In 2017 I went skiing in Les Portes du Soleil. A major ski resort in the French Alps made up of thirteen mini-resorts spread between Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva. In winter it is a ski resort, in summer it’s a haven for mountain bikers who together utilise the downhill slopes all year round.
We stayed in the small French alpine town of Morzine. I can’t give a comparison to other resorts as this was my first experience skiing, I was 27 years old and a complete beginner. It served us well though as it had plenty to offer for all levels of skiing.
Morzine is split across a valley with Avoriaz to the east accessed via the Super Morzine cable car. You can also get to Avoriaz via a short bus journey up the road leading to Les Prodains where you hop on the Prodains Express cable car. You then have Les Gets to the West which can be accessed easily via the Pleney cable car which heads out of the West side of Morzine from the central part of town.
We had booked a little apartment on Airbnb which was located on the east side of Morzine across the suspension footbridge that connects the two sides. The view from the large glass frontage was beautiful, and on the first day and night we were treated to a massive dumping of snow, by massive I mean it snowed heavily for at least 36 hours. The apartment was a very cosy four-person setup that claimed it could handle six, although thank god we didn’t try.
As we were there for four nights, we could only squeeze in 3 full days of skiing. So upon arriving at the apartment we immediately set off for the slopes, combatting our lack of time by picking up our ski gear from Morz’na Sport on the way.
Never having had any ski lessons before we decided to begin with a blue run for starters. This should’ve been a doddle, but trying to ski for the first time in a blizzard was not a sensible thing to do. It is terrifying hurtling down a pisté at lightning pace with no idea of how I’d got up to that speed and even less of an idea of how I was going to stop. I quickly came to the conclusion that there was only one thing for it, continuously throw myself onto the floor in a hopeless attempt to control the speed. Having to witness the unbelievably small French children slide past with superior skill and pace whilst in a pile on the floor really rubbed salt in the wound. Especially so when I had to dig out my still-attached ski’s from eight feet of snow after running off-piste into the dense Alpine forest. After I’d managed to ungracefully fall around 150 yards I decided enough was enough and retreated to the après ski beer bar until the next day when we had lessons booked in Avoriaz.
The following day we set off on the short journey from Morzine to Avoriaz. We’d booked our ski lessons online prior to the holiday at Avoriaz Alpine Ski School with Mr Jean Marie A.K.A ‘Happy Feet’. Jean-Marie’s lessons helped alleviate the embarrassment of being truly awful at skiing by quickly teaching us what to do. His passion for skiing was so contagious we were hooked instantaneously.
As we had ventured up to Avoriaz for lessons, we ended up skiing around there for two of the three days. The area is more beginner friendly than Morzine allowing us to tackle easier slopes to build our confidence.
On the second full day of skiing, we had a particularly funny moment. We had ventured up out of Avoriaz town on several lifts to cross the border into Switzerland via Col du Fornet. We had three-quarters of the gang in tow as Briony stopped off for a coffee in a local cafe taking some well-deserved respite.
We decided to go down an epically long blue slope to get back to Avoriaz to re-join Bri. It consisted of horrendously steep slopes (for a blue) and long Mogul stretches. After tackling fog that left you with 10 metres visibility, I’d made it to the final long straight stretch. It was all plain sailing now, from here to the bar.
Jean-Marie’s lessons had built my confidence, I wanted to keep adding to the pace skiing faster and faster. The visibility had improved for my momentous return to Avoriaz and as I begin to recognise the final stretch it was pedal to the metal, I’m heading at breakneck-speed to the finish.
Up ahead though there’s a snowboarder that I’ll need to overtake. I don’t want to lose any of the momentum I’d built up. This damned snowboarder is slaloming all over the pisté though, swinging from left to right like there was no tomorrow and she is possibly as inexperienced as me. I decide while keeping one eye ahead and one eye on the snowboarder, to go for the overtake and to dodge her slaloming. It wasn’t going to be easy but it had to happen.
Jean-Marie’s safe-keeping, speed-taming snow plough was completely out of the window by this point. I had to take my opportunity to whizz past while the snowboarder was on the right of the piste. I could do a quick undertake using the left of the pisté and get past her no problem…
Suddenly she slalomed across to the left of the piste at exactly the point I am directly behind her in her blind spot. I yelped a defeated ‘watch out’ as we clattered into each other. We ended up in a pile on the floor, looking hazily around wondering what the hell had just happened.
I wasn’t hanging around for her to come out of her daze and set on at me. I had quickly got back up and started scooting on further down the piste, chuntering under my breath as I rode away. It certainly wasn’t my fault, come-on she slalomed into me!
A few minutes later her snowboarding party had caught me up and decided to give me a good dressing-down. ‘Learn some etiquette’, and ‘wanker’ were predominantly their choice of insults “superiorly” slung my way. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t proud of the incident. On your first ski trip you don’t enjoy a verbal dressing down, especially not from equally as ignorant and inexperienced tourists as yourself.
Pulling into what was meant to be my breakneck-speed finish I instead skied in with my tail between my legs and gave a defiant shrug to the snowboarding party. To my surprise, they cheekily requested an apology. Even more to my surprise, in the moment I obliged. I can only assume my subordinate conformity to their request was out of courtesy as she must’ve come out of it a lot more bruised than me.
Although had I known I’d have to spend the rest of the day crossing paths with them while they insufferably brought up the incident ranting ‘there’s the wanker’ upon every sighting of me, I’d have much rather saved face and given them the middle finger. Lesson learnt skiers and snowboarders do not mix.
For a first skiing trip, I have to admit I have returned an addict. I am already trying to work out where I can go next year.