Once upon a time, my friends and I went to Aspen, Colorado for a very fabulous New Year’s of chalets, parties and snowboard lessons. I lasted all of one day on the bunny slope as my gang of “I learned how to ski at 4″ friends spent hours on the black pistes in what I viewed as cold monotony. I told myself I wasn’t interested in snowboarding or skiing, in spite of how cute the instructors were, because it was cold and I had a “less is more” aesthetic, especially when it came to clothing. So yes, I scoffed at their stylish ski outfits and après ski gear, telling myself it made more sense to head to the beach with a light bag and possibly no clothing, than to pile up a suitcase with thermals. In reality, I didn’t want to learn anything new or cold at 30 years old but 12 years later, I had a change of heart.
Every year, la settimana bianca, the winter school break usually dedicated to a mountain holiday, falls during Darius‘ birthday week, and he and the little one head off for ski break with my logic that it isn’t always economically prudent to tag along unless I am actively participating. Clever, huh? But this year, I thought I’d give him the gift that keeps on giving…. I’d learn how to ski.
Our destination- La Thuile, in Valle d’Aosta– Italy’s tiniest region in its northwest, a bilingual Franco-Italian ski and nature hamlet that may just be the best place for an adult beginner. Niched in the Italian Alps, Europe’s highest peak Monte Bianco overlooks the tiny valley and France’s La Rosiere shares the mountains, so you can ski two countries in a morning- my goal, believe or not.
With zero ski skills, my overall experience at La Thuile was incredible. The first few days were sunny, so learning the basics on the bunny slopes was more than pleasant- it was kind of like hanging out at the beach, but with layers. La Thuile’s ski instructors were incredibly patient and believe in morning lessons, not full day, so that I had time to recoup- which meant the Turkish bath to loosen up my muscles. Day Three was very cold, but not *that* cold, thanks to a little help from The North Face whose wind-resistent gear kept me warm and dry every time that I fell. Did I mention by this time I was on the top of the mountain on blue pistes with descents and turns? Day Four was France, yes, I skied to the border and then some. By this time, Darius, the girls and I did a few runs together (notice the ski jargon?) and I finally got the overall “it” of skiing- cold air on my face, catching up to an expert, wiping out and then happily getting up again. Day Five I was sore and tired, and vowed to come back.
Here’s a beginner’s look at skiing in La Thuile.
For your next ski trip you should be skiing in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta- my article for Forbes Travel.