I hadn’t even put on skis for 11 years, having only been skiing twice in my teens, and half way through the first morning when sat on a ski lift up to one of the highest point in the resort instead of panicking, I found myself relaxing. It turns out that skiing is something that, once learnt, doesn’t really go away. Sure, I was a little rusty in places but after a few hours on the slopes most of that rustiness was shaken off. We’d spent most of the day before traveling; home to Heathrow, Heathrow to Geneva then a 4-5 hour shuttle bus into France, up a mountain in the dark (where we learned about the entire life of the girl sat behind us, who was talking loud enough for the driver to hear) to Les Arcs 1950. The resort itself is one of the smaller of the Les Arcs resorts, with less of a party atmosphere than Les Arcs 1800, which is the main resort on the mountain. Les Arcs 1950 is a small cluster of hotels, restaurants and bars and is designed for a ski in ski out system.
We were scheduled to have two refresher classes with a local instructor over both of our first mornings. These were booked in to bring us back up to speed and to help us find our level at the start of the week. Having only got to bed at midnight the night before after a full day of travelling, getting up at 7am to have all of our gear fitted ahead of a 9am class wasn’t the funnest way to start a holiday. With a head full of cotton wool I found myself stood in the middle of Les Arcs 1950 village on a pair of skis hoping I didn’t fall over straight away. Our instructor, assuming that we had more experience than we actually did, set us a pretty hard pace on that first morning and we covered a large chunk of the mountain. Conditions were excellent, with the sun out and at this time not much ice, and it meant that the first day of skiing was highly successful. It completely restored any confidence I was worried I’d have lost and when we gathered for dinner that evening to eat cheese, with more cheese and then some bread, I felt particularly proud of myself for picking everything back up so quickly.
The second morning just walking was painful. I’d forgotten how many muscles skiing uses that the rest of the time aren’t so important. This coincided with a change in the weather as the visibility dropped. It’s also when the lack of sleep and long days finally hit me. Basically, day two wasn’t anywhere near as successful, and after the morning I was starting to worry that day one had been a false dawn. We finished up our last class with our instructor and I was concerned that I’d taken a step backwards. It turned out that being constantly watched by an instructor had me really tense and in the afternoon, even with the poor visibility and tiredness my skiing picked back up.
Over the next few days we covered most of the mountain, with the weather turning into heavy snow for one day in the middle of the week. This was actually exactly what the slopes needed and it meant that the last couple of days we had fresh snow to ski on. We managed a large variety of slopes mainly across blue and red, with some of the red. The black slopes at Les Arcs are largely off piste and particularly mogul-filled so we decided against them for this trip, deciding to enjoy our skiing instead.
Across the course of the week we ate one hell of a lot of cheese from a fairly mixed bag of restaurants. The options in the ski resorts like this are often fairly average, relying on people’s need to eat over actual quality but the Les Arcs resorts have the odd gem mixed in. On one evening we ventured down to Les Arcs 1800 (warning, if you do this from 1950 make sure you do it early so you can get the last bus back up) and went to Mamie Crepe where we had crepes for every single course. It’s a tiny family run operation and booking is absolutely essential. For slightly finer dining, Le Savoy in Les Arcs 2000 is a good option, with a mixture of regional classics and a few other European dishes. If you’re after something relaxed for the day or early evening, Wood Bear Cafe in Les Arcs 1950 is ideal. It’s a small coffee shop come bar with a good selection of coffee, cakes and lighter dishes as well as beers all in a cosy setting.
It had been 11 years since I last went skiing and I’m now really hoping it’s not that long again. It reminded me just how much I enjoyed it and getting back into mountains is always high on my agenda, skiing or not.