Is Les Trois Vallées’ Enduro the most family fun to be had on skis in one day? Andrew Dent finds out
Everyone knows about France’s Les Trois Vallées. The vast domaine is rightly considered one of the premier ski areas in the world.
However, a lesser-known fact about the area is that it hosts one of the most fun family days of the season in early April. The Enduro is a full-day race that takes in multiple alpine disciplines spread across the entire area – it’s like being Jessica Ennis-Hill on skis. You jump, sprint, tuck, shoot, push, shove and even have to do synchronised skiing with each other – while all the while map-reading your way around the planet’s largest ski area.
You can start from any one of the three main valleys, so it doesn’t matter where you’re staying, just make sure you have a hearty breakfast and are ready to go at the hooter. The day suits all ages and abilities, with a minimum age of six years. However, rest assured you won’t win anything – prizes almost exclusively go to local teenagers, who know the place like the back of their hands.
For the average skiing family, almost all of the events present a new experience. Biathlon (skiing and rifle-shooting) was perhaps my favourite, and James Bond/yours truly shoots down five out of five of the tiny disks to give our team an impressive start – heart rate? What heart rate!? Then follows Grand Slalom courses, slalom and ski cross (the shoving one). All challenges are timed, with race gates and PA systems… you really do feel like you are in the real thing, and it’s surprising how nervy you get.
Just before lunch, we arrive at the ski jump. There are two options of run-in – steep and steeper. So, you leave your poles and suck up a decent lungful of mountain air and set off is a schuss towards the jump and massive air pillow that awaits beyond. You’re judged on the style, execution and difficulty of your jump – a Tom Daley-esque experience (although it’s best not to land headfirst in this case).
After a lunch of savoie fare, beers and vin chaud, it’s off to the next valley and the next test. You really need to keep moving to get all the events checked off your list.
One of the most fun in the afternoon is plotting and choreographing your group descent in front of the style-gendarmerie. What, only sevens?…Its an international incident – they’ve marked down les rosbifs, surely? Did I mention it gets competitive?
The whole thing comes to an end too soon, and you may find yourself desperately wanting to go back and have another run to improve your stats… but no dice. The whole team is exhausted but in high spirits.
Where better to head to while we wait for the results to be published than Aquamotion, a new pool and spa complex at the foot of the slopes in Courcheval 1650? As if the day’s excitement hasn’t been enough, the kids are straight into hurtling down the waterslides. Me? I’m off for a soak in the thermal pool, thanks very much.
We can’t wait to come back next year and improve our ranking – the air pillow has been in the garden all summer as we practise our jumping!
Affordable ski-in, ski-out accommodation
Courcheval 1850 has long been the domain of the super rich – the Russians and the Beckhams. So, as we all attempt to stay as high as possible due to mixed snow conditions, is it conceivable to stay here as a ‘normal’ family? Well, yes, it turns out. Courcheneige is a fantastic ski-in, ski-out hotel on the piste of Courcheval 1850. It’s a labyrinth of a place that has an unusual tunnel-road entrance,
due to the fact it stands alone in the middle of the slopes. It isn’t luxury, but it is more than adequate for a busy family ski holiday. There are no interconnecting rooms, but it’s easy to secure rooms next to, or opposite, each other on the same corridors. The food and bar areas are good, so you won’t need to venture far. If you do fancy taking the kids down for a crêpe, there is a regular shuttle that only takes 10 minutes to the centre of town.
Eurostar from London to Moutiers (weekly return journeys on Saturdays) from £75 one-way.
Fly to Lyon, Geneva and Chambery. British Airways flies to Lyon from £37 one-way.
Regular bus transfers with Altibus.
WHERE TO STAY
Courcheneige Hotel costs from £425 per room per night,half-board, for a triple room (family of three), and £550
for a family room for four.
Six-day pass £275 adult, £215 child 5-13 years.
Enduro takes place on 1 April 2018.