Spanning 1,200 kilometres across eight countries from the Mediterranean Sea in France to Slovenia, the Alps are a section of one of the greatest mountain range systems of Europe. Mont Blanc sits 4,810.45m above sea level between France and Italy and is a prominent feature of the beautiful mountains, rolling foothills, pristine lakes and flowing rivers that make up the French Alps.
While summertime invites hikers and bikers (with adequate lung capacity) to challenge the mountain range, the 200+ ski resorts that are interlinked and scattered throughout the Rhone and Provence Alps boast a winter playground of more than 600km of pistes and slopes that are the envy of any snow bunny or snow moose (which is apparently the male equivalent of a snow bunny… true story, Google it!).
Then (low and behold!) the passports turned up in the Saturday morning post, 24 hours after we were meant to fly out to France. However, the visas, which were to be delivered separately, were still on their way. I quickly contacted dad and let him know that there was a very slim chance that we would be on our way to meet up with them later in the week.
We counted down the days and dreamt of white powder snow, steaming hot chocolates and luxurious sauna steam rooms. Monday and Tuesday came and went and the package failed to show up in the post. After some investigation and ringing around, I found out that the package was being held by a courier company somewhere in North London.
Wednesday morning saw me drowning in phone calls and emails between the courier company and the UKBA attempting to obtain authorisation to collect the parcel in person that afternoon. Several hours later I was knocking on the door of the service centre and being handed our much awaited replacement visas. Then everything snowballed (excuse the pun) into a crazy night of conspiring with dad, buying snow boots, borrowing luggage, booking flights, organising transfers, and waking up at 3.30am for our early morning bus ride to the airport.
Tired and slightly frozen we arrived in Samoens and gave my mum the biggest surprise of her life as we surprised her at the local coffee shop for lunch.
The heavy snowfall didn’t diminish Dan’s spirits and he quickly took off with his snowboard to the slopes. On Friday he was joined by my aunt, uncle and cousins on the slopes for a day of exhausting snowboarding in the fresh powder that was, in some places, chest deep.
Check out Dan on the slopes – Dan Snowboarding in Samones
While I am fully recovered from my foot surgery, I was not keen to display my horrendous skiing skills on the fresh powder. Instead I spent very relaxing few days ice skating, wandering through the beautiful little town and just chilling with a hot cup of tea watching the large snowflakes fall continuously.
I have come to appreciate that holidays in the snow are not just for skiers or snowboarders. But sometimes it is hard to know what do you if you are at the snow and don’t want to go gliding down the mountain in the powder.
7 Things to do in the snow without skis or a snowboard…
1. Snowshoeing – think space-age, lightweight fiberglass, easy to use shoes. Not inverted tennis racquets of old times. If you are a keen hiker or passionate about wildlife, snowshoeing is a brilliant way to get out and enjoy nature and animal sightseeing (birds, deer, fox, rabbits, etc.). Snowshoes can be hired from most places that will rent you skiing and snowboarding equipment.
2. Sledding – Sledding is an ideal activity for kids of all ages, including those that like to think they are adults. Sledding is a simple winter sport (just you, a slope and a sled) that can be as safe or as thrilling as you make it. Some ski areas have designated areas for sledding, so make sure you do your research and know where and when you can sled.
3. Skating – Many resorts now have ice skating rink complete with rentals and lessons at reasonable prices. Skating is a fantastic day time alternative for non-skiers, families and kids. Some rinks will also offer night-time skating for families and as a romantic activity for couples.
4. Snowball fights – If you are looking for an easy way to take out any frustration or a good way to run out some pent up energy, start a snowball fight. A snowball fight is a very physical game where the aim is purely to throw snowballs at someone with the intent of hitting them. Throwingsnowballs at your companions can be lots of fun especially as there is minimal physical contact and there is (usually) no intention of serious bodily harm. Teams building forts and castles in the snow can escalate the merriment and bring out the child in anyone.
5. Snow Angels and Snowmen – There is nothing like rugging up and heading outside to burn a few calories in the snow by making snow angels and snowmen. Until recently I had never made a snowman before, and have only just learned that the technique is quite specific and exhausting. First you start out with a small ball of compact snow, then you simply roll it around and around in the soft powdery snow until it starts to grow. Occasionally you will have to pat it down to compact the snow further, but if you keep going you can roll a large ball for the base of a snowman in a matter of minutes. Then you just add more balls on top to enhance and shape your snowman before topping him (or her) with a hat, scarf and various grocery items to form a face and character. Loads of fun!
6. Spa day – If playing in the snow is not for you, then most ski resort will offer you the perfect alternative – a perfect excuse to relax and pamper yourself. Enjoy a massage, hot sauna or spa bath followed by a mulled wine (or cider) by the fire. Yes please!
7. Foot Print Tag – I haven’t played this one myself, but it sounds like fun! Imagine playing tag, stepping only in others’ footprints. This one will probably require speed and a lot of balance, the latter of which I struggle with on a normal day (as evidenced by the breaking of foot in Paris).
After a wonderful few snow filled days with mum, dad and the relatives, we caught a train to Lyon for a night at mum and dad’s place. In Lyon, Dan and I enjoyed a wonderful day at the free local zoo and had a scrumptious dinner of Tartar de Boeuf at our favourite Cousin Cousine, just downstairs from mum and dad’s apartment. This was a meal that I had been craving since the last time we left Lyon in August.
(For those that do not know, Tartar de Boeuf is a dish of minced raw beef served with onions, capers and seasonings and topped with raw egg yolk. A very delicious French dish for those that can stomach it.)
Our time in Lyon was amazing, and I was finally able to walk down the cobblestone streets without the assistance (or hindrance) of my crutches! As always, our time away was too short and Sunday night saw us returning to London just in time to start a busy work week and some more fun in the London snow!