PICTURE PERFECT PISTE
France|December 2020
After a decade away from the slopes Janet Brice finds her ski legs in val d'arly, a hidden gem in the shadow of Mount Blanc
After a decade away from the slopes Janet Brice finds her ski legs in Val d’Arly, a hidden gem in the shadow of Mont Blanc

Look up,” shouted Hervé my ski instructor. I did and there in front of me was Mont Blanc glistening with a fresh sprinkling of snow. This awe-inspiring sight suddenly came into view during my first-morning skiing in Val d’Arly, a hidden gem of an Alpine resort where I was hoping to find my ski legs after a decade.

The pure joy of skiing in the shadow of the highest mountain in the Alps overcame all my nerves as I navigated my first red run of the day. Following a night of heavy snow, the summit shimmered in the sun, offset by a sapphire sky. There was no time to waste, I had to get a photograph before the light changed.

Instinctively I schussed through the virgin snow until I arrived at the best vantage point. Surprisingly, I came to a dramatic stop creating a spray (almost like a seasoned pro) before grabbing my camera to capture the moment. It’s amazing how quickly you find your ski legs when there’s so much sightseeing to be done.

Spirit of Christmas

From the imposing presence of Mont Blanc to picture-perfect villages and fairytale woodland runs, this is the most scenic resort I have ever experienced. The luxury of space makes it a top choice for those of you seeking a family ski holiday or weekend break with safe social distancing.

The scenery is so magnificent there is a distraction at every parallel turn

Nestling between Aravis and Beaufortain, Val d’Arly is made up of four villages: CrestVoland/Cohennoz, Flumet/ Saint-Nicolas-la-Chapelle, NotreDame-de-Bellecombe and La Giettaz en Aravis. The first three are part of the extensive Espace Diamant ski area while La Giettaz en Aravis links to Portes du Mont Blanc.

Unlike its more glamorous neighbour Megève, this cluster of traditional Savoyard farming villages provide a breath of fresh air and are a popular getaway for French families.

Although I visited before restrictions were in place, my small group enjoyed the space to ski across wide pistes, jump on a chairlift without queuing and bag the best table in our mountain restaurant for a hearty Savoie lunch. What more could you ask for?

How about the magic of Christmas which lingers in these villages way beyond Twelfth Night? After a 75-minute hop from Geneva Airport via Albertville, venue of the 1992 Winter Olympics, we were greeted with the sight of decorated fir trees and twinkling lights – and this was at the end of January! Worth considering if you want to plan a festive family ski break but not pay those seasonally hiked prices.

DID YOU KNOW You can ski with eagles during the four-day Festival Les Aigles à Ski each February

Feeling like a kid waking up on Christmas Day (after leaving a grey England) we checked into the rustic Caprice des Neiges in Crest-Voland, where the festive theme continued with garlands over the roaring fireplace and a scatter of sheepskin rugs. And just like a gift that keeps on giving, I opened my shutters to discover a ski lift outside the window. Such a relief to know we wouldn’t have to go far in cumbersome boots, carrying heavy skis, to access the slopes.

Like riding a bike

But how had skiing changed since I last ventured out on the slopes? This new world of magic carpets gently pulling you uphill while undercover would have to wait as I embarked on the new craze of skibob, which even has its own World Cup event hosted in the village.

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