I was recently invited to Europe’s highest Ski resort Val Thorens. They wanted me to check out the alternatives to skiing. I wanted to see if I could find me some adventure.
I'm of the opinion you can find adventure in a convent if you look hard enough so a ski resort should offer ample opportunity. After all people main themselves all the time at ski resorts.
The premise for the weekend was simple enough; myself and a bunch of European bloggers meet up, go to Val Thorens, sample the hospitality and activities and let you lot know what we think.
To spice things up a bit the resort wanted to add a competitive spin; throwing a bunch of challenges at us so they could crown a winner at the end of the weekend.
We arrived at the resort and were whisked straight to Jean Sulpice, the restaurant of double Michelin starred chef; er, Jean Sulpice. This was challenge number 1. We were taught to make his signature desert; Apple Snowballs. Being a fan of fine food and a keen amateur cook I took to this task with relish.
The whole exercise was made all the more pleasant in the knowledge that our finished desert would be matched to a wine by expert Sommelier Magali Sulpice.
All that built up a bit of an appetite. So we were taken by snow-plough-cum-taxi to "Le Chalet de la Marine" restaurant; on the top of the mountain. We weren't to eat yet however. We were given two-way avalanche transmitter receivers and given a short lesson in finding someone buried in the ice. This was challenge number 2.
I've got a bit of experience finding mates who are slightly the worse for wear and would like to think this contributed to myself & Nico winning this one. Our prize was a bottle of champagne, a ski hat and some sort of points. More importantly kudos, that and the knowledge that if a friend gets caught in an avalanche we're sorted for finding them. As long as they've got champagne to sweeten the encounter.
Now was finally time for dinner. Surely one of the best things about skiing in France is French food? And another thing is the wine that sits along said food? And the Genepie, coffee and desert that come after the food too?
The next morning we got to try our luck on the slopes. I've not touched a snowboard for 12 years. So I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of an instructor to fine-tune my technique (that's another way of saying I suck on a snowboard).
After three hours we were dragged off the slopes to our lunch venue. Our transport of choice this time was snowmobiles which sure beat the cable car. Our destination was La Fruitère, classy cojoined twin to the debauched La Folie Douce. Once more I was blown away by the first rate culinary delights on offer, washed down with yet more fine wine and topped with more Genepie & great desert.
We were then taken next-door to the world famous Folie Douce. A place immensely popular with louche ne'er-do-wells which I unsurprisingly found an immediate affinity for. The experience was made all the more enjoyable by having our own VIP area and litres of Piper Heidsieck champagne. To counteract the cold of 2600 metres we danced to the lively music of the house DJ.
That afternoon we were granted some free time which most of us used to take advantage of the sauna, pool & massage facilities of the hotel. After all the competition had taken its strain and we needed some rest & recuperation.
Once we had recharged our batteries we were taken to the ice circuit for a few laps around the track in a Rally Car. I would always say if you're going to a ski resort you should go there to ski; if you break a leg, you should strap it up and keep going. But; throwing a high powered car around an icy racetrack is probably even better.
The night's entertainment took us to "Les Chalets du Thorens", where we were greeted by a mountain of elegantly carved sushi comparable in size to the snowy peaks around us. A mountain of sushi so brobdignanian we were at loss to consume it; even when accompanied by some exquisite Ruinart champagne. This was all a rather subtle introduction to the next challenge; Sushi making.
Led by in-house genius Mr Sushi, we were taught to make some California rolls which we were to be judged on. Another challenge I did ok at, coming second. And then came dinner. The speciality of Les Chalets du Thorens, aside from sushi, is DIY stone cooked tuna & steak. It was fucking awesome. Fine wine and artery blocking deserts are obligatory additions. On our way out the patron forced upon us a lot of Genepie. Then a lot more. This place was brilliant.
The next stop was the industrial shabby chic of local boit de nuit The Malaysian for some old fashioned disco dancing. Well it was for those of us who'd not surrendered to their beds. My dancing must've upset someone because the remaining bloggers shuffled off to bed before too long as well.
The next day we were supposed to enjoy Europe's longest toboggan run; a 6km long super-luge. Sadly adverse weather put an end to that and we were left to our own devices. I took the opportunity to scour the nearby hotel bars for a perfectly balanced martini. It was a touch early for this endeavour, but I needed some consolation for missing the toboggan run.
Soon it was time for our last meal in the mountains. The venue was to be the newly refurbished, 5 star Fitz Roy hotel. Lunch was preceeded by Cognac & Amaretto cocktails; with some tastebud caressing appetisers including truffle infused cashew nuts and black olive tapanade.
After this our trip was over. All that remained was to pack our bags and head out. That and the small matter of crowning the winner of the blog-off. The champion blogger was crowned Ben Dessy from Belgium, with some other folks coming in second and third. Then came the journey home.
So what did I think of Val Thorens? Right; Val Thorens is the European ski resort with no equal. The facilities are first rate, the people who work there manage to be dedicated professionals whilst upholding a friendly community atmosphere. Every aspect of the resort from the hotel rooms to the ski-lifts is groomed to be the best possible. The pistes are obviously brilliant; but on top of that there is a world of other great activities to make your stay better than you imagined possible.