People have said more than once in the past few months that I am 'living the life.' Bit weird that as everyone's definition of 'the life' is different and although my view here is pretty awesome I still battle the same boring things everyone else does: failure to budget adequately leading to sardine pasta for two weeks straight; cardiac arrest after filing tax return; trying to get the car MOT'd except in French; working many, many hours to avoid sardine pasta; suffering deep anxiety over making new friends; failing.
So in an effort to convince myself that life here is as super cool as everyone thinks it is, I've compiled a super cool list of things near where I live. You should try them out next time you swing by this way:
1) Billski and Ski Park Pow, Morzine, France
Blasting the idea of ski instructors as red-clad, aloof, ESF egos right out of the snow, Billski is a new style of ski school. With a lean towards freestyle coaching as well as women-only lessons and sponsored by Armada, this ski school is a breath of fresh - and very cool - air. Billy Clark is a superb skier but his grip on freestyle, honed in the Nyon and Avoriaz parks in the Portes du Soleil make him a really inspiring instructor for those keen to nail those 360s.
Billy works in conjunction with new Morzine freeski shop Ski Park Pow. It's a little hidden in the commercial centre near the tourist office but once you're inside it's a colourful homage to the burgeoning freeski scene in Morzine, with little-known brands and everything from multi-coloured ski poles to the latest Liberty skis on demo.
2) Les Vieilles Luges, Les Houches, France
Absolutely beautiful little restaurant, tucked away down a tree run off the side of the blue Allouds run. It's only accessibly via skis or snowshoes making it something of a hidden joy. We visited on Christmas day for a great vin chaud under twinkling fairy lights and then a few days later where we enjoyed everything from ribs and cheese tart under a twinkling sun. The food is spectacular, the atmosphere cosy and the people watching as everyone skids around the final bend, priceless.
3) Snowpark, Verbier, Switzerland
I'm not sure how many people know anything about Verbier that isn't related to money, rich people, money and rich people. But beyond the poshness and the huge prices (23 euros for a tomato salad?!) Verbier boasts a pretty good park and because it's high up (2260m) it's still nice and groomed even after the paucity of snow all the resorts have been suffering recently. The piece de resistance is the big booter into air bag at the bottom of the park. Class.
4) Restaurant Christiania, Courmayeur, Italy
It's not often a slopeside eatery can offer tasty food at a reasonable price but being Italy the odds are better than elsewhere. The Christiania is a traditional Italian restaurant right at Plan Checrouit making it easily accessible for non skiers as well. Avoid the foccacia (it's pizza base with garlic not proper foccacia) but the coletto Milanese comes recommended as does the minestrone soup. A free shot of grappa after the meal is also possible if you flash a smile and throw some enthusiastic 'buongiornos' around. Another small tip: park your car at the Val Veny car park which is free and only an extra five minutes gondola ride away. That's more money for grappa ...
5) Le Delice, Les Houches, France
Les Houches is the oft-overlooked ski area in the Chamonix which is a shame as it is World Cup standard (the Kandahar run will be hosting just that on 29/30 January) and also because it hosts Le Delice - a restaurant full of great laughs, banter and very little attitude. The food ranges from Asian salmon (fish! In a ski resort!) to great venison stew and decadent desserts. The dream realised of katy McInnes, she and her team have done a fantastic job of giving the relatively quiet resort of Les Houches a reason to stay up at night.