Skiing – but not as you know it

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For the last year and a half, Steve and I had been navigating a world of hospitals, surgeries, and treatments for cancer. It had been relentless and, more than anything, we needed to get away – to not think about scan results, side effects, or next steps. We needed some time together, the great outdoors and even greater food. So, when the opportunity for a mini-break in a finely catered chalet in the beautiful alpine village of Morzine came, we leapt at it and booked the flights. 

That said, this getaway needs some context. Steve has never skied, and despite being allowed to travel wasn’t really in a fit state to start learning. I am a peculiar skier – technically proficient but terrified of heights, a weird combination that can see me take a wrong turn down a perfectly traversable slope where I can “see too far” (I know, stupid) and end up trembling on the edge of the piste, unable to turn and considering whether I should just take off my skis and walk, or settle in and wait for frostbite and hypothermia to take me. Up till now, I had taken our kids on budget ski trips whilst Steve stayed home and ate all the food I disapprove of in my absence. 

All to say, a late-season ski holiday was not an obvious choice for Mr and Mrs Legg. It was, however, the option in front of us and to be honest the offer of a roaring fire with canapés and  a home-cooked dinner was all we needed to hear. This was to be no ordinary skiing holiday. We were travelling to Chilly Powder, a family run hotel where guests are treated as an extension of the family. From the moment you arrive, everything is taken care of. The team (I hesitate to call them staff) introduce themselves by name and show genuine interest not just in your stay but in you. 

Within minutes of arriving, they had arranged for a mobile ski company, Doorstep Skis, to arrive, measure my feet and kit me out for the next day. Everything was stored in the garage and the boots were kept in a warm room. It couldn’t have been easier. 

We arrived early evening after an hour’s transfer from the airport. Dinner was being served. This is where the extended family feel of Chilly Powder really kicks in: meals are served in community. Guests gather around the fire at 7.30pm for canapes and a drink, and then take their places together on large dining tables. Truthfully, we weren’t entirely sure what we thought about this before we arrived. A combination of shyness and just needing some space left us a little apprehensive about sitting down with people we didn’t know, but actually, dinner turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

There were around 20 adults staying and we met such a wonderful array of people it meant that our conversations were rich and varied.  We were the only guests who had never been before and it was clear that this warm and welcoming hotel was a place that people revisit. Each couple we met had a different story of how they had discovered Chilly Powder and why they now wouldn’t go anywhere else, or how they had brought friends to share in their discovery. 

For some, the joy was in the childcare. Chilly Powder welcomes children as warmly as it does adults; it runs a crèche and helps the older children access ski school. Steve and I were often in earlier than the others and saw the kids being taken out for crêpes or to play in the park before being brought home in time for tea. 

For everyone, a key draw was the location. Chilly Powder is a 5-minute walk, even in ski boots, from the bottom of the Les Prodain Express. This super-fast lift whisks you up to 1,800m to find the vast ski slopes of Avoriaz. Avoriaz itself is one of the best entry points to the Pistes du Soleil, considered to be the largest connected ski area in the world: 12 resorts and more than 600km of pistes. From here, everything is accessible: beginner slopes, a World Cup downhill run, hiking trails, beautifully groomed slopes and hair-raising off-piste action (the Swiss Wall – something I didn’t even begin to contemplate!). You can even ski into Switzerland. 

And you can ski home. No long uncomfortable bus rides with skis digging into your neck and your boots wedged under a seat, no long slog at the end of the day; you can literally ski into the garden, where the hot tub awaits. No wonder people go back. 

So, how did this decidedly trepid couple manage on a skiing holiday? Good question. We did get up slowly and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, we did explore the town of Morzine and find more places to eat. But, we also took the fast lift to Avoriaz to enjoy the snow.

Avoriaz itself is a delight. Perched on the edge of a ravine, in the winter season  it is a no-car zone and instead has a fleet of horse-drawn sleighs acting as taxis. To get anywhere you ski, take a lift or relive your childhood fantasy with jingling bells thrown in. It’s a proper winter wonderland. 

Across the piste from the top of Les Prodains Express is a restaurant and bar (La Tanière) with swathes of outside tables and deckchairs facing out over the valley of Les Prodains and a great set of green, blue, and red runs. It was perfect. We crossed the piste, chose a seat, ordered a coffee, applied the sunscreen and, when I felt brave, I went off to explore, leaving Steve in the sunshine with a book. 

He was happy; I was nervous, but swiftly discovered that the resort is cautious with its grading of slopes. I grew in confidence that even red slopes would be manageable and that so long as I stayed within the bowl of the mountain in front of me, my vertigo wouldn’t kick in.

It was joyous, and warm – unseasonably so. One day the temperature rose to nearly 20 degrees which left me wilting in my ski gear and Steve sitting in a tee shirt sipping a beer. But the snow was good. At the bottom of the slopes it was slushy, right down in Morzine it was more grass than snow, but the beauty of being in such a vast collection of resorts was that there was always a slope in the shade and a lift above the freezing line. 

Another day I set out for another section of the mountain – and discovered a range of gentle pistes with stunning views. These would never scare me and instead I practised my parallel turns, toyed with carving, but mostly just enjoyed going on a really good journey and not just repeating the same runs. These pistes could have connected me with Morzine, Les Gets or Montriond, but, wanting to actually spend time with my husband, I didn’t stray too far. 

There are walking trails here too, that in another year we might have explored in snowshoes and together taken in the views. The kind of trails I like; walking downhill and catching a lift back to the top to a welcoming bar. 

But not this year. This was a year for being gentle, enjoying each other’s company, and taking in the beauty the world has to offer. Chilly Powder gave us just that. We were able to sit back and relax, to let other people take care of us and to explore at our own pace. It couldn’t have been more perfect. 

Chilly Powder operates all year round, so it’s perfect whether you’re looking to hit the ski slopes or hop on your mountain bike. There are extensive winter holiday packages on offer for individuals, groups and families with winter prices starting from €995 per person per week based on two adults sharing a double or twin bedroom or €2,760 per week for two adults and two children sharing a standard family room. Prices based on a half board basis with wine included in evening meals.

Childcare facilities are also available with prices starting at €315 per week and ski school for €295 per week. The chalet also offers self-catered and B&B options in both summer and winter, and is available for weddings and events.

To learn more or to making a booking, contact Chilly Powder on info@chillypowder.com or 020 7289 6958 or visit chillypowder.com

Bekah Legg

Having trained initially as a teacher and working both in the UK and overseas, I have had a diverse and challenging career. I’ve worked within charities, the VAWG (violence against women and girls) sector, as well as the Church, and currently combine those three things in one job leading Restored (restored-uk.org). Judges 19:30 calls God’s people to speak up and do something about violence against women, I’m working to answer that call.
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