For most people who ski it’s a regular part of their lives – annual family holidays or trips with friends, learning to negotiate the runs with an ease borne of having spent many years messing around on the slopes.
I started relatively late. It was at the age of 23 that I took a ‘career’ break and did a ski season, which was a bit old to start. Since then I’ve been on four long ski holidays, almost always by coach.
At first I flew. But while planning a last-minute trip with some friends (four days before we left!), we found it was much cheaper and easier to travel by coach. The environmental impact was a bonus.
I travel with Snow Express – it’s cheaper than flying when you take into account paying for baggage and transfers on the other side, and because you travel overnight, you get an extra day skiing compared to the usual week’s ski trip. You just have to spend a night sleeping on a coach or on the boat, which isn't too bad. It’s not luxurious – the seats don't recline fully, not like in South America, where I've done a lot of travelling by coach. They know how to do it! But you’re on the ferry for the bulk of the night, so I usually grab a sofa there and stretch out for a few hours. I also download lots of podcasts and TV to keep me entertained, and maybe a little bottle of wine. It's not much different to being at home on the sofa.
"While planning a last-minute trip I found it was much cheaper and easier to travel by coach. The environmental impact was a bonus."
I've also done it by train, which is quicker and more comfortable, but also more hassle to organise, and more expensive. I went to Geneva by train, spent a day there, then got a transfer to Chamonix.
But I much prefer coach travel. It’s easier and less stressful than flying. You get on the coach on Friday evening after work, and by Saturday afternoon you'll be at the resort, giving you time to collect your skis and sort yourself out before your first day on the slopes. You then return the following Saturday evening, after having spent the day skiing while everyone on a regular ski holiday has already departed for the airport.
The coaches are clean and comfortable, there are toilets and plenty of rest stops, charging points and even WIFI! Rumbling southwards through France and watching the mountains gradually appear in the distance is always a magical experience. Slow travel really makes you appreciate how special your destination is.
Sometimes I travel alone and have made great new friends en route, or I’ve spent many happy hours playing cards with my friends when we've gone together. I love the first stop in a French service station and my first croissant. The coach drivers are always friendly and it’s great to see the excitement of all the students going away on a cheap ski trip for the first time. Snow Express does a great all-inclusive deal with UCPA hostels. But it's not just young people, and it's not rowdy and noisy. I've also met lots of older people or couples on the coach, too.
"The coach drivers are always friendly and it’s great to see the excitement of all the students going away on a cheap ski trip for the first time."
Even as a late starter, skiing is something I’ve absolutely fallen in love with – the carefree weightlessness of it and the easy speed. I have to admit I go quite fast, probably too fast! So the process of slowly travelling to the slopes in the first place, and that exhausted but happy journey home, just enhances the whole thing. Quite apart from the obvious environmental impact, flights are a hassle, especially if you’re taking your own skis, and it doesn’t add value to your trip. With the coach, it’s not just about the destination, it’s the journey that also sticks in the memory. And that’s what I want from my holidays. Give me a coach any day!