I spent last week skiing in the French alps with my son. This was his first ski holiday, a welcome change from learning on dry/indoor ski slopes and a couple of days’ skiing in Scotland. It was also my first ski trip abroad for the best part of twenty years: while I love skiing, family and other priorities somehow got in the way.
We went to Flaine, a resort best suited to intermediates and only two hours from Geneva Airport. Next time we’d go self-catering but for this holiday we chose to go half board at the Hotel le Flaine, taking advantage of the choice of food on offer at the hotel buffet. It was okay (a ’60s modernist concrete building, so-so food) but fine for our purposes. Certainly, it lacked the character of an alpine chalet but we didn’t fancy being the odd ones out among a larger group.
There had been a little snowfall in the week prior to our visit and almost all of the runs were open. But well over a metre of snow fell the week we were there which meant for great skiing in deep powder snow. This was a great introduction to skiing for my son.
However, lots of snow also meant overcast and sometimes whiteout conditions (these photos were taken on our only sunny day). In particular, I soon discovered that I suffer from ski sickness, a kind of motion sickness where the brain can’t distinguish between the white sky and white ground. You feel the bumps and hollows while skiing along but you only see flat white; very disconcerting. It left me light-headed, nauseous and jelly-legged. If you’ve ever suffered from sea or car sickness you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s no fun being physically sick while on the slopes and struggling to get down the mountain feeling awful.
Initially I thought I must have eaten something bad or had picked up a virus. But it was only when the chemist asked about my symptoms and suggested it might be something that had “neige” in the name that I twigged that it was a form of sea sickness (which I suffer from very badly). I didn’t even know that ski sickness was ‘a thing’ but sure enough, you’ll find lots of references to it on Google (where it’s also referred to as Hausler’s disease).
It didn’t stop us from enjoying our holiday though. We skied and took lessons (with ESI) every day and were only forced to take two afternoons off, once since I wasn’t feeling well and once owing to strong winds and blizzard conditions outside.
Conditions on the one sunny day were just superb. Perfect off-piste powder snow up to your knees; no wind; stunning views of Mont Blanc; and warm enough to sit outside for lunch. And given clear visibility, my ski sickness was absent all day. We made the most of it and skied until the weather closed in at dusk, finished off with a drink at a mountain restaurant.