CARVING & CULTURE

Sheila Reid goes on a winter holiday to France, packing in skiing and a whole lot more…

‘Right, we’re startingwith snowploughturns,’ says ournstructor, Ewan. ‘But thisisn’t the beginners’ class,’we chorus. ‘I’d rather youski good snowploughsthan bad parallel turns,’he replies, so it’s backo bas cs for a while – and it worksgh nd brains hard!t ‘mastering’ snowploughs, wecus on carving turns. To getthe turns right, your body hasto move correctly, we’re told, sowe work on getting rid of our badabits. Abandoning our poles ate top of the chairlift, we face downslope and, as we ski into theed turn, we put both hands on thee leg while we turn, then swapds to the other leg as we maketurn. It feels a bit odd at first,transfer your weight to the middleside ski to help it dig into thesnow. It also helps keep momentum andflow and, miraculously, after a few runs,my turns improve and I get the hang of it.

HONING OUR SKILLS

My friends and I are in Méribel-Mottaretin the heart of France’s magnificent ThreeValleys on a crisp, blue-sky January day,during the first part of a two-centre break.With its 600km of runs and eight resorts,the Three Valleys is the world’s biggestlift-linked ski area. It’s an intermediate’sdream, but there are plenty of slopes forbeginners and experts, too. We’d booked Ewan, a Scottish ex-racer, in advancethrough Maison Sport, an innovativewebsite that matches skiers withindependent instructors.

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Having spent two hours brushing up onour technique, we’re ready for action andthe long, beautiful Martre run. ‘I want tosee nice, carved turns,’ says Ewan. ‘Ifyou’re zig-zagging, you’ve broken theflow and are halting at each turn.’ Andoff we set, our immaculate carving doingourselves and Ewan proud – it’s sucha great feeling sweeping speedilydown the slope!Very ready for a late lunch, we ski downan easy green run and take a gondola toMéribel to La Folie Douce (lafoliedouce.com) mountain restaurant, where the foodand entertainment are legendary. Tuckinginto traditional Savoie dishes – I had onionsoup to die for – we’re regaled with a funcabaret. It’s also a great place for après ski– you can dance to live music on the tableson the deck if you have the energy! Ourlegs have had enough for one day, so wehead back to our three-star hotel, thefriendly Le Mottaret, for a leg-reviving soakin the outdoor hot tub with a glass ofbubbly before a buffet dinner. I’m thankfulthe hotel’s right next to the slopes (and theski hire shop) which means I don’t have tolug my equipment far!The next day, brimming with confidencefrom our lesson, we ski a fast and furious12km of magnificent wide-open blue andred runs to Courchevel 1650. At Fire & Ice(portetta.com), an outdoor bar with firepits, we flop down in comfy sofas, wrapourselves in fur blankets and sip the besthot chocolate in the Alps. Refreshed, weski to glitzy Courchevel 1850 for lunch atLe Chabotté bistro (chabichou-courchevel.com), then a peek at the swanky designershops, such as Chanel and Prada, andMichelin-starred restaurants. It feels amillion miles from down-to-earth Mottaret…

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OTHER ACTIVITIES

Spend a week in the Three Valleys andyou’d only scratch the surface of theslopes to be explored, but we want toexperience as many activities as possible,so we don our cozzies for a session at theamazing Aquamotion in Courchevel 1550.This new aqua-fun centre has somethingfor everyone — from slides and surfing poolto steam room and saunas plus climbingwall and spa treatments. It’s ideal for badweather days and families.On our last day up the mountains, weswap skis for snowshoes and go trekkingin nearby Tuéda Park with our French skischool guide, Julie. ‘Snowshoeing on theflat isn’t snowshoeing,’ she says. ‘Youneed to be in powder in the trees!’ and,with that, she marches us into the lakesidewoods where we spend an energeticmorning in glorious powder while dodgingbranches and leaping over streams!

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A BIT OF PAMPERING

These days, fitting in more than just skiingon your winter break is becoming morepopular, and we’d organised with our tourSheila swaps skis forand enjoys a beautiful op Ski France to squeeze inanother type of experience to h lpchill out and relax our well-usedmuscles. So we transferred toChambéry, an hour and a halaway down the valley, forsome pampering at theluxurious 4-star Chateaude Candie. Set in sixhectares, it dates backto the 14th century andhas its own vineyard andsommelier, who presidesover wine tastings. After a glomassage, we head to the L’O grestaurant for a gourmet dinnpigeon, among other delightsThe next day, we explore historicChambéry with its lively medieval centre,charming squares and colourful buildings.In the cathedral, we see a copy of thefamous Turin shroud – the original, whichhad been brought here in the 14th centuryfrom what is now Turkey, was taken toTurin in the 16th century. Then, following inthe footsteps of Queen Victoria – she camethree times – we visit nearby Aix-les-Bainsand take in the grand casino building withits stunning mosaics. The bustling thermalspa town sits on Lac du Bourget, thelargest freshwater lake in France. SpaThermal (thermes-aixlesbains.com), withits 34º indoor and outdoor pools, jets,steamroom, sauna and treatments, is theperfect place for a spot of wellness. Youcan also hire bikes and cycle along thelakeside promenade.There’s so much to do – and eat! – on atrip to France’s Savoie region. I can’t waitto go back, but first I’m heading to gym towork off that great food and wine!

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FACT FILE

A seven-night, half-board stayat hotel Le Mottaret with SkiFrance costs from £725 per roomincluding unlimited tea, coffeeand cakes. A one-night B&B stayat Chateau de Candie costs from156 euros per room. Ski Franceoffers flexible arrival days andlength of stay and will arrangetransfers; skifrance.co.uk.

To book a ski lesson, visitmaisonsport.com

For more information onAquamotion, visit aquamotion-courchevel.com.

EasyJet and British Airwaysfly to Geneva airport from theUK; easjet.com andbritishairways.com.

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