Winter is always welcome to me – mainly because it means I can indulge in skiing, one of my big sporting passions. I am a big believer that exercise keeps you young and strong. Age is no barrier to being physically active – in fact, I’d say that you can’t stop exercising when you’re older, just because perhaps you’re not as good at it as you once were, and expect to keep strong and fit. Keeping active keeps your body working at its best and keeps your mind sharp. When you accept that exercise brings a plethora of health benefits, such as increased bone density, reduced blood pressure, increased muscular strength and power, and improved balance, it seems obvious that we should make the time to move our bodies.
Half the battle of keeping active, though, is to pick a type of exercise you enjoy. Lorna and I try to incorporate activity into our lives together – in summer we play tennis together at least twice a week – and we are currently in training to run our first marathon together next year. She is amazingly motivating and determined, and I am enjoying testing myself on our morning runs.
It was Lorna who introduced me to skiing – later in life – and I absolutely love it. I’ve been to ski school at least 20 times since; it’s fun to learn with people that are as bad as you! But ultimately it’s the quiet sssh of my skis carving the snow and the majesty of the mountains that inspire me to keep going. The wonderful thing about skiing is to be out in nature, building up fitness and enjoying the speed as you tackle the slopes – and then returning to the chalet afterwards, of course, full of fresh air, for a real fire, hot chocolate and fondue. We haven’t booked our ski holiday yet for this year, but we love Val Thorens in the French Alps and I’m keen to revisit it. If you need persuading, here’s why – and my top three other ski destinations for 2016…
Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe, sits at 2,300m in the Tarentaise Valley in Savoie, making it a great choice for early-season and late-season season skiers alike. At such altitude, the resort usually has snow from mid-November to early May. It’s not as sunny as some of the other ski resorts, and has a lot of north-facing slopes, so it tends to attract a more serious ski crowd. Along with Meribel and Courchevel, Val Thorens is part of the Trois Vallées, the largest linked ski area in the world, so it also has access to an incredible 600km of piste. And it boasts some of the most vibrant après-ski nightlife in the Alps – try Face West for a drink with the hard-skiing crowds at the end of the day.
If you want big snowfall then Whistler is your place – this resort, north of Vancouver in British Columbia, gets an amazing 12m of powder every year. It’s also North America’s biggest ski area, with plenty of room for everyone – skiing happens over two 8,000-acre mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, which have beautifully maintained pistes. Access and queue times are much improved since the installation of two new high-speed lifts in 2013. If you’re a snowboarder you’ll particularly love Whistler for its superb facilities – an Olympic-standard half-pipe with seven-metre high walls and 40 jumps, rated S, M, L and XL according to their difficulty. There is also a ski cross course.
Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc, is one of the most popular destinations in the French Alps – and deservedly so. It’s a challenging place to learn to ski, but with the basics down, you’ll get plenty of exhilarating slopes and lively Alpine après-ski. Plus you get a day’s ski pass in the Italian resort of Courmayeur, an hour away through the Mont Blanc tunnel, with your Chamonix ski pass – so you can enjoy two ski experiences in one holiday! Experienced skiers will enjoy iconic runs such as the Vallée Blanche, the 20km off-piste run down from Aiguille du Midi peak. If you want the heights without the scary descent, then take a cable car up there for the panoramic view! My top tip is to stay in Argentière, just on the edge of Chamonix and much more picturesque than Chamonix itself. .
Norway is often overlooked in the great ski stampede to the Alps. But it really does offer some great skiing – reliable thick snow and virtually empty pistes during the week (Norwegians hit the pistes at the weekends). Hemsedal, halfway between Oslo and Bergen, is Norway’s second largest ski area – and a great option, especially for a family holiday, as it has the largest children’s ski area in the country. However, beginners and intermediates will get more out of Hemsedal than advanced skiers – the mountains are not as challenging and the black slopes not as plentiful as the Alps, although all the pistes are beautifully groomed, wide and inviting. Make sure you try night skiing on the main piste. If you really don’t want gradients, there are also 100km of cross country tracks to explore to get the blood pumping.
What I am reading….Zag – the #1 Strategy for High-Performance Brands
What I am thinking about…There really is beauty all around us
What I am thankful for…My beautiful family
What I am listening to…..Creedence Clearwater Revival
What I am planning ahead…A sailing holiday for me and Lorna