We go ski­ing in the pic­ture per­fect French Alps

Re­turn­ing to the slopes af­ter a seven-year hia­tus is snow prob­lem for CON­NOR DUNN

South Wales Echo - - Life Style -

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-from-home com­forts in­clud­ing a cooked break­fast, af­ter­noon tea and three-course 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

Chalet Bar­tavelle Ski across the pool... if you dare

In­cred­i­ble views from the pistes

Con­nor pre­pares to launch his su­per luge

Par­adiski, La Plagne

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