Gareth’s First Ski Holiday – Club Med Val Thorens
What is it like to go skiing for the first time? Pentravel expert Gareth Hendricks has just returned from his very first ski holiday in France. Here’s what he had to say…
It starts with that unmistakeable crunching sound of snow under your feet on that first morning before you hit the piste (the piste is a the European name for a marked ski run, slope or trail on the mountain, and is often referred to as a ‘groomed run’ in North America). The giddy tingle of excitement starts to spread. You’ve been waiting for it for months and now you’ve arrived and you’re about to feel the rush as if it were your first outing. But on this occasion, it really was my first outing – and I was nervous and excited at the same time.
I had been given this once–in–a–lifetime opportunity to accompany a group of colleagues on an amazing Club Med incentive trip. Some of our group had been skiing before and all throughout the flight to Geneva they were swapping funny stories about past trips to towns and villages I hadn’t even heard of. While I knew I was in for a really good time, a little part of me was wondering whether I would make a complete fool out of myself as I had never even had a single skiing lesson on proper snow.
After a 3-hour transfer we arrived at Val Thorens in the French Alps, where my excitement got real when I set foot on the snow. We all settled in, got our gear and met up for lunch. Later, we explored the town, had a chat over dinner and an early night.
After breakfast the following morning I grabbed my stuff and headed out. Jessica from Club Med and a member of our group offered to pair up with me and gave me some tips on how to get started. Being a surfer, and having been sandboarding a few times, in my mind I thought “this can’t be that difficult” so the only thing I was waiting for was to get out there and get on the slopes. The crunch-crunch sound underfoot gave way to that sleek rasp of skis on snow and I was off… for all of ten metres when I took a humiliating tumble to the ground.
And so, trying not to get ahead of myself, I joined the beginner class to get the hang of things and learn the basics. My instructor was awesome, and he had so much patience with me as I fell again and again until finally, I caught my balance. In an instant, I was transformed into some “Lord of the Alps”. I didn’t dare change position for fear that my run would come to an untimely end. I probably only covered a tiny distance, but it felt amazing and I was hooked. Whatever happened over the coming week, my focus would be to recreate that feeling!
With proper lessons, I improved quickly and moved to a more advanced group where we were going down more challenging slopes. But, of course, I was impatient to join my friends on the more daring runs they were telling me about over dinner in the chalet each evening. Our host, a real veteran of the slopes, listened to this with a knowing smile, all the while providing more food, drinks and general hospitality than we could wish for.
On my last day, I decided to take on the blue run (not as advanced as the red, but still respectable). I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was pretty blown away when I got out of the cable car. Having never been on a snowy mountain before, being up there and taking in the views was a little bit overwhelming and I realised: this was by far the best trip I’ve been on and I will always remember it.
Big thanks to Pentravel for making it possible.