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
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