Free holiday anyone? How I got invited to my first ever ski press trip

At the end of December, I hit the jackpot – I got to go skiing, in the Alps, for FREE. It was my first ever ski press trip. I spent three nights in La Plagne, France, with a group of other journalists. Everything was laid on for us by our amazing hosts Green Rides (green-rides.com). Flights, VIP airport transfers, ski hire, lift passes, contemporary chalet accommodation,  expert tuition, delicious food and drink – you name it, it was provided. Living the dream, hey? Well, yes. And this is how I got involved.

ski press trip

Free press ski trip = happy James

Step 1 – this is a rather long game, but a couple of years ago I quit my job, re-trained as a journalist and then worked in the regional media for 18 months, enabling me to build long-lasting relationships with editors and sub-editors.

Step 2 – I started working as a freelance writer focusing on travel, adventure and the great outdoors last year (more on my journey to live an adventurous life here). I joined the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild (owpg.org.uk) for support – and it proved an excellent source of information and leads.

Step 3 – the ski press trip opportunity was distributed to the OWPG, but journalists could only take part if they had a commission for a published feature. I contacted my old editors, they liked the idea, and – hey presto – I was on the list. My ski press trip dream was about to become a reality.

What I actually wrote – my published feature

ski press trip

The full transcript is below – I hope you like it:

Mother Nature has conspired against us. We’ve travelled to La Plagne, France, to off-piste in fresh powder – but it hasn’t snowed in the alpine Tarentaise Valley for weeks. We’re forced to settle for the slopes and Guillaume, our wavy-haired dude of an instructor, is far from apologetic.

“Not bad, hey? This is the best snow in Europe right now”, he says, before carving downhill in a blur of smooth, rapid turns. His movements are as stylish as his electric blue, mirrored-lens sunglasses. He’s also not using poles. Ask why and he replies cheekily “because I can”. Wrist tendonitis is the real reason.

Ski press trip

The cooler than cool Gui Gui

My technique is the polar opposite. I haven’t skied for five years, so I’m clunky and awkward on the snow. GuiGui, as he is known to his friends (and he has a lot, judging by the sheer number of attractive French women he kisses on both cheeks), is on the case. He tweaks my body position and centre of gravity – and before long I’m back in the groove. Sort of.

We take the gondola to above the 3,000m mark on the Bellecôte glacier. Half-mesmerised by the horizon of razor-edged ridges and spiky summits, I almost wipe-out on an easy red run. Luckily my companions Alf, Rupert and Jane don’t see. I can’t blame my near-miss on the snow. It is hard and compact in places, but big snowfall in November left a firm enough base. This is pre-Christmas in the Alps and the skiing is good, even if you’re rusty like me.

ski press trip

Enjoying the slopes

“My friend died on that peak in an avalanche”, says Guillaume poignantly during our next run. “We built a cairn as a memorial – his ashes are there so he rests in a place he loved. Every time we ski past we remember him.” It’s a stark reminder of the dangers of these mountains – and of the deep passion people, like GuiGui, have for La Plagne.

They love the variety. The resort has a reputation as a family-friendly destination – but, in fact, it has something for everyone. There is gnarly off-piste stuff, ungroomed “natur” slopes, marked touring trails, and everyday skiing in the trees or at high altitude or on easy, in-the-sun-all-day runs. And it works, with La Plagne being named the world’s most visited resort in a recent industry report. For non-skiers a 600m zip line, Fatbikes, airboarding and even France’s only bobsleigh track, built for the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympic Games, provide adrenaline opportunities – and then there’s a myriad of après activities too.

We don’t delve into this world much though. It’s difficult to leave Chalet Aiguille De La Nova, our sleek, modern accommodation provided by catered chalet specialist Green Rides. The wood burner roars, the wine flows, the WiFi is fast, the hot-tub bubbles and our friendly hosts buzz around tending to our every need. Why would you ever head outside?

ski press trip

The morning view from my chalet room

Conor, the founder of Green Rides, joins us for dinner, despite the hectic schedule that must come with running a booming business. Green Rides has grown significantly in recent years, now operating across four resorts with 10 chalets. “It’s all good. I’ve been working flat out but I love what I do”, he tells me as we devour a stunning apricot panna cotta dessert. “I want our guests to have an amazing holiday and I’m just sorry there wasn’t snow for you to off-piste. I hope it arrives soon for our upcoming guests.”

He need not have worried. We wake blurry-eyed at 5am the following morning for a VIP transfer back to Geneva Airport in Cool Bus’s Tesla, a flamboyant, spaceship-like, electric car. Think eco-friendly but with added Falcon Wing doors, touch-screen controls, Spotify tunes and zero-to-60mph-in-4.8-seconds. Our ride is parked on the drive. Soft flakes of snow are falling all around us and a thin white film is settling on the ground. Maybe we missed that La Plagne off-piste adventure by just one day.

Thanks to…

I was a guest of Green Rides (green-rides.com). Stays at Chalet Aiguille De La Nova, which sleeps up to 12 people, cost from £400 per person for a week all-inclusive. Ski hire and guiding was provided by Oxygene (oxygene-ski.com) and the airport transfer was operated by ZEAT (Zero Emission Airport Transfer – zeat.vip), a subsidiary of Cool Bus (coolbus.co.uk).