The Impossibility of Snow: Expectation vs Reality in the Alps

SKIING: The preserve of the aspirational K-Mid set, old money types, wholesome outdoorsy-people and Eurotrash! What on earth was I doing in Morzine in the French Alps last week then?  

Erm, going on the most complicated short holiday (4.5 days) of my life. You don’t even really have to know French to visit Paris, but to go on a snowbreak you need to think about ski/snowboard lessons, kitting yourself out avec stuff, choosing accommodation, wondering if you’re allowed lie-ins, thinking of the least dangerous way to get up the mountain…

And if learning to snowboard is always tricky then starting when you’re 30 is even harder. Arse-hitting-piste, bizarre bruises, unsympathetic resort staff, moments of terrifying clarity on the edge of cliffs: these were just some of the trials I endured before sensibly switching to skiing on day two of my trip, a much more elegant, rational way of sliding down a mountain than awkwardly perching on a board.

Part of the reason that I didn’t take to snowsports immediately (in spite of having some beginner lessons at the MK Sno!Zone) was that I’d spent too much time before the holiday thinking about what to wear instead of prepping my legs. My research involved asking everyone I knew what they wore while skiing, buying 5 different jackets online (including Topshop’s terrible leopard one) and sending them all back, visiting Covent Garden’s outdoor sports alley with trepidation one evening and generally attempting to overcome my innate resistance to the idea of practical dressing along the way. If you look the part then you’re halfway there went my wayward logic.

‘Accessorise under your jacket,’ my friend Annette (a veteran of one NYE break in Val D’Isere a few years ago) advised, telling me to tuck my favourite sunglasses, a cute hat and a cool scarf into my many pockets, so that when I got to l’après, bruised and confused, at least I’d have some sartorial self-respect and be able to pretty up my thermals.

But I shouldn’t have let my snowy wardrobe worry me so – Morzine doesn’t really do slope-side chic, which one of my travel companions, Sara-Lee (above), and I realised shortly after arriving in the village (gnarly! baggy! beanies!). When we finally (on day 3) spied a shiny-haired lady with a metallic puffajacket and mirrored sunglasses gracefully approaching the lift opposite our hotel terrace we rejoiced with momentary glee that our ski-bunny fantasies had been fulfilled. Sadly she was the only sighting we got of someone who fit our somewhat quaint idea of what a skier should look like.

So the resort lacked that mythical piste-off glamour, but I was secretly relieved to be able to hide under a hoodie and pull on my Nikes for a few days of snugness and comfort (clothes-wise). Had my pre-trip research been more thorough I might have discovered a third way between glossy-skier and baggy-boarder: Morzine is the home of Retrorentals, a van-based shop (above) which hires out vintage ski-kit in some alarming 80s colour-combos (we spotted them from our balcony one morning unloading hot pink pieces). Several of our French holidaying counterparts looked like they’d been dressed by the Retrodudes as they swished around the mountains in their ancient onesies. Très thrifty! At least if you’re not proper old school you can pretend you are by renting out the gear. Maybe next time…

Le chalet-chic references/inspirations…

CHALET GIRL (2010) trailer: instant classic in the sporty teenromcom canon. Have not actually watched this but believe 2mins watching the trailer is sufficient to get the gist.

Les Bronzes Font du Ski (1979): like a French Carry On Up the Mountain

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Co-editor and co-founder of Pamflet //

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