A Perfect White Christmas Skiing in Tignes in the French Alps
I write this post on Boxing Day beside a roaring fire in our Alpine chalet, with a vin chaud and mince pie nearby, after a day’s skiing in the sunshine. Life’s reeeal tough right now. That’s right, I spent Christmas Day surrounded by snow!
I had heard warnings that Christmas just isn’t the same if you spend it away from home, breaking with traditions and Christmas routines, but I’m pleased to say that’s a load of cods-wallop. This Christmas has been my favourite of the last 10 years and it’s all because my family and I transplanted ourselves 550 miles due south-east to Tignes in the French Alps, to spend 8 days skiing over the Christmas week. I strategically suggested the idea exactly this time last year on Boxing Day, after my mother had exhausted herself in the kitchen and the Christmas festivities in Hampshire had been fun but very tiring. The five of us in our family unanimously agreed it was a fantastic idea and my aunt Caroline delivered the logistics later on in the year. She spent a couple of months in Greece this summer helping out two friends crew their beautiful 72-foot traditional tall ship called Rhea, and coincidentally that same couple are spending this winter running the stunning Old Post Office Chalet in Tignes les Brévières in the French Alps. It’s a gorgeous chalet that sleeps up to 8 people and still has some availability for January and other weeks during the season, which I’d highly recommend if you’re yet to book a skiing trip this season. You can find availability and prices here.
Knowing that we’d get on well with the couple David and Penny, we booked their chalet for the Christmas week, reserved our transport and voilà, Christmas was set! I haven’t written too much about skiing on this blog but my family are skiing-mad. My aunt worked in the ski industry her whole life, my parents met while skiing and both rep’ed in the Alps in their 30s, my aunt and father still both lead off-piste ski parties, my sister organised uni ski trips at Durham and I did ski seasons in Chile and Italy while on my gap year. So what could be more perfect than combining Christmas with a sport we all love!
December this year has been an unusual one for me. I’m now 6 weeks into my 6-month sabbatical from work (which so far is heaven!) and I’ve spent 3 weeks outside of the UK, beginning with a course in Berlin for 2 weeks. Berlin was a welcome breathe of fresh air from the over-commercialisation of Christmas that takes place every year in the UK, with annoying songs blasting out of every speaker, gaudy lights at every turn and a general overdose of green and red that means everyone’s totally Christmassed out by the time the 25th December rolls around. Germany is markedly un-festive in comparison, with their beautiful Weichnachtmarkts being a notable exception. Except even the Christmas markets in Berlin are classy – no jingle bells and tacky tinsel to be seen. All of which meant that Christmas sort of took me by surprise!
And why do I say that it was the best Christmas I’ve had in the last 10 years? I have enjoyed the other 9, don’t you worry, but they tend to focus on four key elements: open stockings, go to church, eat Christmas dinner, open presents. (Downton has been a welcome addition in the last few years!) And while I do love Christmas Day, none of those 4 things is exceptionally important to me on their own. 1. Open stockings: a nice excuse to all pile into one bed in pyjamas and open little gifts and satsumas. 2. Go to church: granted, I do love singing along to a good carol and the nativity scene definitely adds a festive touch, but I’m not particularly religious. 3. Eat Christmas dinner: I like turkey with all the trimmings, but it’s by no means my favourite meal. 4. Open presents: Of course I love giving and receiving presents, but as an adult it’s obviously less exciting than it was as a child, given that I now have a salary to treat myself with, instead of waiting half a year for a Christmas or birthday to arrive.
This year however, “go to church” was replaced by “a full day of skiing off-piste in glorious sunshine”, meaning that by 4:30pm, when we kicked off our ski boots to begin our Christmas festivities, I’d already had a wonderful day doing a sport I love and I was immensely happy even without any of the food or presents (or Downton!). So when those 3 extra elements were added into the mix, it just became simply the best Christmas Day ever! Not to mention the fact that we didn’t have to get involved in any of the cooking – what bliss!
In Tignes and neighbouring Val d’Isère this week there hasn’t even been ideal snowfall (although it has been infinitely better than the rest of the Alps!) and we’ve had to hunt around by climbing and traversing off-piste to find fresh snow. Even that didn’t bother me one bit – Christmas was still perfect. Another factor that I think contributed to my general state of happiness with this Christmas is that I wasn’t glued to Facebook watching how everyone else was spending the day. Up on the mountain I didn’t have data on my iPhone so I focused on my two skis, the slope in front of me and my family around me. That’s right – we actually spoke to each other on chairlifts and bubbles, instead of all sitting at home staring at our smartphone screens and Whatsapping other people. I’m not trying to say that Christmas at home in England is terrible, as it certainly isn’t and I’m sure lots of people reading this would much rather be in their own home than in France, and there is definitely something to be said for years-old family Christmas traditions adding a certain festive magic to the day. This is just my personal opinion that skiing at Christmas really worked for my family and I know how infinitely happier I always feel when I’m abroad.
Today I broached the topic of us all spending Christmas 2016 skiing as well, and I’m pleased to say the idea got a very positive reception! I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas wherever you were in the world and whatever you were doing, hopefully surrounded by loved ones and appreciating every single precious moment you spent with them.
And with that, I leave you some photos of our snowy Christmas!
Climbing to & descending the Chardonnet Couloir:
The Folie Douce:
Christmas Day at the Old Post Office Chalet in Tignes les Brevieres:
A very blue sky while skiing:
The Alps covered in snow (at least more snow than most other Alpine resorts!):
A timelapse of us skiing down the off-piste run la Sache: