In March this year I took one of the best trips EVER: a ski trip to the French Alps with a group of my best friends!
It feels strange to be reminiscing on this trip while it’s the end of summer, but there’s a part of me that misses being bundled up against the cold, making snow angels and face planting the snow on the daily.
This trip not just my first time skiing, it was actually my first holiday with a group of friends – if you don’t count the backpacking I did a few years ago, where I made friends along the way. This trip just felt different; all of us going to Chill Factore in Manchester in the weeks and months leading up to it, planning via Zoom calls, and flying together as a big group. It was pure, wholesome fun.
We were actually supposed to go in the first week of January, but that was cancelled due to the *spicy cough* and France basically wouldn’t let Brits in. Sad times, but also good because I ended up catching said *spicy cough* on New Year’s Eve! So we rescheduled for March and the excitement was renewed.
Unfortunately, our nice chalet was no longer available, so we made do with a very (VERY) basic dorm-style accommodation. We went on a budget and let’s just say the accommodation ticked that box. It was pretty awful but it kind of added to the fun and ultimately made it all the more memorable. Safe to say for the next group ski trip we will all be more willing to up the budget a bit for added comfort!
We flew from London Gatwick to Grenoble and were promptly picked up by our coach transfer to take us to Alpes d’Huez. I was so excited to visit Huez as I had apparently been before in summer when I was little, but I don’t remember it at all! Having grown up watching the Tour de France, the zigzag road leading up the mountain is iconic, and heading up there in a huge coach, precariously driving along the mountain edge, was an exhilarating experience to say the least.
Now, I have nothing else to compare it to, but Alpes d’Huez was a fantastic location as a first-time skier. I really was level one basic – happy to admit I was the worst out of our group – but found there were plenty of runs and, besides feeling a bit daunted by it all when we first arrived, it was really easy to navigate and I felt safe at all times.
The shop where we hired our gear was really easy to find, affordable, and they were super helpful, letting us store our skis and snowboards there every day and even keeping our shoes safe while we were out skiing. It was also right next to a little supermarket, a restaurant and a bar, so great location to meet back up before and after each ski day. It was called Rocky Sports, so definitely check them out if you’re planning a ski trip to Alpes d’Huez.
Each day we skied for around 6 hours, which is A LOT when you’ve never skied before. By the end of day one my bum and legs were numb from the cold and I felt like I’d been doing an intense squat sesh the entire day.
We started off skiing as a group but soon split off into groups, usually the beginners and the more advanced who had skied before. So day one was beginner slope, a mild green run, getting used to others flying past, and navigating the various chairlifts (I had a soggy piste map in my pocket at all times). I was nervous about using those but they were so fun, I could’ve gone round and round for hours just watching the pros do their thing on the slopes with the stunning mountain backdrops behind.
By the end of the trip, I was pretty confident on the greens (except one run, Chez Roger, which made me very very angry due to its icy bumpy hellishness) and was gaining confidence on the blues. Until of course we went on the hardest blue run ever on our final day and I ticked two things off the skiing bucket list which I wasn’t aiming for: 1) sit down and cry out of pure fear of the mountain edge, and 2) getting stuck in snow drifts and resorting to taking off my skis and bum sliding down the rest of the way. I’m convinced this was a black run and everyone was just lying to me.
One day some of the team actually did do a black run, the longest in the Alps, called La Sarenne. It starts at the top of Pic Blanc at 3330m – the highest peak in the Alpes d’Huez Grand Domaine. This involved taking a few chairlifts and cable cars up to the summit of the peak, where we marvelled at the surrounding views of the Alps and saw the mighty Mont Blanc in the distance, before bidding our pals a fond farewell and hoping we would see them a few hours and 16km later, unscathed. Aside from some face planting and accidental backwards skiing, they were fine. We reunited later that day and shared joyous stories of our separate snowsports adventures.
Every evening we either ventured out for food and drinks or stayed and cooked at our accommodation. There were some great restaurants around town where we carb-loaded on pizza, pasta, fajitas and nachos – just be prepared to drop 30 euros plus on a margarita pizza and a pint of coke.
We also had a nightly ritual of giving out ‘awards’ every day for best ski moment, most improved, best fall, snow sporter of the day, whiny b*tch, and worst ski moment. I’m proud to say I won overall whiny b*tch (for my tantrums on Chez Roger and the dreaded blue run) by the end of the holiday, a title I hope to retain for years to come.
I think it’s safe to say that I am not a natural skier. But that’s OK because it was the most fun I’ve ever had with my friends! Core memories were unlocked and it was a fantastic experience learning a new skill together.
A few shoutouts to round off this blog post
Thank you to Hannah for planning literally everything and Louis for the assist (even though you got my name completely wrong on my boarding pass and feared I wouldn’t be allowed on the plane). Huge credit to Jenko who lost his phone on the slopes AND had his snowboard stolen on the same day and somehow got them back without panicking (too much). Jacob and Amber, thank you for giving me pep talks and cuddles when I was really struggling. Jim and James you guys are snow sporting legends and I could watch you ski/board all day long while I sit on my ass in the snow. Tegan you showed us all how calm and collected you are and you stuck with me throughout! And huge thank you to Benson for being the most patient ski teacher ever and making me feel better by falling over just as much as me. 🙂
PS. Jenko made a vlog of the whole ski trip if you want to check it out, click here!