Last February, I had an excellent week skiing in Auron, about 80km north of Nice. I learnt to ski in the highlands of Scotland, mainly on Wednesday afternoons at school. We were fortunate to have teachers who loved skiing and the willingness to organise these ski trips for a hundred 7-13 year olds. I remember fondly Mrs Davidson taking note of shoe size and height for the hire and Mr Logie recording it all on excel before it was commonplace. We had a collapsed timetable and then would board a couple of coaches and make our way up to The Lecht for lessons.
It is something that I hadn’t really continued on into adulthood but had such a good time with my family in Auron that I thought I would give it a go for the weekend. No one wanted to join me as it was a bit of a crazy itinerary, so I went solo.
I booked the usual joint flight and car hire to Nice, saving about £100 against the cost of booking separately. In the summer, BA have a schedule that roughly runs at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm from Heathrow, but in the winter the 6pm departure is deployed elsewhere. This year, despite a request at school, my timetable ends at 1545 on a Friday so the only flight I could get in the winter is the 8pm on, getting into Nice after 11pm.
I took the bus to the airport – it is a door to door service to T5, so worth it even if it takes about 50 minutes. I was travelling hand luggage only, thanks to a new suitcase from Horizn Studios, some packing cubes and compression bags, so was quickly through north Fast Track and into the South Lounge. A gin and tonic and dinner later, I was on board for my first “Buy on Board” flight.
An aircraft swap at the last minute saw the A319 turn into an A320 – a pain because the exit rows on the former are at 10 and the latter at 11 and 12, meaning my knees were subject to a battering.
I took the plunge and bought a coffee from the on board offering; at £2.30 it is less than I would pay in Starbucks, but still more than it should me. The cabin crew were clearly not pleased with the situation they had been placed in, and they had no qualms about making that known. The coffee is served ‘Turkish-style’ with the grounds and water mixed in the cup, and it should come complete with a lid that had a filter across the mouthpiece.
Mine was first presented with a normal lid resulting in a mouthful of coffee grinds. It also means you can have strong and cold coffee or warm and weak, but not strong and hot! I paid with my BAPP AmEx and was pleased that the transaction accrued the triple Avios.
The Airport Hotel
I landed after 11pm and needed a place to stay at the airport, so I booked into the Novotel. Being an Accor Le Club Gold didn’t seem to get anything extra, so it was probably not worth the €40 premium I paid over the top of the Ibis next door. Still, it was 15 minutes from the plane door to the hotel lobby, and I had to walk the long way round as there are roadworks outside T1 at Nice. I was warmly welcomed, went to my room and fell asleep.
Breakfast was plentiful, and I indulged in some eggs and cheese before getting the complimentary shuttle round to T2 and walked across to the Car Hire centre.
I could have had my flight and car for £120, but I shelled out £160 for a class F car – a Mercedes C Class. At the time of booking, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get a hotel in Auron, and the back up option was to drive back to Nice for somewhere cheap. As it turned out, I was ok on the hotel front, but pleased that I had a decent car. I was offered the choice of a VW Passat (not, in my eyes, the same as a Merc!) or a Volvo V60. I decided that as the Swedes are a snowy nation, I would take their product. It was automatic, big and comfortable, with easy to use Bluetooth and controls. I left Nice about 0730 and was in Auron for 0900.
The Ski Hire and lessons
As last year, I booked online with Sport2000 – they have an outlet just opposite the main lift from the village. I think that I paid about €40 for boots, skis, poles and a helmet for 2 days, and they store them overnight as well as looking after your shoes in the day. I booked a couple of hours with Anouchka again – partly for instruction and partly because I wanted someone to know that I was on the mountain and skiing alone. It was brilliant! We had lots of fun and I was able to tackle a couple of slalom courses under her tuition. On the second day, she has asked to meet at the bottom of one of the pistes as she was competing in a race; needless to say she won the female race, and had the second fastest time overall.
The Ski Hotel
I managed to get one night in a room at Hotel Blainon in the centre of town. I opted for ‘demi-pension’ meaning that dinner and breakfast was included in the cost. The room was basic and really hot, but did the job. The dinner was fine; France is slowly catching up with the rest of the world about pescatarianism, and the host was able to provide me with a fish dish which was edible. Breakfast was the classic bread and cheese, but it did the job.
I had an amazing time; I got two full days skiing and was home in bed by 2230 which is pretty standard for a school night. I definitely feel like I proved to myself that the concept of weekend skiing in the south of France is a viable option. Clearly going on my own made it more expensive as I could have split the cost of the car hire, the hotels and the instruction. Having spoken to a number of friends, lots have asked why I didn’t invite them, so I might have a couple of skiing companions for next year!