THE WEEKEND: I’m putting on skis from the first time ever and hitting the slopes in the brilliant sunshine. It’s hard to believe that only six hours earlier I was still in London. I’m in the French Alps ski resort of Flaine, near Mont Blanc, and the sheer ease of accessibility is one of the reasons why this resort is popular among Brits.
A one-hour and 45-minute drive from Geneva airport means you can depart London in the morning and hit the slopes by lunchtime. Flaine is one of five resorts that make up the Grand Massif ski area which enjoys beautiful views of Mont Blanc and is the world’s first ski resort to receive the Green Globe certification for eco-friendliness. Conceived as a purpose-built resort, it is known for its brutalist, non-Alpine architecture. The listed, 1960s Bauhaus buildings, designed by Marcel Breuer, may be a challenge to some eyes, but their hardedged concrete and stone are offset by quirky features such as a timber and slate church, plus outdoor art installations. I walk past a tall Picasso sculpture on my way to the nursery slopes, which are just five minutes by foot from my hotel (the resort is largely car-free).
SKIING FOR BEGINNERS: For beginners and intermediaries Flaine in the French Alps is excellent. The nursery slopes have a free ‘magic carpet’ elevator, which I use several times while practising my snowplough stance. Then I have a go on a ‘snooc’, a kind of mono-ski toboggan. Invented five years ago, the snooc lets you cruise down the slopes by dragging your boots on the ground and steering with a central pole. At first my efforts end in tumbles, but by my third go I’m slaloming like a pro and stifling squeals. The snow cover is very good here. I take a ski lift to the Flaine Forêt level, where Chamois goats roam the hillsides and intermediary skiers enjoy scenic blue and red slopes. There’s also good off-piste action for the most advanced skiers, who can follow trails to surrounding villages.
OTHER THINGS TO DO: Besides skiing and snowboarding, Flaine offers snow activities including quad biking and ice driving school. While a paraglider hovers above, I try my hand at snowshoe hiking on the upper sections, which are turned into golf courses during the summer months. From the top, the slopes converge in a bowl shape towards the resort centre, where restaurants such as Le Michet serve tasty tartiflette. The après-ski scene is on the quieter side. However, my hotel, the new Rocky Pop, carries strong party vibes. Its décor is quirky and playful (dinosaur heads on the walls and retro video game motifs on the carpets).
There’s free karaoke and a buzzing atmosphere in public spaces. Down in the basement spa my aching muscles get a joyous rubdown. Afterwards I rest in the sauna before taking a dip in the swimming pool. Rocky Pop has a Japanese sushi restaurant and a global buffet, but it’s their raclette – a delectable Alpine dish involving melting Haute Savoie cheeses onto potatoes and vegetables – that truly hits the spot. Reaching the airport is as quick as my arrival, and before I know it I’m touching down in England, wondering if the last few days were just a sweet dream.
Do the French Alps yourself