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The Well Travelled Painting: Ski-touring in Valmorel, in the French Alps

This series of Well-Travelled Paintings is designed to share my progress re-learning to paint, draw out the memories of the places and travel destinations I paint, and also keep myself accountable to my goal to paint more often.  Each painting featured comes accompanied by a mini-guide to the place depicted – a taster to whet your appetite for when we can travel once again. Other paintings in the series so far include Hurst Point Lighthouse in Hampshire, Cefalu and Palermo in Sicily, and all paintings can be found here.

What does this painting depict?

Today the series continues with a painting of Valmorel, a French ski resort in the Alps that I visited in January 2020. It’s a predominantly French resort where I didn’t meet another Brit the whole week long, and it’s ideal for family skiing or non-expert skiers. The majority of the pistes are not advanced or challenging, but there is enough off-piste for those who are good enough to venture off-piste. Since expert skiers wouldn’t typically go to Valmorel, we had all the off-piste to ourselves! I wouldn’t normally have chosen Valmorel as a resort but there was a particularly good deal, including an off-piste guide all week long, which is usually prohibitively expensive. So we skied off-piste every single day, along with our guide and four other skiers, surrounding me native French speakers and meaning I was effectively in a week-long intensive French class! As I’m a keen linguist and actively trying to learn French, it was the cherry on top.

I loved this particular shot because there isn’t a piste, ski lift or human in sight, and all because we were ski touring for the day and had dropped into a valley with no other traces of a human footprint. It was my first day ski-touring, which is a form of skiing where you ‘ski uphill’ through powder snow to reach untouched off-piste areas (you do this through attaching a specific material to the underneath of your skis to prevent you from slipping backwards, and lifting your heel out of the ski binding to walk normally). I loved the adventure of it, and it’s basically a combination of two of my favourite sports: skiing and hiking! The descent feels even more special through the effort expended to get there, and the extra cardio involved in ‘skinning’ uphill gave me some serious endorphins. It was a sunny day, I was in the mountain air, the only woman strong enough to ski in the group, and relishing the fact that I was nailing this new sport.

What about the painting itself?

So while it must look like any old mountain to you, to me it represents challenge, determination, novelty and reward – I was in my element. The photo also features my favourite palette of colours (blue, black and white) so it was a joy to paint. The fact that the mountain could take any form is also forgiving to an amateur painter, as the painting still looks realistic even if doesn’t perfectly mirror the photo of the scene. The perspective you get from being in nature, seeing just how small and insignificant your worries are in the context of these 770-million-year-old monolithic mountains, is known to be beneficial for wellbeing and mental health, and it certainly has that impact on me.

Does the sense of awe I felt for the mountain convey through this painting? I wonder if it stirs the same emotions in a non-skier as a skier, or a piste skier as opposed to an off-piste skier. Does a snowy mountain scene resonate with you or is the subject matter too niche? The scale of the painting could perhaps be improved to show the sheer magnitude of the mountain, and it certainly isn’t a perfect replica of the original photo, but I’m really proud of this painting – my first of the paintings I attempted in 2020.

I gave this painting as a birthday card to a friend of mine who’s lived out in the Swiss mountains for various winters, so it’s no longer in my possession, but I’d happily paint it again if there were interest. The places I paint hold memories for me but also no doubt for others who have visited or have a special connection to a place. If you’d like to discuss purchasing a new version of this piece, or any of the other Well-Travelled Paintings, then just hit the ‘Enquire’ button below and I’ll be in touch. 

This piece was acrylic on card but could be reproduced on another format or dimension. Price upon enquiry.

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