Accommodation at the Portes du Soleil to ski
Cutting through the alpine air and rolling down the mountain, I picked up speed – 40, 50, 60 mph.
It was by far the fastest I had done all week, and one by one I passed my fellow skiers and snowboarders.
Then, with the finish line in sight, I passed the last pair before the breaks began.
At this point, I must point out that I was not on my skis, or even on dry land.
I had just been riding Fantasticable – a zipline that leaves above the French hamlet of Plaine-Dranse and takes harnessed daredevils down to the bottom.
The trip to France and Switzerland was my first winter sports holiday in three years, so so far my skiing skills have been more than a little rusty.
Nonetheless, I still managed to get around on the slopes and spent time doing a host of other winter activities at some of the most spectacular resorts in the Alps.
The Portes du Soleil is one of the largest ski areas in Europe with 300 runs and 197 lifts.
It is home to 12 linked stations: Avoriaz, Morzine, Montriond, Les Gets, St Jean d’Aulps, Abondance, La Chapelle d’Abondance and Châtel in France, and Champéry, Torgon, Morgins and Les Crosets-Val d’Illiez – Champoussin in Swiss.
After landing in Geneva, my first destination was the French town of Les Gets.
I spent the night at the boutique hotel Chamois d’Or, enjoying a delicious late dinner at its superb new Indian restaurant Baaji.
The next morning, I picked up my skis, poles and boots from Berthet Sports, before hitting the slopes with Chrys from the Les Gets Tourist Office.
Once I found my ski legs, we escaped between the fir trees to enjoy the pristine slopes on the Mon Chéry side of town and the views of the mythical Mont Blanc range.
Lunch on the mountain was a delicious Camembert baked in the oven at Le Vaffieu, before Chrys handed over to Laury from Avoriaz tourism.
Considered by many to be the birthplace of snowboarding in the Alps, my room for the night was at the spectacular Mil8 Hotel, adjacent to the Aquariaz tropical themed water park.
After relaxing in the wellness area, I dined at the à la carte restaurant Le Soir, and from there I headed to a few bars in town – Le Tavaillon and The Place.
The next day, I skied with Laury in Switzerland, and finally we arrived in the Dents du Midi region where I met Gabriel from the tourist office in Champéry.
After a grilled cheese lunch at Café Le Nord, I settled into the Boutique Hotel Beau-Séjour & Spa, a charming century-old hotel, now run by the Kleinknecht Zurkirchen family, with a breathtaking view of the Dents-du-Midi. , the emblematic mountain region.
Dinner that night was an incredibly succulent fillet steak, followed by Swiss chocolate pudding.
On my penultimate day at the Portes du Soleil, I tried two winter activities for the first time.
First, Gabriel and I headed to the Center sportif Palladium De Champéry for a game of curling, with Gaston, a 60-year-old veteran of the city’s curling club.
The last Swiss stop on the road to France, and the gateway to the Val d’Abondance, is Morgins
Here I joined Patrick, a ski instructor, for a strenuous two-hour hike with 600m of elevation gain around the ski touring slopes of Rando Parc.
After my exertions, I needed a place to rest my weary head, and Chez Jan La Pension in Morgins was just the ticket.
My room was incredibly comfortable with a king size bed and a view of the Swiss chocolate box town and the mountain I had just conquered.
For dinner, I had scallops and pork loin in a crust at Le Divins restaurant a few blocks away.
Before heading back to the UK I still had time for another day of adventure on the slopes as local ski instructor Bernard took me for a spin in the Chatel area.
After lunch we found the way to Fantasticable, above the hamlet of Plaine-Dranse, and after a week of trying to find my ski legs, it was good to finally hit some decent speeds, albeit at- above the tracks, rather than on them.
Whether it was hurtling down blue or red slopes, pushing stones on ice, climbing a mountain or zipping down a zipline, my week at Portes du Soileil was full of excitement, with a lot of relaxation in addition.
If the Olympics have made you want a winter vacation, or made you want to try skiing or snowboarding for the first time, make this French-Swiss paradise your first stop.
Make the trip
For more information on the Portes du Soleil ski area in France and Switzerland, visit fr.portesdusoleil.com or call +33(0)450 733831
A single Portes du Soleil ski pass gives access to the entire region. Adult passes cost €55.50 per day and €42 per day for children aged 5 to 15 (children under 5 ski for free). Six-day passes cost €278 for adults and €208 for children.
Richard Jones stayed in four hotels during his trip – Chamois d’Or Hotel & Spa in Les Gets (chamois-dor-hotel.les-gets.hotels-fr.net), Hotel Mil8 in Avoriaz (hotelmil8.com), Boutique Hotel Beau-Séjour & Spa in Champéry (beausejour.ch), and Chez Jan La Pension de Morgins in Morgins (chezjan.com)
Return flights to Geneva are available from many major UK airports with easyJet from £32 pp. See easyjet.com