I don’t gym it. I don’t run, unless there’s free pizza involved. So what on earth am I doing here?
My head raced and my teeth chattered as the chairlift lurched higher and higher into the mountains, climbing 2,500 metres above the Samoens valley.
What an idiotic idea this was.
It was my first skiing trip and my second today in the undeniably breathtaking Samoens village in the Rhone Alps, a mere hour’s drive from Geneva.
I was the only beginner and had nattered loudly at supper the day before about how my clumsiness will entertain everyone - “Bridget Jones has nothing on me” - but as we mounted higher, laughing was off the cards. I was nothing short of terrified.
Fast forward to the end of the trip and I was hooked and could think of nothing else except how I could get back to those gleaming slopes. Bruised, aching, but immensely exhilarated and eager to return.
Sure, there were moments. An entire chairlift carrying people had to stop because I fell backwards whilst trying to ski off, and yes I did zoom away and land in a pile of snow after losing my grip on a horse which galloped as I skied behind it. But everyone’s first time has a few glitches.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Landing in Geneva, we were taken to our chalet in the Samoens ski resort.
Hôtel Le Gai Soleil was jaw dropping, every bit as romanticized as log cabins can be. My suite’s double doors which stretched across the room opened out to a balcony surrounded by views of the mountains.
Samoens has an irresistible sense of authenticity which makes it superior than the usual ski spots. Here, there are fewer tourists, less English is spoken, and more parents picking up their children from the local ski schools, strolling through the village going about their everyday business.
Such is the sense of it being untouched, you almost don’t want to tell others about it in case the spell breaks.
Snow shoe-ing and the Afghan walk: 'Like Snow Yoga'
From there, we were whizzed off to the corners of the Sixt, west of the village, to try out snow shoe-ing. The landscape is sheer bliss. There wasn’t a single sound apart from the birds and our scraping as we fastened wide metal food plates onto our feet and followed our snow shoe-ing guide.
It was a little like walking snow yoga, if there was such a thing. Our guide taught us how to synch our breathing with our steps as we began plunging through the snow, making deep tracks in the untouched scenery, mastering how to leap over small streams with our new leg extensions.
The afghan walk, she called it, was a movement first carried out by nomadic trives on the high plateaux of Afghanistan and since then, it has been one of Samoens selling points - other than the skiing.
People from all walks of life are eager to take up the meditative activity, an unusual alternative to snow sports.
There’s no place for skepticism here, city goers need to let go of their cynicism and get in touch with their spiritual side to truly appreciate this and after a while, we get into the rhythm of trekking.
Beginners skiing: 'Adrenaline fuelled swoops'
The idea of flailing around in the snow while others gracefully glide sounded nothing short of my kind of hell, but if you’re a beginners skier, or even someone a little out of practice, I can’t recommend Zig Zag Ski School more highly.
Gentle, encouraging and with the patience of a saint, my instructor put my crippling fear at ease by simply acting as if it was the most natural thing in the world to ski - "like learning to walk, it will happen for everyone".
Of course nothing is natural to a beginner, and on our second day into the trip, even getting fitted and the discomfort of walking in the ski boots on the way to the chairlift was a shock.
But everything slips away when you first reach the slopes on the Grand Massif, right in front of Mont Blanc. It’s quiet here, apart from the squeals of laughter from beginners as they take their first slide or the feverish excitement as others make their ascent to higher points.
I put my focus onto what I’m being taught, my face screwed up in concentration alongside Samoen's infants, surprised at the skill required to even stop yourself from falling, let alone ski.
After a solid six hours of relentless support and unflinching composure from my instructor as I tumble in every direction, he lets go of my hand as I make it down my first slopes unaccompanied.
No one ever forgets that first moment, in what can only be described as the closest thing to flying someone can experience.
The next day, instructor-less and slightly nervous, we take on another day in the mountains, but by then I know it’s a case of letting go of every part of you which feels afraid and just letting whatever happen take its course.
And with that mentality, comes one of the most fantastic and memorable holiday days I’ve ever had: watching the first rays of sunlight touch the snow; the feeling of being far away from anything but natural beauty; the adrenaline-fuelled swoop as you first tip forwards down a slope; the peace which only comes with the solitary activity of soaring with rapid speed.
Skijoering: 'A beginner's enemy, but fun for experienced skiers'
Even they told me I might be pushing my luck as a beginner trying skijoering, but as it was on the itinerary, we gave it our best shot. Skijoering is another ski-related activity whereby you control a horse and its harness as it pulls you along at high speed.
Far easier than it sounds. Once you’re holding on to those reigns, it’s down to you to control both the horse, the pace and your own ability to manouevre as you zoom through the forests.
An exhilarating experience, this is one for more experienced skiers, as I quickly learned. After two moments of me screaming in alarm as I was flung into bushes after being unable to control my skis and contorting in angles which could only result in broken bones, I admitted defeat. The others however, returned after the route looking flushed with excitement.
Samoens delicacies: 'French culinary history mixed with village specialities'
The little village has farms spread out across the mountains and the cuisine is an exquisite blend of fresh fruit, vegetables and most importantly, cheeses. Restaurant owners pride themselves on sourcing all their food locally, using their French culinary history to invent something a little different for their dishes.
Samoen spoiled us with their fresh food and drink
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I was wrong to think being vegetarian could be a drawback here, as it has been in France previously. There was plenty to choose from, whether it was a three cheese salad where camembert oozed onto fresh vegetables, or trying raclette, a soft cheese melted over warm, fresh bread.
A particularly memorable night was in a little retreat on a farm high up in the mountains, where the farmer and his welcoming family lets out his living room to around 40 guests for homemade dinner.
The kitchen clatter mingled with the scuffle of the cows in their shelter as we piled into the cosy room, a long table set for those booked in for the evening.
On our return to Geneva, a family travelling with us asked me write a terrible review, in the hope of fewer people discovering Samoen's magic. A true gem, this village is one for families and friends alike who want to immerse themselves in all the things which make snow sports so exhilarating.
Hôtel Le Gai Soleil ***
Price : starting at 99€ per person per night in a Junior Suite (room + breakfast)
Promotional discount for the readers of the article : 100€ offered when booking a one week stay during winter season, from March 6th 2016