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Can’t ski won’t ski? Doesn’t mean you should miss out when your mates go on a skiing holiday - you’ve just got to be clever about it...

So, as it turns out, I’m not a big fan of skiing. There’s something about sticking two planks to your feet and pointing yourself down a rocky and slippery mountain to let gravity take its course that I just don’t get.

So here I was, on a skiing trip with my boyfriend who loves to ski, with my fantasies of us zig-zagging down the slopes together melting away faster than the snow come spring. 

But I still had an awesome time, and 100% recommend a skiing trip even if you don’t/can’t/won’t ski or board, you’ve just got to make sure you pick the right place and the right time. Here are my tips for non-skiers going on a skiing holiday…

Stay in a chalet
A chalet is like a hostel for grown-ups – but far more luxurious. So much more social than locking yourself up in a hotel room, if you’re with a group of mates it’s the perfect place for those who aren’t up for skiing all day to hang out. 

Even if you’re in a couple like we were, it’s a great way of meeting new people as we stayed with five other people – two couples who knew each other and a solo traveller. This also meant my boyfriend had people to go off skiing with, rather than having to babysit me on the blue slopes, or me feeling pressured to attempt harder runs with him, probably breaking my legs and/or his nose in the process.

Fish and Pips have a number of chalets in Meribel and Val D’Isere in the French Alps. The one we stayed in was called Le Christophe and it was perched on the edge of a blue run, with views over rolling mountains, perfectly soaked up from its wood-decked terrace which stretched the length of the communal lounge, dining area and kitchen. 

Its double rooms were a good enough size for you to tuck away in when you do want a bit of privacy, each one with an en-suite. With wooden furnishings, beams, floorboards and shutters, fur blankets and a working fireplace, it’s the sort of chalet you always picture when imagining a holiday in the snow.

It felt like such a home away from home, that I was happy to spend time here alone. Curled up on the sofa or on a deckchair on the terrace, I would lose myself in a book for an hour or two while everyone else was on the slopes. With the total peace and quiet, it felt like the perfect way to spend a holiday. Oh, and you can even order a masseuse (alpinetherapies.com) to come to your chalet to ease any aches and pains you may have – well, all that lazing on the sofa did make me a bit stiff…

 

Book at least one lesson
If you’ve never tried skiing or boarding, you should attend at least one lesson. Group lessons are a good option if you just want to have a go, but private lessons are better if you really want to learn and improve. Last year, I learnt the basics in a group, but this year, thanks to my private lessons with Marmalade Ski School, I was getting pretty good at it. My instructor, Phillipe, was patient and friendly, and he knew exactly what I was doing wrong, how to correct me, and tips to keep my technique smooth. However, after three hours I was knackered and ready to give it a rest, but at least I’d ticked the box. You never know, you might actually enjoy it and, shocker, continue to ski on your skiing holiday. Hey, I won’t judge. Each to their own.

Go at the end of the season
We visited Meribel in mid-April, in the last week of the season. If you are travelling with keen skiers, this is a little risky as the snow can be slushy and thin, with grass patches ready to send you arse over tit. However, my partner and his new-found ski buddies took it as an opportunity to venture further up the mountain than usual; plus the beauty of Meribel is it’s part of The Three Valleys area, which covers seven more resorts, so they skied down a whole host of slopes they probably wouldn’t have had they not been on the lookout for the best powder.

For non-skiers, the reasons for going at the end of the season are multiple. First off, the weather is awesome. You might be surrounded by snow, but the sun is so warm you’ll feel comfortable in shorts, a T-shirt and thongs. Plus the snow below you will have melted away, making the stunning views even more beautiful as the luscious green takes centre stage.

The conditions are best in the morning, and by the time lunch time comes around the snow is not at its best, so if you are a little bored it’s usually not too hard to convince the skiers and boarders to join you for a long, boozy lunch and then a game or two of Cards Against Humanity back at the chalet… now that’s a way of getting to know your chalet-mates pretty quickly.

There’s also a real holiday vibe about the whole place. The staff themselves are coming to the end of their working season, and so everyone’s more relaxed and there are closing parties happening everywhere – so don’t be surprised if your instructor is nursing a hangover. It makes you feel less pressure to treat your trip as a pilgrimage to skiing, and more just a chance to relax and have a good time.

Last but definitely not least, it’s a lot cheaper. You’re looking at around just £395pp for the week, which includes breakfast, afternoon tea and a fabulous four-course dinner every day (bar Wednesday), free-flow wine and a private driver. Total bargain.

Go exploring
As part of the package at your Fish & Pips chalet you have a private driver; he took us on the short drive to Meribel Valley, where there are a strip of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants in which you can while away a few hours. There is also a market on Tuesdays and Fridays, as well as an Olympic Centre where you will find a swimming pool, ice skating rink, bowling and a climbing wall.

Especially as the year edges into spring, it’s worth getting a walker’s pass too. This gives you access to Meribel’s pedestrian paths, meaning you can enjoy the fresh air, scenery, and panoramic views without risking life and limb on skis.


Enjoy the food
Oh dear God the food. This was a real highlight of the trip, and it was all down to our in-chalet chef. I felt like I was living in the ski version of Downton Abbey as every morning I would awake to the smell of cooking and the noise of clanging pans in the kitchen. Asked by the lovely Izzie what I would like, from poached eggs, to granola, to a fry-up, Bobby, the so-good-he-will-certainly-earn-a-Michelin-star-one-day chef would cook it up in minutes before baking a cake for our afternoon tea later that day. Laid out on the table with tea, coffee and fresh bread, another bonus of being a non-skier is I often got first dibs on the lemon drizzle cake or pecan pie.

Come evening and you are truly spoilt, with elegant canapés and three courses, each one coming with a fanfare of fancy ingredients and garnishes: we’re talking partridge, oxen and top-cut steak served with foams, purees, jus et al. You feel like you’re dining in a top restaurant, while sitting in your jeans and T-shirt and talking and laughing like you would in your own home. Of course, the free-flow wine helps with the latter even more.

You get fed every day bar Wednesday, and so on that night I recommend Chez Kiki. A quaint, cow-printed restaurant where the 90-something-year-old owner still overseas proceedings, ensuring the steaks are cooked perfectly over the fire pit, as they have been for more than 50 years. 

…And the après ski
Of course, as big as the skiing scene is the après ski. The place to kick off is La Folie Douce, a crazy open-air party that packs top DJs, dancers, musicians and cabaret acts into two hours from 3pm-5pm. Le Rond Point, affectionately known as The Ronnie, parties until the slightly later hour of 7.30pm, with toffee vodka and astounding views to make the time fly. 

For a nightcap, head to Lodge du Village for good-value drinks and a happy hour ensuring for a lively atmosphere. Expect a heaving mass of young bodies when live music is playing, and the occasional crowd surf. Even better? It’s within stumbling distance of Le Christophe chalet. 

Oh, and don’t forget, being a non-skier, you get to have a blissful lay-in to sleep off that hangover. Enjoy.

Damage and details
Accommodation: Stay at Fish & Pips’ Le Christophe from £395 per person for seven nights which includes breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner for six days, free-flow wine and a private driver. Departing December 5, 2015. Price for January 9, 2016 arrivals is £795pp. See fishandpips.co.uk or call 0845 474 1054.

 

Ski lessons: Fish & Pips can arrange your tuition. A private three-hour lesson with Marmalade Ski School costs £205 (£215 peak). Four-hour and full-day sessions also available. You can make it cheaper by getting up to two friends to join you for £15 extra per head. skimarmalade.com 

Lift passes and equipment rental: These can also be arranged through Fish & Pips. Ski passes cost from €48 (£35) for a half day, or just €10 more for a full day. Multiple day packages are available, for example an adult six-day local Meribel lift pass costs £172 (€234) or a full Three Valleys lift pass costs £208 (€283). Six-day ski and boot hire costs from £76 (blue category – beginner) to £111 (black category – advanced) with Slidecandy. Snowboard and boot hire costs from £90. Helmet hire is £18. Slidecandy delivers and collects ski equipment at the beginning and end of the week. Slidecandy.com

Getting there: Fly from London Gatwick into Geneva airport with EasyJet from around £60 return. Then you can hop aboard a two-and-a-half-hour airport transfer with The Cool Bus (thecoolbus.co.uk); price depends on time of year and day, but reserve around £100-170pp.

  

For more information on events and activities available in Meribel visit meribel.net

Images: Thinkstock


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