Fun and fel­low­ship

The Church of England - - ENGLAND ON SUNDAY - By Amaris Cole

Ex­treme sport hol­i­days can­not usu­ally boast of send­ing re­laxed and re­freshed guests home at the end of the week, but you will soon dis­cover a Rich­mond Hol­i­day is full of such sur­prises. Set on a moun­tain above the clouds in the midst of the French Alps, it’s easy to for­get real life is still go­ing on down there. The hard­est de­ci­sion I had to make while stay­ing in L’Alps d’Huez, one of three Rich­mond chalets in the area, was whether to jump straight into the hot tub af­ter a long day ski­ing or grab a piece of home­made cake first.

Ver y quickly, it be­came clear that food was go­ing to be a big part of the trip. All that ski­ing means the break­fast crois­sants, eggs and por­ridge, the lunchtime baguette and the three-course din­ner each night are com­pletely ac­cept­able – some would go so far as to say nec­es­sary. At least, that was my ex­cuse. Per­haps the af­ter­noon tea and the pre-din­ner canapés were a lit­tle greedy, but I was on hol­i­day, af­ter all.

When I needed a lit­tle lie down, more from the ex­er­tions of eat­ing such feasts than a hard day on the pistes, I re­treated to my room. As views go, this one fell in the ‘breath­tak­ing’ cat­e­gory, just above ‘beau­ti­ful’ and next to ‘un­beat­able’. My bal­cony led straight to the moun­tains, where skiers could be seen danc­ing down the slopes by day and an un­be­liev­ably bright dis­play of stars by night.

But you can ex­pect a lot more than just a cosy chalet and an ap­petis­ing menu on this trip.

“When we started, we tried to work out whether we were a busi­ness or a min­istry. Well, of course, we’re both,” Rich­mond’s CEO ex­plained to me in the chair­lift while we trav­elled to the top of the first moun­tain of the day.

For the last five years, Ben Turner has worked on chang­ing the face of Chris­tian hol­i­days, en­sur­ing guests are treated to the same high stan­dards ex­pected in the sec­u­lar travel in­dus­try, while of­fer­ing daily fel­low­ship, wor­ship and prayer led by a res­i­dent Pas­tor Teacher. A meet­ing be­fore the canapés each night gives guests the chance to re­flect on the won­ders around them and en­gage in a time of ded­i­ca­tion – spark­ing dis­cus­sions that of­ten went on to din­ner, the evening en­ter­tain­ment and in­deed the star-lit hot tub ses­sions.

For an ac­tion hol­i­day, the peace found here, both in the sur­round­ings and the min­istry, is stag­ger­ing. Dur­ing the school hol­i­days there is a chil­dren’s min­istry, too. Then, of course, there’s the ski­ing it­self. The re­sort boasts Europe’s long­est black run: La Sarenne. At 16 kilo­me­tres, this is def­i­nitely a chal­lenge all ac­com­plished skiers and board­ers need to try. The first 500 me­tres look near-ver­ti­cal. Lo­cals pre­fer the neigh­bour­ing Le Tun­nel though, a breath­tak­ingly steep and bumpy ‘hard black r un’. It is easy to see why this is one of France’s Top Five ski ar­eas.

If you are more com­fort­able on a blue or green run, fear not, for there are plenty to keep even the most ea­ger beginner sat­is­fied with 250 kilo­me­tres of piste in the re­sort. Rich­mond has ded­i­cated staff r un­ning ski tours each day for vary­ing abil­i­ties to keep you on your toes, or rather, skis, with their ex­per­tise of the lo­cal area.

For those who think a snow plough is some­thing used to clear the roads af­ter a storm, lessons can be ar­ranged to have you par­al­lel ski­ing be­fore you can say vin chaud (which I can tell you does seem to help with the ski­ing!).

Sur­pris­ingly the chalet wasn’t just full of die-hard ski and snow­board fans. I came across a few vis­i­tors in the lounge who don’t/won’t ski. ‘Are you jeal­ous of the oth­ers head­ing out on a new, snowy ad­ven­ture each day?’ I asked. The ‘no’ I re­ceived was pretty swift, and def­i­nitely de­cided.

L’Alp d’Huez is favoured by many fam­i­lies be­cause of just that: it’s a ski re­sort that caters for non-skiers al­most as much as those who love the slopes. A (heated) out­door pool, a rock-climb­ing wall, an ice rink, shops, cafes, bars and even lift passes for our friends who pre­fer to ex­plore the moun­tains in the safety of their boots means there really is some­thing for ev­ery­one.

If that’s not enough, the re­sort claims to have 300 days of sun­shine a year. From what I saw, they aren’t ly­ing - and I have the tell-tale gog­gle-tan lines to prove it. One guest who vis­ited the sun room at the lo­cal pool said it was hot­ter there than on her sum­mer hol­i­day to Ma­jorca.

It’s not just the guests who en­joy ev­ery­thing a Rich­mond Hol­i­day has to of­fer, though. Speak­ing to the staff you get a real in­sight into what this com­pany is all about. In­terns un­sure of what the next step in their life should be, mem­bers of the team who have dreamed of be­ing a ski guide for­ever and oth­ers who are us­ing this sea­son to gain the skills needed for the var­i­ous ad­ven­tures they have planned next; what­ever your story, you’re wel­come here.

Rich­mond’s tagline, promis­ing a ‘qual­ity Chris­tian hol­i­day’, truly was de­liv­ered dur­ing my visit. If I didn’t have to hand this re­view in, I might still be there now.

The sea­son runs un­til 20 April, 2013. For more in­for­ma­tion on L’Alp d’Huez and the other hol­i­days Rich­mond runs, visit .­mond-hol­i­

Re­porter Amaris Cole on the slopes ‘Chalet L’Es­capade where I stayed in L’Alp d’Huez’ room’ ‘The din­ing

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