It had been a toss up between sunbathing in Lanzarote for February half-term or our first ever family skiing holiday. Sitting in the sunshine on the balcony of our hotel in the French Alps I felt I had got the best of both worlds. In front of me the view was bright blue sky and undulating slopes of snowy white punctuated by pine trees and pretty chalets. It was just as you would imagine a ski resort to be.
To be honest, I hadn’t really been looking forward to this holiday. At the wrong end of my forties I wavered between thinking myself brave/foolhardy as I prepared for my skiing debut.
Deciding preparation was the key to ensuring I came home with both my dignity and limbs intact, I booked myself on to a day-long intensive beginners’ course at an indoor ski centre near my home.
“Did you enjoy it?” asked my instructor after almost seven hours’ initiation to the sport. “Endure, more like,” I grimaced back, but the day had at least given me the confidence to actually put skis on correctly, ride on a button lift and snowplough.
So a few weeks later and inspired by the Winter Olympics (I could always just sit on a tea tray) I found myself, husband Ian, and two children James, 10, and Nina, eight, flying to Geneva where we had hired a taxi to take us to our resort of Praz-sur-Arly, an hour’s drive away in France.
“I can’t see any snow yet,” said an anxious James as our car climbed the winding road to our destination. Then we turned a corner and we were in the middle of a Christmas card scene. Fir trees twinkled with lights and snow blanketed the ground.
Our base for the week was the Belambra Club – a five-minute walk from the slopes. And trust me, when you are struggling to carry two sets of skis and poles, and wearing your clumpy ski boots, you don’t want to travel far.
Accommodation was small but comfortable – two bedrooms, a bathroom, toilet and a hallway with a bench where you can leave your ski gear. I imagine you are not expected to spend too much time indoors on this sort of holiday.
The hotel itself was bright and modern with a bit of an Ikea feel. It had a lounge area with comfy sofas and wi fi, and a bigger area with bar, pool tables and seating where the nightly entertainment (in French) took place. Belambra has 58 properties in France and Corsica, specialising in affordable family accommodation and its Kids’ Clubs offer care and activities for children from as young as three months and up to 17 years old.
We were half-board and the restaurant was first class. Each night there would be a different selection of freshly cooked main meals from steak tartare to lamb tagineand a beautiful salmon in a herb sauce as well as pasta and burgers, grilled in front of you on the hotplate. There was also a selection of starters, salads, hunks of French cheeses, bread and the most delicious desserts. And red and rosé wine on tap! Our evening meal was definitely something to look forward to after a day on the slopes.
First task on the morning after our arrival was a visit to a nearby ski-shop. It is handy if you know your weight in kilogrammes because this helps staff give you the skis most suitable for you. We also picked up our ski poles and boots. Helmets weren’t available for hire so we bought the children one at a cost of 40 euros each.
This area mainly caters for French holidaymakers with very few Brits. This was not an issue in the hotel and shops where we got by with our O-Level French and most places had staff who could speak some English but it was a bit of a problem when our children went to ski school. Lessons are essential for beginners to ensure you get the most out of your holiday.
James and Nina were booked into lessons every afternoon with French ski school ESF and found the first session really hard/character building. Instructor Patrick did speak some English but it was difficult at first for the children to keep up, but they as the week progressed they were fine and were soon whizzing down the slopes like pros.
A private lesson for an hour cost 40 euros for my husband and I but it was money well spent and while we didn’t quite match James and Nina’s progress, we acquitted ourselves with aplomb on the nursery slopes.
Praz-sur-Arly is small but chocolate box pretty, with snow covered chalets, shops and a few restaurants and it caters for all skiers of all abilities.
So will I be swapping my sun-lounger for skis in future? I’m certainly on the slippery slope to conversion.
PRICES for a seven-night stay at Belambra’s L’Alisier Club in Praz-sur-Arly start at £276 per person, half board. To book visit www.Belambra.co.uk
A WEEK of ski lessons for children with ESF is 126 euros (Sun-Fri, 3pm-5.30pm).
A COFFEE costs on average 2.5 euros, a crepe, 3 euros, a huge, gorgeous homemade cake from the local bakers, a reasonable 2-3 euros.