Lucy Grewcock skis down to the surf in a French mountain town
“Time to go surfing!” my boyfriend Tom shouts as he whizzes past me. He’s right, I gulp, checking my watch and realising we’re going to be late. Pushing off with my poles, I race after him down a manicured piste, which sweeps us back to resort level.
We’re in the French ski resort of Courchevel, where Aquamotion — a brand new water park and wellness centre — opened this season. Here, you can whizz down three lanes of waterslides, enjoy lunch in the restaurant or relax in the spa, and ride in a ringo or learn to surf on the Alps’ first indoor wave.
Skidding to a halt at the bottom, we click off our skis and clatter onto a free shuttle bus. Depending whereabouts in Courchevel you catch the shuttle from, it can take as little as five minutes to reach Aquamotion. Next season, plans for a new piste could see you skiing straight to the door.
Swapping our salopettes for swimwear in the unisex changing rooms, we arrive for our surf lesson just in time, and I’m little surprised to discover that the ‘wave’ is, in fact, a large blue crash mat.
“The technique is simple: just flex your knees and relax,” our instructor tells us, placing two customised surfboards (around 4ft long with the fins removed) side by side on the dry mat.
I feel a bit silly standing surf-style on my board like this, holding onto a training rope for stability, with not a drop of water in sight. Then, suddenly, a loud gurgle echoes through the room and a torrent of water rushes across the mat towards us like an unexpected flood. I wobble a little with the impact but, finding my balance, I soon start to relax — surfing on this artificial ‘wave’ is surprisingly easy.
By the end of our 30-minute session, we’ve learnt to switch our stance between ‘regular’ (left foot forward) and ‘goofy’ (right foot forward), spin our boards beneath our feet, and even surf backwards — not bad for a couple of novices.
Admittedly, it’s far easier than learning to surf in open water — there’s no relentless paddling, no scarily big waves, and no ‘popping-up’ to worry about. Holding onto the training rope also makes it feel more like wakeboarding than surfing but, for experienced surfers, the rope can be removed and the mat can be ramped up at one end to create a steeper, more realistic wave.
After our surf session, I make my way to the wellness spa, while Tom goes to check out the indoor bouldering and climbing area. Prepaid wristbands mean you can wander around the complex, checking into the different zones a bit like using an Oyster card.
To reach the wellness zone, I head through the main pool area, where the squeals of happy children indicate how much fun they’re having on the ‘river rapids’ and water slides. But the moment I pass through a glass door into the spa, the atmosphere is blissfully quiet.
After an hour or more of drifting between saunas, steam rooms, footbaths and rain showers, I wander outside to a warm-water ‘lagoon’ that’s encircled by pine trees and surrounded by snow-covered decking.
Closing my eyes and sinking deeper into the steamy waters, I hear the swoosh of an off-piste skier from somewhere behind the trees — for a moment, I’d almost forgotten that skiing was why I’d come to Courchevel in the first place.
Le Ski offers a choice of chalets in Courchevel Moriond, within walking distance of Aquamotion and the lifts. A week’s half-board accommodation from £540, including flights and transfers.