If this is the first time you’ve heard of Vaujany, it’s a name worth remembering as Katja Gaskell and her eight year old son, Sam, recently discovered on a ski break in the Isère department of south-eastern France.
“Are you ready to fly?” asked Guillaume as he adjusted the straps of my eight-year-old son’s harness. Sam gave an enthusiastic nod and, moments later, Guillaume and my youngest child pointed their skis downhill, gathered speed and took off into the skies on a tandem paraglide flight.
I watched, heart in mouth, as the pale blue and lime green parachute sailed across a cloudless bluebird sky, swooping and soaring in front of the magnificent snow-capped Grandes Rousses Massif, before dipping beneath a ridge and landing safely on the snowy piste below. Shortly afterwards Sam reappeared, having taken the high-speed Signal ski lift back up to where I was waiting.
“I want to do it again!”, he cried, his face beaming with excitement.
Unfortunately for Sam (and rather fortuitously for me) Guillaume had other clients waiting, so we clicked in our skis and set off to discover Marcel’s Farm; a fun family-friendly themed run with banked corners, tunnels and a cow slalom course to manoeuvre through. A cowbell dangles at the end of the run, willing skiers to whack it with their ski pole when they pass underneath.
Welcome to the ‘Island in the Sunshine’
We were in the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine, a popular ski resort in the Isère department of south-eastern France.
Nicknamed the “Island in the Sunshine” owing to a record 300 sunny days a year, this ski resort also boasts 250 km of pistes with runs to suit all ski abilities. For families it’s ideal, 60 percent of the ski area is made up of green and blue runs.
There are five ski resorts and two traditional mountain villages within the Grand Domaine. At 1869m the south facing purpose-built Alpe d’Huez is the main resort, bustling with hotels, restaurants and hundreds of skiers and snowboarders. We weren’t staying here, however. Instead, we were based in nearby Vaujany, a petit, rural village packed with everything you need for a fun family ski holiday.
Now meet Vaujany and prepare to be charmed
Until relatively recently, Vaujany was a simple farming community; a jumble of slate-covered stone houses perched on a sunny hillside. In the 1980s, however, it struck gold when the French government embarked on the country’s largest hydroelectric project in the valley below. Locals were awarded millions in compensation for their flooded land and canny villagers chose to invest some of their windfall transforming their hometown into a ski resort.