I’ve just spent the last weekend in Val Thorens in the French Alps exploring all the wonderful things loved by skiers and non-skiers alike.
Unlike many of my friends, the closest I ever got to skiing was on a snowboard in the Killington Mountains in Vermont a few years ago. I made the fatal mistake of having a go on a snowboard without too much private tuition and tumbled my way down. Long story short, I was carried off the hill in a snowmobile which was quite glamorous as I waved to friends whilst zooming past them down the slopes.
This time, I was determined to make up for that tumble. I came to Val Thorens with one task in mind, to learn how to navigate the slopes, without ending up on a snowmobile.
Getting to Val Thorens
I checked in at the counter at Terminal 1 in Heathrow Airport and was quickly shown through a queue-less security (how lucky!). I boarded the British Airways flight in no time on a Friday afternoon and arrived at Lyon Airport in just under 1.5 hours.
Upon arrival, I was picked up by the Lyon Airport representative with fellow bloggers Lucie, Niamh, Millie, and Kate, who were all anxious about the skiing like myself as we were all beginners except Millie. But it’s OK, because we were in it together!
This airport was made for skiers as there were plenty of staff on hand to assist ski travellers in getting them to their final destination. This was completed with skis, lift cars, and some lounge chairs to make you feel inspired!
The taxi from Lyon Airport to Val Thorens was just over 2.5 hours. During this journey, I had the chance to look out at the distant mountain ranges as we approached. Up the winding mountain roads we went!
Learning to Ski in the Alps
Then came the hard part…
After a relatively sober Friday night in preparation for a long physical day ahead, I arrived on Saturday morning with the others at the mountain ski rental shop just a short walk from our hotel. The sunshine was beating down on the Alps which had nicely softened the snow and provided some lovely skiing weather.
I was fitted with snow boots, skis matched to my height, and also a helmet (just on the safe side). Check out my hot pink ski pants, rocking it in style in the mountains! The snow boots felt more like iron boots and in no time I started to breath heavily as we made our way down to the slopes. Boy, did I feel out of shape!
Thankfully, private tuition was already pre-arranged. We were greeted by the lovely Pat, a bubbly seasoned ski instructor with well-tanned skin and fit as a fiddle.
As the highest ski resort in Europe, Val Thorens is situated 2,300 metres above sea level. At this height, once my feet were glued to the two ski prongs, there was no turning back. Pat did a lot of hand holding (literally), to get myself comfortable gliding and moving around a flat area of the slope. We were shortly told that we graduated and it was time to have a go on our own. Yikes!
These two ski prongs were keen to wander; as I glided down steeper hills, the speed accelerated exponentially. Pat yelled behind me, “remember what I told you, keep your feet in a V shape, like a pizza slice!” I will never see pizza in the same way again… 🙂
After 2 hours of instruction and lots of practice, the ski experience ended with all us comfortable on the slopes and I even thought I can definitely do this again. Perhaps with Mr. New Yorker next time?
First Time on a Toboggan
As a second “first time” experience, I have never been on a toboggan. I didn’t even know what it was until I googled it. It is actually just a simple plastic sled used on a snowy hill with one little handle on either side to guide the sled down the winding path. Sounds simple enough, right?
Val Thorens has France’s longest toboggan run at 6 km with a 45 minutes descend. That’s pretty steep! I put on my bravest face and joined the others on our 8 minutes climb using the Péclet Funitel cable car, and arrived at the foot of the Péclet glacier. Down the steep hills we went!
I tumbled and rolled in my toboggan (falling out many times) as I made my way towards to the finish line. I ended up taking 1.5 hours to get through the toboggan run instead of the estimated 45 minutes. Not bad for a newbie, although I came second last (shh!). Time for a group selfie to celebrate 🙂
How was the food?
Did you know that cooking is especially difficult at a higher altitude? I learned about this after watching one of those Heston Blumenthal cooking shows.
Water boils at 90 degrees in the Alps, and therefore to simply boil a perfect egg would take some serious skills.
We started off our culinary adventure with Le Montana, headed by Jeremy Gillon, who has just won his first Michelin star with l’Epicurien, a sister restaurant. Beautifully presented three-courses featured fresh local produce from the Savoie region.
This was followed by an evening at The Steak Club, a meal of scrumptious steaks and snails (we were in France after all!):
And then the next morning, an early brunch debauchery at the 5-star Hotel Koh I Nor:
I’ve been a lover of all things cured, especially ham. So when browsing the local food market, I was particularly drawn to this basket of extremely moorish sausages. I couldn’t resist not bringing some back for Mr. New Yorker to savour! 🙂
As my flight landed back on British soil, it was mission accomplished indeed. Hopefully next time, my American friends will be prepared to see me at the finish line a little bit later as I no longer have an excuse to hop on a snowmobile and race them down the slopes. 🙂
I flew with British Airways from Heathrow to Lyon Airport (flights are 3 times daily). Then via a 2.5 hours taxi from Lyon Airport to Val Thorens. Thanks for the hospitality at MMV Les Arolles at Val Thorens.
New Yorker Meets London visited Val Thorens via Lyon Airport as a guest of the Val Thorens Tourism Board and Lyon Airport. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to explore Val Thorens and learn more about what Lyon Airport had to offer. As always, opinions are my own.