Returning to the slopes after a seven-year hiatus is snow problem for CONNOR DUNN
GROWING up I was incredibly fortunate to have learned how to ski competently before the age of 10. I fell in love with everything about the sport from the kamikaze speeds you could reach to travelling incredible distances or beating any terrain and slope that was thrown in your way – off or on piste.
Then, as I got a little older, I realised how good the first chair lift of the morning was to whizz you up the mountain and blast fresh Alpine air into your face to clear any signs of a hangover from the night before, ready to start the experience all over again.
There were trips with my parents, family friends and school – even downhill slalom ski racing for a time – life though, as ever, has its ups and downs.
As I headed into my very late teens – for one reason or another – ski trips for me were no longer and I had to be content with watching the best of the best on Ski Sunday doing what I could only dream of.
In fact I hadn’t pulled on a pair of ski boots for almost seven years when I got the chance to visit La Plagne 1800 – situated in the French Alps close to the Italian border.
So, with about 10kg too many clothes, I set out dreaming of crystal clear blue skies, glistening white snow and the smell of pine drifting through the air.
I was not disappointed.
That, is as close as you can get to describing the quite truly magical, tranquil yet thoroughly exhilarating experience, that is skiing in La Plagne.
There is vast, beautiful and varied terrain at your disposal – including miles of off-piste slopes to test all levels of ability – due to the resort being part of a huge network of five villages.
As we arrived into La Plagne the first thing that hit me was the sheer amount of snow and the breathtaking views of the mountains and tree-lined valleys.
Our picture-perfect setting was complete when were we shown into our accommodation, Chalet Bartavelle, and we were warmly welcomed by hosts Sam and Jenny.
Run by SkiBeat, the chalet had space for 15 people and offered home-fromhome comforts including a cooked breakfast, afternoon tea and threecourse evening meal every day, plus a sauna.
Throughout the holiday, the food was delicious and the hosts were wonderful company – interesting, funny and extremely helpful if you needed to know anything about the area which they knew inside out.
I set myself a couple of challenges during my week here – to see how fast I could go and to do a backflip.
The first was, predictably, a little easier than the latter and according to the ski resorts app – which you can get to track your every movement – I reached 118.5km/h (around 73mph in old money). The backflip, then.
Fortunately for me the resort has a giant airbag to practise spins, tricks and flips on.
So that’s where I headed, buoyant, confident and – as it turned out – a little too sure of myself.
Attempt one; I landed on my head. Ouch. Attempts two and three; better. Instagram picture nailed and a lot of fun had in the process.
Another sure-fire way to light up your social media profile and draw in the likes in this resort is skiing across a swimming pool and getting someone to video you doing it.
There are two of these unusual runs in the resort, one near La Plagne, and one near Les Arcs.
They both give skiers and snowboarders the chance to go down a small hill before gliding over a shallow swimming pool and returning to firmer ground at the other side. It’s great fun and makes for a cracking clip if you complete it.
However, be aware that large crowds gather around both sites to watch in hopeful glee that the next challenger will fall in (it happens more often than you’d think).
Any of the aforementioned runs can also be taken at a leisurely pace and give you a fantastic view down the valleys. Another absolutely breathtaking run is Aiguille Rouge, which starts from the top of the Lanchettes 45 run from Les Arcs 2000.
It slaloms through pine trees for more than 800 vertical metres and offers sensational views as you snake down the mountain with several different routes on offer to reach the same destination.
Across the Paradiski resort there are scores of wonderful runs and beautiful areas worth seeking out to spend a morning or afternoon, depending on your level of ability and confidence.
According to the ski resort app, I covered almost 500km on my skis during the week and still only took in just over 30% of the trails. On your way round try to catch a glimpse of igloos and Arctic foxes created from snow, and don’t forget to smile for the automatic mid-air ski lift camera with pictures free to download onto (you guessed it) the app.
And for those who want to laugh a lot more, and don’t mind getting covered in snow and potentially pick up a bruise or two, then there’s the super luge.
Essentially you get a chair lift to the top of a ski run after the pistes have emptied – armed with a plastic sledge – and throw yourself off the top.
Don’t worry, it’s got brakes.
Connor practises his spins, tricks and flips on the big air bag in La Plagne
The Olympic toboggan run
Ski across the pool... if you dare
Incredible views from the pistes