What is it about a white Christmas? We seem obsessed about it in this country, ferociously reminiscing about ‘that year when I was a child, when Freddos only cost 10p and there was so much snow that the schools were closed for weeks’. It seems strange that our continental cousins don’t seem to suffer from such an affliction and we as a nation, seem almost too happy to chide them on their lack of gratitude for the daily snowball fights. Well more fool us because as the TwoMenAboutTown EU tour was conceived and implemented not long after I had agreed to spend Christmas away from home and with snow having been in very short supply this year after trips to the thermometer exploding heights of Croatia, it came as a very welcome contrast to the P. family.
Shoehorning our almost-closest neighbour into the mix seemed obvious but I felt I had to make one thing perfectly clear to all my travelling companions: if I was going to go to France and commit myself to a whole week of their insufferable smugness over the deliciously acceptable wine, picture perfect snow covered mountain peaks and local community investment I was damn well going to do it in style. With that in mind, SkiTotal seemed to have it all; they had the wood burning stove heated mountain chalet, the included ski pass, the flexible payment options and most importantly they had a Dave.
The best way I can describe a Dave to those of you who have never enjoyed the benefits of a ski chalet holiday before, is that he is the closest thing to a live-in maid that you are ever likely to get without investing in the frilly knickers or running an illegal sweatshop yourself. He cooks, he cleans, he laughs politely at your bad jokes and he even makes a new cake every day. Now some may say that seven 12 inch cakes over the course of a week is too much but thankfully the Family P. and our extended In-laws take that sort of thing as a challenge and had no problem nailing the lot.
A couple of promo shots from SkiTotal of our actual chalet, used because mine were absolute tosh.
So we’ve established that we all need a Dave when on holiday, but what else did SkiTotal have in store for us? Well, apart from a very nice chalet in the tiny village of Le Fornet on the outskirts of Val D ‘Isere, in which our Dave had worked his magic in keeping the whole place clean and tidy, the main attraction of the area is the skiing and as much as they would probably like to they can’t control the weather. But lucky for me the ski Gods looked down kindly during the time of our visit and gave us a bucketload of snow to kick us off with and wall to wall sunshine after that. The sky was as blue as a sailor’s trousers and as I threw myself off the top of a mountain with nothing more than a pair of high-tech lolly sticks to hold back the tsunami of indignity that a middleclass, overweight Englishman trying to ski in France attracts, I was thankful for all the small mercies offered to me.
Some of these pistes are just mentalist, I mean why would you ever want to ski down that?
Incredible views were on offer from almost every angle.
There are a number of bars both around town and also up the slopes for those of you who just can’t get through the day without topping up your unit allocation, drinks are not too pricey once you are back in town but at about €10 a pint (depending on what you are drinking) you can expect to get thoroughly rinsed if you decide to give it large in the establishments half way up. Mrs P’s favorite feature by far however was the tea and cake patisserie shop Oh! Crazy Barm’s. The patisserie were spectacular with no exceptions (we had one of everything, for research purposes you understand) and we learned, after having a lovely conversation with the manager, that all the cakes were made on site in the basement. If you are a fan of French cake (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) then not stopping by should you be in the area is simply criminal.
What is Christmas ski holiday in France if you don’t see the big F.C. on the slopes?
Fire and Ice – awesome.
The ski runs in Val D ’Isere are numerous, varied and really rather good. I must admit that I didn’t manage to experience all of the slopes on offer but between the family almost everything that could be skied across this mountain was negotiated and traversed with varying degrees of success. If you are like me and prefer your skiing to be at the PG end of things then the green slopes are gentle if challenging in places but as soon as you go up a notch the pressure increases. For all those of you who enjoy the experience of flirting with death on a minute by minute basis then you’ll look at sheer cliffs like “La Face” or the volume of off piste opportunities with a frenzied glee; multiple blue, red and black runs were popular but were not over run with people during our visit and we managed to find enough space to enjoy the scenery whatever level we were at.
The Nursery Slopes, I am happy to admit that I spent a disproportionate amount of time here while the 4 year old children laughed at my foreign incompetence as they shot past me at 40 miles an hour.
Val D ‘Isere from the cable car, the town looked amazing from the mountain.
Raclette Cheese! Can you imagine a better invention to have ever graced a dinner table?
An Incredible ice sculpture in the middle of town – no filter on this photo if you can believe it, the lighting was amazing.
At this point you might be wondering if Dave will feature in our Brexit discussion? Well I’m afraid not if only for the simple reason that he is as English as a fish and chip butty with extra gravy. I tried multiple contacts during my time on the slopes but none were happy to share their Brexit stories. However, all is not lost because it just so happens that I work with many people of the French persuasion and at least one ski-fan who agreed to take part in this little experiment. My mate Clem is a home grown Frenchman who lives and works in Britain. He sees Brexit as the disappointing result of multiple decisions that have led to a divided community and the looming theat of protectionism and exclusion. I understand the desire to ‘reclaim’ the British ‘National identity’, afterall the French cling on to theirs closer than a vacuum packed limpet, but Clem is also clear that Brexit is not the right way to do that.
“What upset me the most about the result was that people voted without realising what they were voting for… I am lucky that I can move freely with my job and I don’t think Brexit will impact my work too much but I don’t want to have to relocate. I don’t want to have to queue longer at passport control, I don’t want people to tell me that Britain is better off without people like me and most importantly, I don’t want to see a country that I love with passion becoming so self-centred that it forgets all about the things that made Britain great in the first place.”
My mate Clem.
The national confusion of the French over Brexit seemed relatively universal as from the people that we did speak to about it, everyone wished us well and hoped that after all the arguments are finished, we can all just get on with the full time job of trying to stop Trump from destroying the world. I can sign up to that.
So big thanks to SkiTotal for hosting us this Christmas. You never know, with a bit of practice, we might even be back next year!
Thank you for joining us on our adventure, if you want to catch up with everything that’s happened so far you can check these out: