Tuesday 23 January 2018

Avoriaz: Thrills, spills and the piste de résistance

The drive up to the Alpine resort of Avoriaz was as beautiful as it was hair-raising. As the bus swung around each hairpin bend, fellow passengers gasped at the view of fir trees laden down with snow.

Huge icicles hung from the few expanses of unexposed rock, and the vertical drops on either side of the road drew the breath of those in the window seats.

We crept further up the mountain until we reached what seemed to be the highest peak, and our final destination.

The sound of jingling bells drew nearer as horse-drawn sleighs arrived to bring us to the apartments. As Avoriaz is a completely car-free, ski-in ski-out destination, we passed the last skiers of the day on our way.

Located in the heart of the French Portes du Soleil region, the resort sits on the Swiss border, with some of the runs leading down into the neighbouring country.

The sun was beginning to set when I arrived. In the fading light, I could see some of the runs from my balcony, twisting between patches of trees and cascading down the mountain side.

All of them looked alarmingly steep, in my nervous eyes. It was my first time skiing, bar a few hours on a dry slope when I was eight. I was confident that had prepared me for nothing, so it was with trepidation that I headed to the equipment hire shop the next morning.

After my instructor helped to clip my boots into place, I plodded over to the nursery run, a gaggle of toddlers at my knees. The slightest of slopes seemed like sheer drops, but I gradually got the hang of steering and stopping. Soon we were on a lift, headed for the real thing.

All of the runs are lined with rich forestry, making me feel I was strolling through woodland rather than hurtling down a mountain. When I became more steady, I allowed myself moments of reverie looking out over the vista.

But soon I had graduated to the blue slopes, where I was passed out by speeding adults rather than little bunnies, and the time for wistful gazing had passed.

After a few hours, my knees shook, my thighs burned, and I realised that I was exhausted. Luckily, this moment coincided with lunch time.

There's a fantastic choice of restaurants in Avoriaz, mainly of the brasserie variety. Coming in from the cold, a pot of fondue and a chilled glass of white was exactly what I needed. At evening time, places such as Le Bistrot and Le Grand Café serve up dishes like confit of duck, guinea fowl and rich terrines.

The après ski in Avoriaz is more chilled than the bigger resorts, with the emphasis on a good meal rather than partying to the small hours. This was my idea of perfection, as I carted my weary limbs back to my apartment.

The snow was gently falling, covering the ski tracks of the day, when I collapsed on to my bed. I was asleep within seconds, and when I awoke the next morning I realised my dreams had all taken place on the slopes. It could mean only one thing – either I had consumed far too much fondue, or I had, against all odds, been bitten by the skiing bug.

Getting there

Pierre & Vacances (0044 870 0267 145; pv-holidays.com) have a variety of self-catering properties available, starting at €870 for a week in a one-bed apartment sleeping two to four. Fly to Geneva with Aer Lingus (0818 365044; aerlingus.com) from €165.


Irish Independent

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