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16th Feb 2013 1:04pm | By Alasdair Morton
Skiing – it’s like riding a bike, right?
Skills once learned you never lose, there at the ready to be recalled when and where they are required … right?
Wrong, as I learn quickly when venturing out on to the slopes of the Trois Vallées and Espace Killy.
This ‘Skifari’, run by Powder White, takes us on a journey through two of the French Alps’ most prized destinations in what is not so much a ‘best of both’ but more a ‘best of it all’ adventure.
Our first port of call is the 600km of powdery terrain in Courchevel, which offers some of the best on- and off-piste action the region‘s finest resorts can throw at us.
But before I can take it on I need to get my skiing skills up to speed.
As the rest of our group heads for the intermediate red slopes, myself and another opt – wisely – for a ‘refresher’ course.
It ends up being more a ‘refresher ... for beginners’ lesson, however, as my ski legs are clearly elsewhere.
Thankfully, our New Generation instructor Tom is friendly and informative, his smile assuring me it will all be OK.
He points out Mont Blanc miles away on the edge of the skyline: “The clouds round its summit mean snow is on the way,” he informs us as we peer, impressed, into the distance.
Initial hesitancy as my heart jumps several inches towards my throat quickly subsides as I begin to find a rhythm, and I’m quite pleased with how well I’m doing.
But there are several things that are unavoidable when skiing – you will spend more time on your ass than you thought, and ski school pricks will whiz past you with such ease they can turn around and ski backwards while throwing you the sort of look that says, ‘look how much of a bumbling, unbalanced buffoon you are!’ Or maybe it’s just me.
Once Tom’s dispensed the essentials – balance, looking down piste, resting on the balls of your feet, managing that creeping terror – it is time to head out solo.
Warming up with a smattering of easy green runs, starting with the long Bellecote, it’s not long before I’m picking up speed with hordes of other nascent snowplough-ers – Courchevel is well equipped for both entry level skiers and the more experienced – before impatience (a trait both essential and detrimental to improving your skiing) sees me jump straight for a tasty blue where the predictable happens.
I’m cruising, feeling good, before a moment’s concentration lapse through an increasingly steeper, narrowing, icy section sees me careering like Mr Bean into a snowbank, where I’m left embarrassed and clutching my knee.
Time for lunch. I navigate my way to Le Chabichou to join the rest of my group for a bite and swap stories of our morning escapades, and I’m relieved to find I’m not alone in my premature exhaustion – one of our group threatens to fall asleep in her dessert.
I manage a couple more post-grub runs before retiring to the Savoyard-style Chalet Nid d’Aigle, to try and salvage muscles that haven’t been used in a long time, and for dinner, courtesy of our chalet hand Nathan.
Waking the following morning, a peek out the windows reveals four inches of fresh powder has arrived overnight and with this good news, we head to our new location, the Espace Killy.
This resort is home to 300km of pistes, and the resort of Val D’Isere, which hosted the prestigious FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 2009.
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