i mentioned a few weeks ago that i was off skiing for the first time, thanks to aéroports de lyon. the french airport is in the perfect spot for quick and easy access to the northern alps, the biggest skiable area in the world. along with fellow bloggers lucie, laurie, niamh and millie we were given the warmest of welcomes as we arrived in lyon late on a friday afternoon, and were ushered swiftly through security, helped to pull our luggage from baggage claim, and whisked by taxi up into the snowy alps to our ski resort destination; val thorens.
the next morning we were up bright and early to meet our ski instructor and visit the ski shop ready for our first session on the slopes. i’ve mentioned that i’m a total ski newbie, so it was both an exciting and daunting experience to hit the slopes for the first time – and yes, i do mean that in the most literal of senses! truthfully, i far exceeded my own expectations with my ski abilities (i barely thought i’d be able to stand, let along attempt a run alone) but all credit goes to our lovely ski instructor pat, who was more than a little patient with us and incredibly encouraging.
val thorens is the highest ski resort in europe, situated 2,300m above sea level, so while seasoned skier millie headed off to tackle a black run, laurie, lucie and i started with the very basics and took our first fledgling steps out on the snow with a lot of hand-holding and encouraging nods to help us on our way. pretty soon though were flying* – and occasionally tumbling! – down the beginner slopes with huge smiles on our faces, before heading to the magic carpet to be transported back to the top of the slope to do it all again. i can’t say i was truly bitten by the ski bug, but those few moments when you’re simply gliding down the slope letting the mountain lead the way certainly are exhilarating. until you hit a bump in the slope and tumble bambi-like to the ground in a heap. i still have the bruises to show for it…
thoroughly exhausted but giddy with the joy of the slopes we were treated to lunch at le montana, headed by jeremy gillon, who has just won his first michelin star with sister restaurant l’epicurien, where we enjoyed some delicious dishes prepared with fresh produce from the local savoie region.
parsnip velouté with soft boiled egg & lardo di colonatta
tartine de bœuf séché
white trout with peas, pomelos, almonds & chervil
local free range pork belly with spelt risotto
feeling replenished after our delightful lunch, we headed back up into the mountains full of enthusiasm to tackle france’s longest toboggan run; a 6 km, 45 minute descent, that starts at an altitude of 3,000m – wow! the ascent in the péclet funitel cable car was spectacular enough but nothing can prepare you for the feeling of being truly on top of the world when you disembark. despite the fact the weather had clouded over somewhat and you couldn’t quite see the resort laid out below you, the cloud simply added to the sense of being high up in the sky, above it all.
heart in my mouth – and fighting the voice inside shouting that i am most definitely not a daredevil – we began our descent on what amounts to the type of plastic sledges i used to slide down my back garden on as a kid. though the course may be advertised as ‘thrilling for everyone from 5 years old’, the terrain was definitely a million miles away from my valley-side garden recline. hell-raising bends and steep inclines that were almost vertical at times meant i was thrown from my toboggan on more than one occasion, losing my sledge halfway down one vertical and having to simply slide down on my back to get to the bottom and carry on.
just like skiing i can’t say i completely enjoyed the experience and simply had to focus my mind on getting to the finish line in one piece, but there were moments of pure joy along the course when the winding route and my faltering technique combined to create the perfect, exhilarating ride.
that night it was all i could do to drag my weary bones and battered self out to dinner at the steak club, where we all – rather predictably – dug in heartily to a choice rare steak and crispy fries, washed down with lashings of red wine. well, we were in france after all!
sadly – although much to the relief of my bruised body – our ski trip was short but sweet, and the following morning we just had time for a decadent brunch at the stunningly located koh-i-nor hotel, perched high above the resort with an uninterrupted and breathtaking panoramic view over val thorens.
after a quick tour of the beautiful 5* hotel, we settled down to an indulgent brunch of waffles, pancakes, eggs and bacon, accompanying by a glass of cheeky glass of champagne and, naturally, a good supply of much needed coffee!
then it was time to hit the road again and make our winding way back down the mountain towards lyon for our flight back to london. thank you so much aéroports de lyon for a truly wonderful 36 hours in the alps!
british airways & easyjet offer 41 return flights per week to lyon-saint exupéry from luton, gatwick & heathrow airports, starting from £24. tour operators such as topflight group, skibound and EFH gorup also offer extensive ski packages through lyon-saint exupéry.
* huge thanks to lucie for capturing the fabulous shot of me ‘flying’ down the ski slope; proof that i actually did master the technique of skiing, if only for the briefest of moments…