The song, ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ has been resonating within the skiing community this season. The lack of snow, for the second year running, has frustrated most winter holiday makers yet again. But not us.
There’s something special about being in the mountains; fresh air, natural beauty, vast landscapes and the humbling sense of perspective as you look on at the towering peaks around you. Whatever it is, I love it, and my step-son, Louis, has come to love it too.
We geared up, packed our bags and headed to the airport to start our journey on the quest for snow. Arriving at Geneva Airport, we were met by our tour operators, Skiweekender. Skiweekender is a short break company who aim to make sure that their guests have maximum time on the snow; an impossible task if there isn’t any snow.
We instantly knew we were in good hands, however. Due to our pilot needing two attempts to land the plane, we missed our ski fitting hire and dinner! But fortunately, Skiweekender accommodated our delay, held dinner back half an hour and re-opened the ski hire shop so that we could get kitted out ready to ski straight away the next morning. They knew we were there to ski and made sure that skiing was exactly what we did. Not a moment was missed or wasted due to their incredible service.
Our first skiing day saw us head to the resort of La Grand Bornand. Although it wasn’t the highest resort, the ski engineers had done a fabulous job of making, sure enough, runs were open for us to enjoy. We had a lesson with an ESF instructor and it’s worth saying that if you aren’t a veteran skier, a lesson or two with an ESF instructor is money well spent. They are superb. They know their stuff, communicate it well and keep you feeling very safe in an unknown landscape.
Once we’d gotten used to everything again, and knew our way around the lifts a little, we went off and explored for ourselves. There is nothing in this world like hurtling down the side of a mountain at high speeds #adrenalinjunky
Skiweekender had a arranged three pick-up times; 2 pm, 3 pm or 4 pm to cater to the needs and desires of the whole group. Most people are there to ski as much as is possible and so spend all day on the slopes but having the alternatives is a nice touch. (Especially if you have cold or wet children in your wake.)
Back at the chalet, we showered and relaxed before the organised hike down in the gorge. It’s one thing arranging extra activities for their guests, but it was another thing arranging for the rain clouds to move over just long enough for the full moon to shine on us as we splattered through the mud sipping mulled wine! (Or chocolate choux)
The next day saw another full day on the slopes, but this time, we went to the resort of La Clusaz. Anywhere below 2000m was iced up pretty badly, and it quickly became an art of bum-sliding rather than skiing, but when we ventured up higher to the Balme region of the Aravis chain, the snow was the best we’d found so far. On top of good snow, we also had a perfect view of Mount Blanc. Seeing the awesome peak cresting over all the others, made my boyhood dream of reaching the summit one day, even more, desirable.
This was a challenging red run, and I was so proud of Louis as he tackled it, a little tentatively, but competently all the same. For me, this was my favourite bit of skiing we’d ever done. I loved being high up, surrounded by beautiful mountains and feeling the hint of warmth from the sun.
This particular region wasn’t the usual place for Skiweekender to pick up from, but they added it in because they wanted their guests to have the best snow. They arranged extra pick-ups for people skiing here; in my mind, that’s going above and beyond.
That evening, we ventured out for dinner into La Clusaz town centre. Again, Skiweekender arranged taxi services for all the guests, accommodating those wanting to go late and those with children who required an earlier dinner. We went to a stunning, traditional French restaurant where I sampled the classic Tartiflette. Which is originally from the region of the Alps we were in. The story is quite fascinating, and revolves around tax evasion, but I’ll save that for another day.
La Clusaz was a very beautiful town, with a central church impressively commanding the sky line. The Christmas lights added the ‘wow’ factor to an already thriving town. The fact that it hadn’t been ‘commercialised’ too much was highly appealing. It was wonderful to experience genuine and authentic French culture in the town. We are very much looking forward to returning.
Our final day had come, and we were given the choice of resort. La Grand Bornand or La Clusaz. While the top of La Clusaz was wonderful the day before, we felt that Grand Bornand offered a wider variety of runs, suitable for a family considering the snow & ice conditions, and we made the right choice.
We found a perfect run; blue if you went down on the right-hand side and red if you went down on the left. It was a good 5km long with relatively speedy lifts. We spent all day on this one run and loved every second. There were plenty of different routes within this one, and we could get some speed up.
Irritatingly, we couldn’t spend all day on the slopes due to our flight times, but we had a solid few hours at least. It was a great morning to end our all too short ski holiday.
Skiweekender, of course, made our transfer back to the airport seamless, and our flight went without a hitch as well. Back in the UK by 7 pm, it was so wonderful to see Jen after our very rare time apart. Sadly I had to wait until the next day to see Ted, despite the temptation of waking him up!
All in all, our trip was wonderful. We couldn’t speak any more highly of Skiweekender and Lake Annecy Ski Resorts. They were sensational. The fact that we had an amazing time skiing when the snow was severely lacking is a testimony to them both.
It’s been a few weeks since we returned and Louis and I wish we were back there. We cannot wait for our next trip out to the Alps.