When I was 7, my Grandad introduced me to a BBC documentary called ‘On the Piste’ from the ’80s. It follows a group of Brits on their first ever attempts at skiing in the alps and has hilarious consequences. If you’ve never seen it, I want to introduce you to one of the funniest clips from the show, and the legendary Kevin. It still has me crying with laughter.
Before then, I had never heard of skiing, let alone thought about doing it myself. But the documentary changed my mind. It made skiing look like the most fun you could ever have – I just didn’t realise it would require the investment of so much time and money.
Equipment, lessons, transport and accommodation were all far too expensive for me to even consider a trip, so when I had the chance to visit Val d’Isere on an all-expenses-paid company incentive, it was a dream come true. Granted, I still needed to buy my own clothes and take a few lessons at Snozone before I got there, but that accounted for only 25% of the £482* people spend on the average Val d’Isere ski trip (and that doesn’t even include transport).
But was it worth it? Let’s take a look…
If you’re going skiing for the first time, there are a few things I recommend investing in pre-trip: skiwear and ski lessons. Skiing is surprisingly daunting. If you don’t believe me, try strapping two planks to your feet and hurtling down a slippery hill.
It really helped me feel fully prepared to have bought warm, comfortable clothes that would protect me from knocks and the freezing temperatures. My pre-trip shopping list included ski jacket, fleece, base layer, salopettes, gloves, hat, goggles, snow boots… in fact, everything you can see in the photo minus the skis, poles and ski boots (not pictured).
But much more valuable was the beginners ski course I took at Snozone in Milton Keynes a few weeks before the trip. Having the opportunity to learn to ski on real snow with an expert coach meant that, when I actually got to the resort itself, I felt confident I had at least a few of the basics down.
If I’m totally honest, the journey was a bit of a pain in the arse. From our office, we took a coach to the airport, a plane to Geneva and then another coach up the windiest and highest mountain roads for 3 hours. I found myself gripping the seat in front of me with my knuckles turning white as I contemplated the sheer drops either side of the road!
Though the journey was long, that only added to the anticipation and there was plenty of beautiful scenery to keep me occupied.
Imagine being able to enjoy this view every morning – stunning. That’s what we were treated to at the Hotel Aigle des Neiges, Val d’Isere, a 4* hotel slap bang in the middle of the resort and just a few minutes’ walk from the ski slopes. But with the hotel’s most basic room costing upwards of €199 (£144) per night, it has a hefty price tag.
However, accommodation is extremely important on ski holidays as it’s the place you go to thaw out and rest after a physically demanding day of skiing and apres-ski. There are cheaper places to stay, but I loved our hotel because it was comfortable, warm and welcoming. It also had everything you could need to get away from the snow, including a spa and an excellent restaurant and bar complete with open fires.
This photo makes me laugh. Please ignore the smug child behind me looking like a complete natural while I look chuffed to even be standing upright.
I’m obviously stating the obvious here but skiing is, of course, the main reason people go on ski trips and Val d’Isere is a great place to learn. We had beginners lessons each day of the trip, and they were brilliant. It reminded me so much of On the Piste that I got the giggles all the way through. We even had our very own Kevin in the form of my colleague, Lalit, who got stuck coming off the button lift leaving a wake of destruction as skiers domino-ed behind him. It really was hilarious.
I had my very own On the Piste moment getting off the chair lift on the green run. I was so nervous about getting off that I did it too hastily and went face-first into the snow. It took two grown men to get me back up, only for me to fall over pretty much straight away.
The more experienced skiers in the group enjoyed the blue, red and black runs, and we all agreed the skiing was fantastic.
The fun stuff
Apres-ski is an absolute riot. It literally means ‘after skiing’, and includes any form of entertainment available to skiers when the ski lifts shut and the sun goes down. Val d’Isere offers designer shopping, hiking and other sports, but the most popular form of apres-ski involves alcohol.
There are numerous bars in the centre of the resort, all with special offers and loud music to keep you busy until it’s time for dinner. One of the most famous places to spend apres-ski is La Folie Douce – a massive open-air dance party held at the top of a mountain with DJs, cabaret acts and dancers. It’s the most fun ever. If you’re a party addict, I’d even go so far as to say the apres-ski is worth a visit to Val d’Isere all on its own.
Overall, I had a fantastic trip and think skiing is something that everyone should try at least once. I might just wait until I’m a millionaire before I go again…
Have you ever been skiing? Do you think it’s worth the money?
*This figure came from a report by Post Office Travel Money on the average cost of ski holidays. Read more if you’re interested!