Morag Bootland dons her skis after a three-decade long hiatus and takes to the slopes in the French Alps.
THIRTY years is a long time in anyone’s book, but the more people I asked the more I was told that skiing is just like riding a bike. Once you’ve done it once you never truly forget how. Buoyed by this new found confidence to do something I was never actually all that good at in the first place, I decided that my teenage daughter and I should head for the Alps.
We booked in to Chilly Powder, a family-friendly ski chalet just outside Morzine in the French Alps and just a five-minute waddle (in ski boots) from the state-of-the-art Les Prodains Gondola, which scoots skiers up the mountain to the beautiful village of Avoriaz at 1800 metres in just four minutes.
I admit to having a few butterflies at the thought of skiing again as we boarded a plane at Edinburgh airport bound for Geneva. EasyJet run regular flights from the capital to Geneva (for two people our return flights with a large case cost just over £200). The flight takes just over two hours and then it’s a short drive (for us 1 hour and 30 minutes) to the French Alps and some of the finest skiing in the world.
Chilly Powder is perfectly placed to access the vast 650km Portes de Soleil area, providing skiing for everyone from complete beginners to bona fide adrenaline seekers. After a day enjoying the slopes and the apres-ski you can even ski right down to the back door of the chalet.
The first thing that strikes you about Au Coin de Feu (meaning at the fireside), the largest of Chilly Powder’s pretty wooden chalets, is its warmth. What an absolute joy to be toasty cosy while surrounded by deep, fluffy snow. The welcome matches the temperature and Nick from the Chilly Powder team gave us a quick show round and a rundown of chalet life. The teen was excited at the prospect of the hot tub and fascinated by the resident bearded-dragon and Mum was already picturing evenings on the comfy sofas by the huge open fire sipping a vin chaud. There’s even an in-house massage therapist who works from a heated yurt in the garden to help soothe aching muscles after a day on the slopes.
The chalet has been owned the Eyre family, who built their business around their idea of their perfect family holiday, since 1996. Over this time the business has gone from strength-to-strength and we were about to see why. The chalet staff were friendly, helpful and amazing with my teen and the younger children throughout our stay. Our room was spotless and spacious and we had time to unpack before Doorstep Skis called. Popping down to the garage we were fitted for skis, poles, boots and helmets. The service was really convenient and meant that we were all set to hit the piste the next morning.
Dinner for the teen was at 5.30pm, the children’s menu is a little less complex and there were plenty of options even for fussy eaters. She enjoyed her meals and having the chance to meet up with some of the other young guests.
Dinner for grown-ups starts around 8pm with canapes at 7.45pm. The food is of an excellent standard, varied and plentiful, with three courses plus cheese every evening. As dinner is a set menu, we were asked to let chef know before we travelled if we had any strong dislikes or special dietary requirements, so that he could ensure he tailored the menu accordingly. Wine is included at dinner, and as a lone adult traveller the communal dining tables were the perfect way to get to know the other guests. I was pleasantly surprised by how many of them were regular visitors to Chilly Powder. Many had young children and loved the nanny service that enabled them to do some skiing while on a family holiday, while others had older kids who easily kept up with their parents on skis.
Our first day on the slopes dawned bright and we did some gentle snowploughing around the nursery slopes and enjoyed a sunny al fresco lunch in one of the many cafes in Avoriaz. The views from the plateau are breath-taking and we had to tear ourselves away to head back to Chilly Powder for a quick afternoon tea snack. The chef’s patisserie skills were second to none, some of the highlights were mini fruit tarts, delicious scones and scrummy broccoli and cheese muffins.
Our second day brought the added bonus of a ski lesson from the lovely Laurent at Avoriaz Alpine Ski School. Laurent has been teaching people to ski for over 30 years and even on this cold January day he was doing so in a pair of shorts! Our two-hour lesson was nothing short of transformational. My first day back on skis had seen me hunched up, tense and with an aching lower back and legs. After around 15 minutes with Laurent I was looking at where I was going rather than at my skis, which allowed me to take in the incredible scenery, my bum was tucked in, I was leaning forward onto my boots and moving from the hips making the whole experience less painful and much more graceful.
I had been surprised to find when chatting to the other guests at Chilly Powder who take regular ski trips, that even for the more seasoned skiers, lessons seem to be an essential part of their holiday. But after a couple of hours with Laurent I could see why. We scooted around the beginner slopes and felt very pleased with ourselves when we reached the bottom without coming a cropper. Then Laurent took away our poles and said we were going to do it all again. There was trepidation, but it was actually easier that I had anticipated and was a great confidence boost.
Heading for some well-deserved après-ski at the incredible La Folie Douce, a daytime bar/restaurant/club with live music, outrageously expensive Champagne and lots of dancing on the tables, which is conveniently situated right by the ski school hut we chatted relentlessly about how incredible our day had been.
The chalet staff had the well-earned night off so we headed into Morzine and enjoyed some delicious pizza at Beanie’s Bar. There are lots of great places to eat and drink in Morzine and we decided to head back during the day to check them out and go to the ice rink. There’s a free shuttle bus that runs regularly from Morzine to Les Prodains Gondola, and there’s a stop right by Chilly Powder, so getting around is really easy.
The ice rink is home to Morzine-Avoriaz Penguins ice hockey team, but thankfully they weren’t there when we shuffled onto the ice. We soon got the hang of our skates and with the help of an incredibly graceful and kind lady honing her ice-dancing skills, the teen was soon spinning and scooting around like a pro. Earning her reward of a crepe in the sunshine several times over.
The next day we visited Aquariaz aquatic centre in Avoriaz, which is the perfect place to take a break from the slopes. There’s a lazy river, an outdoor jacuzzi overlooking the Boulevard des skieurs, the chair life and the mountains beyond and a very cool aquatic half-pipe that you can ride on an inflatable doughnut. Lot’s to keep grown-ups, teens and toddlers happy. Avoriaz is completely car-free so the best way to get around and enjoy the fresh mountain air is on skis, or by horse-drawn sleigh taxis.
With great skiing, awesome hospitality and so much to do off the slopes I’m confident it won’t be another 30 years until I don my skis and return to this glorious part of France.
Chilly Powder operates all year round, so it’s perfect whether you’re looking to hit the ski slopes or hop on your mountain bike. There are extensive winter holiday packages on offer for individuals, groups and families with winter prices starting from €995 per person per week based on two adults sharing a double or twin bedroom or €2,760 per week for two adults and two children sharing a standard family room. Prices based on a half board basis with wine included in evening meals.
Childcare facilities are also available with prices starting at €315 per week and ski school for €295 per week. The chalet also offers self-catered and B&B options in both summer and winter, and is available for weddings and events.
To learn more or to making a booking, contact Chilly Powder on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7289 6958 or visit chillypowder.com
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