"I can't do it," I cried out to the mountain treetops, ”I'm going to have to go down on my bum.“ It was the final test of my beginners' ski trip in Val d'Isère: an icy green and red run lined by sheer drops that I could just imagine tumbling down and crashing to a sticky end.
Over the past couple of days I'd conquered turns and attempted rotations. I'd even managed to alight from the ski lifts successfully, albeit with the grace of Bambi on ice. Up until this moment, I'd been feeling pretty smug about how quickly I'd picked up this whole skiing business... but this, I decided, staring down at the treacherous path before me, this was my Everest, and it was terrifying.
To say I was a complete beginner would be a bit of a lie – I had been skiing once before, but that was on the side of an unmarked mountain in Bosnia, almost 10 years ago. At that time, only one side of the Jahorina slopes was open to the public since the other was yet to be cleared of landmines. And rather than receive strict instruction as such, I was set free on the slopes while my responsible elders enjoyed urine-coloured spirits doled out by the ski-hire company before breakfast. Yes, I reflected, clinging on to the side of the piste with skis wedged firmly inwards, I had come a long way since then.
As part of a new beginner's skiing package arranged by ski company Powder White, I'd arrived into Geneva three days earlier and been ferried across the Swiss-French border to a luxury chalet in the prestigious resort. Brand new for this season, Chalet Marwari is just a glide and a jump away from Val d'Isère village centre, the slopes and ski schools, and provided the perfect snug for après-ski relaxation and pampering. With four double en-suite rooms, a sauna, dining area with private chefs and huge roaring fireplace, this was a side to snow sports I could get used to very quickly.
And so much snow. Unlike many resorts, Val d'Isère has little reason to worry about the weather forecast. With a top altitude of 3,400 metres, not only is the region higher than most European ski spots, the valley benefits from continental cross-winds bringing in healthy amounts of snow most winters.
What's more, the resort is home to the largest snow-making facility in Europe, with 600 state-of-the-art canons ready to pump out serious amounts of snow in minutes. It's a technique used for Olympic races and makes the resort's slightly steep prices worth paying for the guarantee of good skiing all season.
My instructor, Danilo, a former champion Italian skier, was to teach me, guide me and – I hoped – protect me. He had the patience of a saint and before long I was perfecting my snowplough – both toes pointing inwards to allow for the most important action of all: stopping.
One thing I did remember from my secret ski lessons past was the agony of trudging up and down nursery slopes, battling with skis and poles. An unavoidable penance for not being advanced enough to take a lift up to steeper slopes, the majority of starter ski lessons the world over will involve repetitive uphill side-stepping for the very small return of a three-metre long snowplough back down.
Imagine my joy when, on the second day I was to be taken several hundred feet up in a chair lift to try out the resort's swanky new travelator. The covered moving walkway allows beginners to be carried up an incline similar to the ones found on the nursery slopes below, no tedious side-stepping required. With a film-set backdrop glinting in the sunshine, the newly- flattened top of the Solaise mountain was perfect for building up confidence in my turns and speed before coming back down to the village in the safety of the lift. I could happily have spent the whole day riding up and down in that cable car bubble, so incredible was the bird's-eye view of pristine snowy peaks.
Only an equally-serene lunching spot could tempt me away. Bars and restaurants are plentiful here, with the possibility of a mid-ski beer or hot chocolate never far away. The second day's lunch stop was at the delightfully-wacky La Folie Douce, a high-altitude clubbing venue found at several Alpine ski resorts, which also serves beautiful food in monstrous portions. You may even find yourself being serenaded, as I did, by one of many camp-as-Christmas cabaret acts. The whole experience was so fantastically bizarre that I left on a high with the naïve notion of skiing all the way back down from the restaurant. And so it was that I had found myself in this very steep predicament.
Perhaps the most important thing I'd learnt about skiing as an almost-beginner was that much of the difficulty was psychological. Shooting down a mountain isn't actually that hard – it just takes confidence. So with that in mind, I did my best to ignore the scores of French schoolchildren racing past me backwards on one ski, and made my way down – safely – to the flatter world, one careful snowplough at a time.
easyJet (0330 365 5000; easyjet.com) flies from Gatwick to Geneva from £25 one way.
Powder White's (020 8877 8888; powderwhite.com) Beginners Package costs from £889pp, including a seven-night fully catered stay at Chalet Marwari, ski hire from Snowberry (snow berryvaldisere.com), ski pass, tuition with New Generation Ski School (skinewgen.com) and a post-ski massage with Pamper Off Piste (destinationpamper.com). Airport transfers extra (from €65 one-way).
La Folie Douce (lafoliedouce.com).
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