After an early morning start and plenty of anticipation about the week that lay ahead, it wasn’t a surprise when I found myself being shaken awake by an animated boyfriend, to tell me we’d arrived, an hour after we set off from Grenoble airport. My first thoughts were that we really had stumbled across a gem– the quintessentially French resort of Vaujany sits in a charming valley with traditional Alpine character – exactly what I was after, and much more than I’d hoped. Immediately awake and full of excitement we jumped off the coach, and were welcomed into the warm embrace of Ski Peak’s chalet, Roistang, our home for the week. With a beautifully converted ex-milking parlour for a dining room, roaring fires and rustic chic décor, I immediately fell in love. After a much-appreciated vin chaud, and welcome chat from our helpful hosts, it was into the village to sort ski equipment ready for the morning.
Right. Skis – check, poles – check, helmet…. really? By far not the best in my group of friends, but not a beginner, having skied for many years without a helmet, I was skeptical. Wouldn’t it impact on the feeling of freedom experienced when skiing – and just be, well, annoying. Not immune to the many scare stories, and most recently Michael Schumacher’s tragic accident, I was aware of the dangers of not wearing one. I found myself having a war in my head – of course, the pros of wearing a helmet were obvious – my sensible side told me minimising the risk of head injuries should outweigh everything, but thoughts of putting my hair in a gammy rental helmet with who knows how many previous owners, did not make me rush to the checkout. The Times says that in the US about 70% of skiers and snowboarders now wear helmets, (triple the number in 2003) but brain injuries or deaths haven’t fallen. So, with the blessing of my boyfriend, ‘it’s not like you’re going to be going off jumps or down any crazy off-piste’, I trotted back to our chalet happy and helmet free.
The next day however, was a very different story. Not only was I the only person in my large group of friends to turn up without a helmet, but I seemed to be the only person on the mountain without one. Whether it was relaying media hype or discussing genuine experiences, I spent a 10-minute cable car journey listening to the many stories that backed up my friends’ choices to wear a helmet… leaving me feeling uneasier by the second. On the first run of the day, I saw a snowboarder career into an older woman – thankfully both parties were fine, but it instilled the fear of God in my helmet-free head. The rest of the morning followed suit with a petrified version of my former self, moving no faster than a snail, down pistes I would normally have sailed down.
Accepting that my sensible side had won the battle, I headed into the local ski shops later that day to peruse Vaujany’s selection of helmets. I have to say, the range now available is vast compared to a few years ago. A huge variety of colours, shapes and sizes – even some fur lined options, which looked incredibly cosy. I would definitely recommend investing in your own to avoid having to rent, and with the array online, you’ll be spoilt for choice. You can see our pick of the most stylish ski helmets here:
Kask Lifestyle Fur Ski Helmet – £575
White Stone Bogner Ski Helmet – £255
Giro Sheer Helmet – £150
Once settled back in, I was able to enjoy Vaujany, in all its beauty and glory. Compared to my last ski experience in Morzine – which resembled a jam-packed motorway on a bad day – the Vaujany slopes were uncrowded and lift queues very rare. For those more experienced skiers looking for burning thighs and a challenge, Vaujany has the Champagne run – covering a distance of at least 12km and dropping 2230 vertical metres it’s a mean feat. The big league resort of, Alpe d’Huez, lies just around the corner too, with its extensive, high, sunny slopes and lively on piste restaurants.
When to go: Due to its well-renowned ski instructors and varied levels of slopes, the village is popular with families, so if you’re going as a couple or group of friends, stay away during the schools breaks and head late January for the best snow
Where to stay: Ski Peak will look after you with the upmost care, from when you land to when you take off – for the luxury treatment, I’d recommend going catered in one of their four charming chalets including the 5*, picture perfect, Chalet Saskia.
Where to après: If you can bear to venture away from Chalet Saskia’s hot tub in the evenings, head to the popular Arsen’s Café for a few well-earned drinks. Wherever you are staying, the shops, restaurants and bars can be reached via the covered escalator, which runs through the village, and the Ski Peak hosts are always on hand to ferry you around if you stay outside the village.
words by Amelia Perkins
Image: © Office de Tourisme Vaujany