Sheila Reid discovers top French ski resort Alpe d’Huez’s little-known neighbours make a quieter, more affordable base for a winter break.
Strike a rhythm and walk like a soldier,’ smiles Maël, my Nordic walking guide. ‘Leftfoot/right pole; right foot/ left pole – hit the ground slightly behind you with your pole, keeping your arm straight.
This gives maximum leverage to propel you forwards.’ And off we march round the frozen lake. Coming to a sharp incline, Maël says, ‘Ok, you need to change pace. Slow down and take shorter steps to save energy then, when you go downhill, place both poles firmly into the snow in front of you for support and walk towards them.’
And soon we’re all in rhythm on this glorious blue-sky January day: the sun is glistening on the snow, the air is crisp, the scenery is breathtaking – and we have the place to ourselves. The only noise is the ‘left/right and right/left’ buzzing in my head like a mantra. En route, we stop to admire the sea of cloud below us, caused by an inversion – a phenomenon where the air in the valley is cooler than the air on the mountain in the sun, causing cloud to form at a low level.
At the end of our 5k ‘march’ I’m soaked in sweat but I’m walking on air – my first Nordic walk in the mountains is a success and I’m bursting with enthusiasm. ‘Nordic walking is great training for downhill skiing as you use all your muscles – and it’s a good cardio workout too,’ enthuses Maël. ‘Great,’ I think, ‘that’s me ready for skiing tomorrow!’
QUAINT AND QUIET
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