Mini skis, bucket lists, roast beefs and frogs
Val Thorens in one word? AMAZING. As we pulled into the resort I was instantly taken by the clear blue sky, bright white surrounds and charming chalet buildings. You’d think (at 23 years old) seeing snow in the mountains wouldn’t cause too much fuss but I’m not going to lie, I was EXTREMELY excited and (even after the 4am wake-up) I just wanted to jump out of the hire car and run around like a boisterous child. I knew I was going to enjoy it there.
So, check-in. We stayed in the 4* luxury Le Hameau du Kashmir and I can honestly say it exceeded my already high expectations. This is certainly a unique residence to any I have seen before in the French Alps. Brightly coloured, plush furnishings meet dark wood bringing Eastern culture to the Alps. Throughout the residence there are connections and comparisons between the French Alps and the Kashmir region – my favourite being the sets of photos dotted around the residence - two pictures standing together, one representing the Alps and one symbolic of Kashmir. These vary from goats and chalets to traditional head-dresses and flowers- a nice cultural touch.
Our apartment was spacious, cosy and warm, offering stunning mountain views from the bedrooms and balcony – and trust me, with all the exploring we were doing I definitely looked forward to crashing into bed every night into a deep sleep.
First things first – Ski hire. We hired from the Sport 2000 Eskiador shop, which was about a 5 minute walk from the residence on clear roads. The staff were immediately welcoming, helpful and efficient in finding our perfect fitting skis. Now, I’m only 5ft3 and being in the company of people who are a good few inches taller meant I was destined to receive some banter at some point. The shop staff and the Ski Collection team found it highly amusing how little my skis were in comparison to the average person and got the nick name ‘mini skis’. I’m glad I unintentionally provide light entertainment at times!
Food, glorious food. I LOVE good food so what else can I say really, other than I guarantee you would not be disappointed with the mountain cuisine. We had a variety of meals from gorgeous goats cheese salads to big steak dinners and fondue, I tried sesame seed tuna (half raw, half cooked) and devoured delicious desserts such as lemon meringue and tarte tatin. The only thing I didn’t take a liking to was the special Genepi shot at the end of our dinners – an alcoholic digestif made from mountain flowers. I asked if it was stronger than Sambuca and was told “ohh noo, it’s much lighter”. Liars ;) ...So if you have a more delicate palette, like myself, trying one will be more than enough.
La Folie Douce – the ultimate highlight of my trip. Arriving via snowmobile, sampling their amazing cuisine and then chilling in the VIP area with some Champagne – I couldn’t have asked for a better lunchtime. But unlike its reputation, it’s not all crazy party antics. My experience was rather relaxed. When the music kicks in about 3pm, the place comes alive and the quiet cosmo-esque mountain restaurant suddenly has a chilled Ibiza bar feel (a little different from the Malaysia club we visited one night which provides an underground party scene – a must visit if you love to throw shapes to club tunes). People of all ages were bopping in their seats and chatting away just enjoying the sunshine.
I can imagine why La Folie Douce is party central in the middle of the season, but I think even families would enjoy the atmosphere at La Folie Douce (especially late season when the resort is a little quieter). From next winter there will be foot passenger lifts up to La Folie Douce so everyone can get a bit of the action – I strongly recommend at least one visit. There was one thing I had to do before leaving this amazing place– I had to cross a certain activity off my bucket list...Dance on the table Austrian après-ski style with a drink in my hand – CHECK. Well, that is what the place is famous for after all, be rude not to!
Skiing – dry slopes to the real thing. We had two private lessons with ESF instructor Arthur, a young guy from near the Spanish/French border with a love for all things ski, surf and partying. When it comes to teaching beginners, he probably felt like he got the short straw, but Arthur was really encouraging and had a lot of patience which we really appreciated. ESF make it essential criteria for instructors to speak to a certain level of English and this was no exception, Arthur’s English was excellent (better than any attempt of mine to speak French). There was one comical moment though when he slipped back into French by accident and clocked my extremely puzzled face in which he laughed and said “sorry I forgot for a minute you were English”.
As always, the banter started about the English roast beefs vs. the French frogs [his words not mine] and the differences between our two countries like how we drive on the left and use miles not km....Anyway, by the middle of the second lesson we were already tackling Blue runs and zooming down the mountain at what felt like 1000mph– which may I add didn’t seem to faze the little children one bit, they really have no fear. There’s something quite exhilarating and “free” about skiing down a mountain and I now have that skiing bug!
The round up – Personally, I cannot wait to return to Val Thorens for a ski holiday. It has a great mix for all kinds of holiday makers from families, to young groups and older couples but also caters for those who want to take a relaxed approach or to go full throttle. I am the kind of person that would like to ski in the morning, explore/do activities in the afternoon, party at night but crash into bed for a good night’s sleep in a quiet place and I feel Val Thorens provides the perfect mix for all these preferences. I’m sure I’ll return to this resort in the very near future being a newly ski convert.