Winter sports: It's good to be back on the ski slopes

New year, new hobby? Try an old favourite again instead. Kate Simon had another go at skiing. She's glad she did...

The body's memory is incredible. I've been on these skis for less than 10 minutes and yet I'm ably, if gingerly, sliding down a slope and now, almost instinctively, pointing my toes inwards and skidding to a halt. Yet the last time I snapped on a pair of skis was 30 years ago.

What a tonic for parental guilt. All that hand-wringing about whether you should push your little darling – and fork out the cash – to acquire a non-essential skill that may at once be embraced and rejected. At least now my mum can know that it was worth paying for that school trip to the Cairngorms in 1978. It may have taken three decades to get me back on the piste (the Scottish weather is the clue here), but I'm enjoying myself.

This time I'm in the French Alps at Méribel, the resort at the heart of Les Trois Vallées, the largest linked ski area in the world. I don't anticipate seeing too many of those pistes because I'm here with my partner and son, both of whom have never skied. My partner isn't doing so well thanks to his unfeasibly wide feet – every ski boot he tries on is agony – but my eight-year-old son is taking to it like, well, a child to snow, picking up the basics with predictable speed. And I'm flabbergasted by my progress, which is instantly making this a more enjoyable experience than the Scottish sojourn. Plus, it helps that the sun is shining, there's a hinterland of snow, pines and the cutest wooden chalets, and the restaurants at the bottom of the slopes serve escargots.

But I'm also having quite a different experience from before, because we're staying in some considerable comfort as guests of Meriski, which specialises in catered chalet holidays in Méribel. For catered read cosseted. At our cosy chalet we are cared for by our host and chef, Vicky and James, who make our beds and our breakfast, bake cakes for afternoon tea and turn out a gourmet four-course meal every night. And when we want to go to the slopes, a five-minute drive away, Toby the driver turns up in the minibus to take us there and is at the end of a mobile phone ready to bring us back. It's all so easy – and a far cry from bunking up with your schoolmates.

Service is the selling point for Meriski. The company was bought three years ago by Four Winds Holidays, owned by the founders of Luxury Family Hotels, the UK family friendly country house hotel group best known for its flagship Woolley Grange. The ethos of good service that built the reputation of those hotels as among the best in Britain has been transferred to this Alpine landscape.

Hence the quality of the chalets, standard of catering and helpful extras such as the minibus transfers and the crèche that it runs (the only one in the resort). But what makes it work is the recruitment policy. Vicky, an ex-radio journalist, and James, a former internal auditor and chef and aspiring musician, are career-gappers. Toby will start practising as a barrister once the season is over. These bright people are more than able to deliver excellent service without the atmosphere becoming servile.

But we're here to ski, not to slob out. By day two our instructor, Patrick, from the Magic Snow Sports Academy, has taken us up to 1,800m to make our first descent. The last time I scaled these heights on skis I lost my nerve. This time I'm twisting and turning across the mountainside with confidence. I'm persuaded – I think I'll do this again.



HOW TO GET THERE

Meriski (01285 648518; meriski.co.uk) is offering catered chalet deals this season including a week in Chalet Bambi, sleeping eight, for £420 per person starting 27 January; a week in Chalet Nant de Morel, sleeping 10, for £795 per person starting 10 February; and a week in Chalet Virage, sleeping 16, for £925 per person, starting 17 February. Flights, transfers, ski hire, lift passes and childcare cost extra.

FURTHER INFORMATION

3 Valley Transfers (3vt.co.uk). Magic Snowsports Academy (magicinmotion.co.uk).

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Day In a Page

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests