Friday 9 December 2016

On slippery slope after tasting life as a ski VIP

Good company, fine food and splendid accommodation make the experience of an Alpine skiing holiday especially magnificent, discovered Karen Creed

Published 07/11/2011 | 06:00

If there is one holiday you need to be prepared for, it's skiing. A little too late for that as I whipped off the stilettos and eased my feet into snow boots. The taxi driver seemed baffled when I mentioned I was off on a ski holiday. "Aren't you a little under-packed for that?" he asked, gesturing towards a suitcase that could easily pass as carry on.

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Now I was worried that I had forgotten the essentials. Going straight from a night out to the airport was ambitious, but I was relying on the fact that a passport and ski attire was all I needed for this holiday.

The ski company would take care of the rest, right?

For the first time I wasn't on a cheap ski package that requires you to pack everything from towels to the toilet roll. For the first time I was going for the all-inclusive chalet experience.

I was, however, slightly dubious about sharing a house with strangers.

Also, I like eating out; in fact it is one of my favourite parts of a ski break. I wasn't wholly convinced I would be content to dine en masse at a log table each night of the holiday. So instead of a full week, I opted for a four-day getaway to taste the concept of this ski break with all the trimmings.

As a latecomer to skiing, I view every holiday as a chance not just to improve my ski turns, but to tick another destination off my list.

Choosing this holiday in Morzine meant I was not only sampling a chalet for the first time, instead of a hotel or apartment, but also another French ski resort.

Morzine is not just champion for world-class ski events but high-class tourism too, evident from the string of wine bars and posh stores that engulf the centre.

A string of bars and casual takeaways bring a refreshing balance of budget options to the town.

Rather than peruse its best offerings on arrival, though, we were swiftly escorted to Chalet Delphine for a view of what would be our cocoon of comfort for the coming days. If ever I wanted to feel like a VIP, I did so in the next few moments. Our two hosts greeted us as though they had been anticipating our arrival for weeks. Big smiles and make-yourself-at-home vibes were returned by us kicking off our snow boots and heading upstairs for a feast of tartlets, and platters of cheese and meats. After devouring home-made pastries, we ventured to the mountain tops.

Typically, Highlife the company I travelled with, recommends an itinerary for their guests that involves morning ski, followed by lunch at your leisure (and own expense), afternoon skiing, apres-ski drinks or ski detox in the chalet before a hearty dinner laid on each evening. Arriving late morning, we had missed the first half of the day. But no time is spared in making sure you get your money's worth.

Having ski and boot hire all organised in advance means it is a swift process from picking them up to getting on the slopes. Part of the package is guided touring which, depending on your guide and your ability, means you can cover a resort in a matter of hours. Seeing as we were all keen for some high mileage, our guide swiftly took us from the graceful blue slopes towards steep reds filled with moguls and jumps if we fancied it.

My ski legs weren't there just yet, but I persisted down the mountain in a zig-zag fashion, somehow managing to keep up with the rest of the group.

I happened to be with avid skiers, driving me to rev up my speed. At times I bolted down uncontrollably, heading straight through the net barriers, earning the name Danger Mouse for the remainder of the holiday.

By the time the last ski-lift closed, I had taken more than a few tumbles.

While everyone else was raring for apres-ski drinks I was savouring a ski detox, knowing there were facilities for such back at the chalet.

A waft of shortbread awaited us as we arrived, but I didn't waste any time in putting on my bathrobe and getting first in line for the sauna and Jacuzzi. A siesta also goes down well after a day on the slopes. The chalet has all the amenities of a four-star hotel. They typically have five or six bedrooms, so most will cater for up to 12 guests. While I didn't know any of my fellow chalet companions before arriving, I was lucky in that we all got on exceptionally well. It helped that we dined well, our chalet chef Bernard wooing us with a three-course extravaganza each night.

Dishes such as stuffed pork and sauteed potatoes were enough to fill us until the next afternoon. But we all managed to find the room for his home-made desserts and platters of smelly cheeses. The menu changes daily and with an endless supply of drinks, the only decision left each night was, should we retreat to the couch and roaring fire for a few more drinks, or head out on the town.

On the one evening we mustered enough energy to go out, our chalet hosts guided us to the best bars in town.

Waking up groggy the next morning, there was immense relief seeing Bernard at the stove, ready to whip up eggs Benedict, pancakes or whatever we wanted for breakfast. Two Nutella crepes and a large cafe au lait did the trick. This, coupled with a day of energetic skiing and even mastering a black slope without falling, was enough to make me forget about a sore head.

Later that evening a deep tissue massage was a reality check that a ski holiday doesn't need to leave you aching.

The only problem with this type of holiday is that I am reluctant to return to budget skiing.

I've been given a taste of something that I don't ever want to give up.

GETTING THERE

The Highlife season runs from December 3, 2011, to April 22, 2012, with prices starting from €805 for adults and €658 for children under 12. Short breaks are also available starting from €499. Prices include minibus transfers to and from your chalet, accommodation, food, wines, a complimentary bar, and Highlife ski guiding.

For full details on Highlife's range of ski chalet holidays in France check out www.highlife.ie. Call 01 677 1100 or email info@highlife.ie

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