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Spring Skiing: French/Swiss Alps – Hautes Savoire.

We were exceptionally keen to get some planks back on our feet, after a three-year gap. I’m not complaining – after all we did attempt (as non-cyclists) to cycle our way across the whole of Europe for charity, in the interim, but that’s actually a whole separate book! It’s not like we hadn’t traveled about a bit, but we had all missed the white stuff and were keen to get on the slopes again.

But first we had more pressing matters, we were in France, it was evening, we needed sustenance. We happened to stumble on a gem of a restaurant called Le Telemark, in Abondance. Duck to die for, great wine and choco heaven dessert. A perfect start.

When going for a short or week long break it makes sense to go somewhere where you already know the runs and restaurants.

Having previously spent a couple of seasons there we opted for Chatel on the French Swiss border.

Our favourite little restaurant is La Cheminee (right next to the tele-cabine lift). (photos). It doesn’t just look quaint, it also delivers on food. Local specialities such as raclette cheese, fondue, genuine mountain charchuturie plus an authentic huge fireplace, where a different meat is roasted on a daily basis. A word of warning – it gets hot in there – you’ll only need a t-shirt, not ski gear, if you want to be comfortable.

I have to be honest – the price of the lift pass was extortionate – 227 Euros and although the Portes Du Soleil ski area claims to have more ski kilometers than anywhere else, and links 12 villages many of these km’s are annoying narrow link runs into dead-end places (some worth a visit, some not!)

During our Spring stay, the links and lifts to Switzerland were often closed, making many parts inaccessible. Easily accessible, however, was the larger (traffic free) resort of Avoriaz, with it’s crazy looking wood cladded buildings and Morzine with its plethora of blue runs.

On the whole, the weather was not in our favor. Four days flat light and/or snow, annoying but tolerable. Then one almighty horrendous storm hit one afternoon. Thunder and lightning ensured the lifts were closed (quite rightly) for safety’s sake. Meaning everyone had to funnel down the only run back down to the village, this mainly narrow, mud-patched, red-run was now littered with beginners, some still standing, many not! Most were not really up for the challenge. The giant marble sized hail-stones probably didn’t help install any confidence in them and I have to confess I wasn’t a fan of them either. The whole experience was extremely unpleasant and painful on any exposed skin. Not, however, as bad an experience as the British couple in Abondance (next village over) who were catapulted out of their cable car when a tree was blown over onto it by the high winds of the same storm. Somehow they survived the 5m fall unhurt – probably something to do with the previous 4 day’s soft, fresh snow. All in all – a day I’d rather not repeat and in fairness in over 20 years of skiing I’ve never experienced anything quite like it! I actually felt as if I were falling out of love with skiing. It seemed like a lot of effort, discomfort and now even danger for not a lot of reward. I hadn’t even seen one mountain view since we arrived. It crossed my mind that maybe in future I should just visit glorious little French mountain restaurants and eat cheese for the week instead!

The following day with the wind on the mountain still high, we opted for a snow-shoe walk instead. Conditions on the Chatel (France) to Morgins (Switzerland) pass, where the walking trail heads through the shelter of the woods and around a frozen lake, were good and at last the scenery was stunning. It was the perfect ante-dote to the day before. I decided to add snow shoe walking to my future cheese eating itinerary.

Thankfully, before heading back home we were blessed with a couple of blue sky and powder days. Somehow even just this tiny taster of perfect skiing conditions and the re-installment of the views put me back in love with skiing the mountains again. Full future itinerary was again re-instated.

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About the author

Donna Marie Ashton

Prior to writing Donna admits to dabbling in at least 20 different jobs, with a variety of interest levels! She relishes in the unexpected experiences associated with new places and people. Her insatiable appetite for learning has found her studying subjects as diverse as Ancient Eastern Medicine, Science, English language, Midwifery, Nordic walking and Bushcraft. She describes herself as a bit of a knowledge junkie.
When the kids left home and the dog died, Donna and her occasionally inconvenient subject matter (aka husband Iain), both non-cyclists and in their late 40’s, set off to attempt a ride from The Atlantic to The Black Sea. Donna’s book THE BEARDLESS ADVENTURER & HER INCONVENIENCE is the humorous account of this attempt to cross Europe.
Since leaving emergency ambulance work, Donna has possessed an irrepressible desire to live life to the full, as she says, you can’t plan when your time is up. She and her husband currently live on Dartmoor National Park, UK running an outdoor activity center for children.

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