December is here and the run-up to Christmas – and for us that usually signals our first ski trip of the season. We are off to Val Thorens next week, which is always a wonderful change of environment. It is a place that fills us both with delight; there’s such a fresh, healthy feel to it. Our apartment there is an exquisite place – it’s relatively small, compared to our house here, but we have spent years making it just how we want it to be – and that includes glass walls so we can wake up and look straight out at the mountains. For me, that is something that always lifts the spirits.
Lorna and I have been going to Val Thorens for over 20 years, and I love it – the lifestyle, skiing and the restaurants. Plus, I’m a complete Francophile; I love the French manners and way of life. We have a group that we only meet up with when we are there, all people in their late 60s and early 70s who still ski hard. They are like-minded people who are not afraid to take risks and embrace life, like Lorna and I, and we have made some very good friends – all the more special in that we only see them in a certain place at a certain time of year. Out skiing social life is great – but even though it all sounds pretty hedonistic, we actually take our fitness seriously and train to ski. Plus we are also training for the London Marathon in April 2016, which we are running to raise money for Arthritis Research. So we’ve had to work out how to do that while away – the answer has been to buy a treadmill for the apartment and do our daily runs as well as our skiing. We don’t do things by halves.
If you find yourself in Val Thorens – and I sincerely hope you do at some point – then there are a few places I would definitely recommend. For dining Chalet Marine is great, run by the family who also own Hotel des 3 Vallées. The father, Mark, came to Val Thorens way back, when it was something of a one-horse town, and was really one of the founders of the resort. His family has just opened the five-star Hotel Pashmina in Val Thorens, run by his Cédric and daughter-in-law, Stephanie, which I haven’t visited yet but I hope to pop in to have a look when we’re there. Also stop by La Fruitiere and definitely hang around for the piste closing party at La Folie Douce, where they play live music, including an energetic saxophonist who riffs on the balcony – and everyone clumps around in their ski boots dancing and gets merry on champagne and beer.
We’ll probably be out in Val Thorens for three weeks, come back briefly for Christmas with our “local” children Grant, Enrique and her Italian parents, and little Sofia our granddaughter. We’ll host Christmas dinner at home and cook up a storm, giving presents to the children, but not the adults, as it seems a bit of pointless consumerism to us. Then when we’ve been festive, we’ll head out again a few days later to spend New Year in the Alps. New Year is another great time to be in Val Thorens – everyone celebrates on the pistes and there are fireworks and bands. The big party places are Face West, a great place for apres ski, and Maison Blanc, as the New Year rolls in. We’ll raise a glass of something non-alcoholic, and toast 2016 in on our balcony though – looking forward to a good year to come, full of many adventures…
This week I have been…
Reading…The History of Jazz, and fascinated by the story of one of America’s most amazing art forms
Watching…An overview of some of the great fun we’ve had as a family over the past few months
Thinking about…The role of stress in creativity
Getting inspiration from…the mountains