Having spontaneously committed last term to my first ever ski experience, I managed to put off thinking about Palatinalps during the first few weeks of the holidays. Nevertheless, once the festivities had ended (and I’d put on a bit of extra insulation) the prospect of a week’s self-inflicted injuries and small French children whizzing past me on the slopes became a fast-approaching reality.
The destination for Palatinalps 2014 was the resort of Tignes, which lies in the French Haute Tarentaise and shares many of its pistes with the infamous Val d’Isère, together forming the Espace Killy ski area. Given the option during the initial sign-up, the rest of the first-time skiiers and I chose the basic Tignes ski pass, knowing we were unlikely to venture into the rest of Espace Killy and much of our week was to be spent having lessons with a Tignes instructor in the local area. The instruction we received was not only incredible value (£180 for 5 days lessons plus ski hire) but also taken by a hilarious, dedicated and extremely patient French instructor, who took us from our first day sliding around on one ski in Tignes Le Lac, to slowly edging our way down a red into our own village of Val Claret on the last day. Having daily lessons is something I’d highly recommend for any first-time skier going on the University trip, as although many of those students on the trip were qualified ski instructors themselves, they are more than likely to sneakily take you down a black run at first opportunity. For these more experienced skiers, Tignes was the perfect destination, with huge numbers of varied and fairly empty pistes enabling them to ski somewhere new everyday, as well as many colleges being situated in ski-in ski-out accommodation. There was mixed weather during the week with some days spent in brilliant sunshine but also two days of total whiteout; something that I learnt makes a huge difference to your judgement and balance whilst skiing and (perhaps more importantly) can seriously put you off heading to après in the afternoon!
The bar/restaurant ‘La Folie Douce’ can be found in four different French ski resorts and was the Holy Grail après destination for beginners during the week. Unfortunately, the piste leading down to Folie is extremely misleadingly classed as a green; something to definitely look out for if you are heading to Tignes as a novice. Folie did prove worth the embarrassment of sliding down to it in a bright pink ski jacket though, which goes a long way to show how brilliant the atmosphere was. Pumping out tunes that bounce off the surrounding peaks, this après ski destination lies on the side of a mountain nearly 10,000ft up and has in-house singers with serious attitude, podium dancers and hourly champagne soakings of the customers vying for spots up on the wooden benches. The official Palatinalps après venue for the week, Le Coffee, presented a more laidback and accessible option, situated in town and a five-minute stomp away from most of our self-catered accommodation. Overall the après for the week was considerably better than that of last year, partly because of the opportunity to occasionally go somewhere other than the official après destination and also due to the consistent good vibes produced by the Nova DJs and the brilliant NUCO reps down at Le Coffee.
The determination needed to make it to the night out having drunk too much vin chaud and overpriced beer in the afternoon is no easy feat, even for us beginners who’d skied all of 4 greens that day. Luckily, nightlife in ski resorts is almost always a late start allowing for an extensive group nap in the early evening. Each night out in Tignes invariably ended up in the sweaty, hectic basement of Melting Pot that we grew to love and although we gave Val Claret’s other club – Blue Girl -a go, it just didn’t match up. The Palatinalps committee also put on two major events to begin and end the week at ‘Tignespace’, the brand new Sports and Conference Centre which opened in July last year. Despite excellent organisation from the Palatinalps committee and a set from ‘The Other Tribe’, the atmosphere at the opening night party was lacking, with many leaving early bemoaning the sports-hall venue that created a slightly school disco-esque feel. The post-apocalypse themed final night party was far more popular and a triumph for the Palatinalps events team, with Subfocus pulling in a large crowds of Durham students looking to have a big final night up in the mountains.
Key to the success of the trip was the selection of the snowsports travel company NUCO, who proved to be an undeniable hit. Following the catastrophes of broken-down coaches, accommodation issues and general chaos of last year with the trip in the hands of the company ‘Outgoing’, everything ran without a hitch this year, with small but manageable accommodation for most and problem-free journeys. The Palatinalps committee and college reps worked alongside the NUCO reps out in Tignes to provide a near perfect weeks skiing in Tignes, which also materialised as the perfect resort for beginners and seasoned-skiers alike.
Despite being warned off by those with more experience, Palatinalps was the ideal opportunity to try skiing for the first time. For anyone who is yet to give it a go, make sure you sign up for Palatinalps 2015, I definitely will be.