ners of the Sixt, west of the vil­lage, to try out snow shoe-ing. The land­scape is sheer bliss. There wasn’t a sin­gle sound apart from the birds and our scrap­ing as we fas­tened wide metal food plates onto our feet and fol­lowed our snow shoe-ing guide.

It was a lit­tle like walk­ing snow yoga, if there was such a thing. Our guide taught us how to synch our breath­ing with our steps as we be­gan plung­ing through the snow, mak­ing deep tracks in the un­touched scenery, mas­ter­ing how to leap over small streams with our new leg ex­ten­sions.

The afghan walk, she called it, was a move­ment first car­ried out by no­madic tribes on the high plateaux of Afghanistan and since then, it has been one of Samoens sell­ing points - other than the ski­ing.

Peo­ple from all walks of life are ea­ger to take up the med­i­ta­tive ac­tiv­ity, an un­usual alternative to snow sports.

There’s no place for skep­ti­cism here, city go­ers need to let go of their cyn­i­cism and get in touch with their spir­i­tual side to truly ap­pre­ci­ate this and af­ter a while, we get into the rhythm of trekking.

The idea of flail­ing around in the snow while others grace­fully glide sounded noth­ing short of my kind of hell, but if you’re a be­gin­ner skier, or even some­one a lit­tle out of prac­tice, I can’t rec­om­mend Zig Zag Ski School more highly.

Gen­tle, en­cour­ag­ing and with the pa­tience of a saint, my in­struc­tor put my crip­pling fear at ease by sim­ply act­ing as if it was the most nat­u­ral thing in the world to ski - “like learn­ing to walk, it will hap­pen for ev­ery­one”.

Of course noth­ing is nat­u­ral to a be­gin­ner, and on our sec­ond day into the trip, even get­ting fit­ted and the dis­com­fort of walk­ing in the ski boots on the way to the chair­lift was a shock.

But ev­ery­thing slips away when you first reach the slopes on the Grand Mas­sif, right in front of Mont Blanc. It’s quiet here, apart from the squeals of laugh­ter from be­gin­ners as they take their first slide or the fever­ish ex­cite­ment as others make their as­cent to higher points.

I put my fo­cus onto what I’m be­ing

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