It is rather presumptuous of me to be posting about skiing. Summer has only just been declared 'over' for another year and, even though the first flocons de neige have made their appearance on mountain summits, causing lake-level murmurings of joy and shivers of anticipation, it will still be a while before the majority of us get to boot up, jacket on and take off. *
skiing: my experiences as an adult novice, my clothing challenges and the up-and-down relationship that I have with the overall experience. I am a summer girl who has lived most of her life through mild winters and exceptionally hot summers. The cold takes some management. In this same article, I also wrote about my first trip to the snow with my, then very young, children. My overall recollection is that it was harrowing. The temperature was partly to blame, but the chair-lifts were the stuff of nightmares, very sore arm muscles and a guilty conscience for days thereafter, as I relived the possibility of my small offspring slipping out of my embrace and plunging into the void below.
I was intrigued, therefore, to read this morning in an article about the best ski stations in France that children in classes run by the ESF (Ecole du Ski Français) now wear magnetised vests. I don't know how wide-spread this practice is, but the safety aim is clear. The claim that they self-release at the top puts my active imagination back into over-drive.
Aside this little vestimentary addition, the article attempted to categorise the stations and came up with an impressive list: Best for beginners, best for intermediate, best for advanced, most reliable snow, most charm and romance, best for partying, best for families, best for snowboarders, best value and best for weekends. Naturally, all up for debate.
From home in Talloires, we can be on the slopes of La Clusaz within forty minutes. We know it well and would agree with its inclusion in many of the categories. Because of its proximity to an international airport, it made it onto the 'Best for weekends' list (Australian readers, sorry! Article aimed at European travellers). If you add in Manigod, Le Grand Bornand and St Jean de Sixt, a single Aravis lift pass gives you access to a respectable 220 km of slopes. More than enough to keep most of us busy for a weekend.
What if you like to ski and you have the luxury of time? La Clusaz is still an excellent possibility, but might I suggest that staying somewhere off the mountain might be an inspired idea? For one, you have the luxury of choice. Why not wake up each morning and choose a ski station depending on the best weather report? We have eight or nine that we would happily go to just for the day. Secondly, if there are members of your party who like skiing but do not want to ski every day, holidaying off the mountain gives them the possibility of many more non-snow-related activities (art galleries, museums, shopping, cinemas, walking tours...). Thirdly, even staying on the slopes will not guarantee that you won't have a decent hike to the lifts each morning. It is true that off the mountain you will have to commit to a drive each day, but for most of the season, we could drive nearly all the way to the lift office, park, dress and purchase our ticket within a few easy steps of the car. Finally, consider the cost. I know for myself that if I stayed on the slopes, I would buy a use-at-all-time pass, which would have the added pressure of making me feel that I needed to ski constantly to make the most of it. Add to that, the very high cost of winter rental, restaurants and services on the slopes and you have another good reason to stay further afield.
I know that this will not be a good solution for everyone, but we have had several sets of guests stay with us throughout the winter months, some of whom had previously been convinced that there was no other way to holiday in the snow than to stay up high at a single station, but whom, by the end, even after discounting the attraction of our free accommodation, were more than happy with the options that a non-ski-resort stay offered.
*The use of all of these prepositions was for all my English-as-a-second-language French friends who have told me how much they love these pesky little add-on prepositions! (see below ... and for the full article click here)
- Tickets are available from the box office.
- Not enough data is available to scientists.
- No figures are available for the number of goods sold.
- There are plenty of jobs available in the area.