Getting back into the snowsports swing can often be a stressful experience, but not in Nendaz. Joe discovers the simple life in Switzerland's beautiful Valais region. 

Returning to snowsports after some time out can be a daunting task, or at least it was for me anyway. Following a knee injury and a lengthy physiotherapy process, I was finally given the green light to get back on snow.

Sure, there was excitement, but the overriding emotion was apprehension.

The resort set to host my return to snow was Nendaz. Slap bang in the middle of the Valais region of Switzerland the fast developing resort is a favourite with families from around Europe. The resort sits directly below the mammoth Mont Fort in the world renowned 4 Valleys ski area. The area is a new one for me and one that I have been keen to explore for many seasons.

Meeting the rest of our party in Heathrow, I was comforted somewhat when I found out many of the members were in the same boat as me - they were either relatively new skiers of had not skied for quite some time.

Whilst the SWISS flight from Heathrow to Geneva is one of my most trodden journeys, I have made the trip much less than I would have liked to recently. Gliding over the lake and touching down in the Swiss capital, the flight was picturesque as ever, however, once we landed in Geneva and stepped out of the arrivals gate the familiarity ended.

Usually, I would turn right to head towards the transfers and rental cars that have so often ferried me to my usual haunts in the Tarentaise, but this time we turned left. Descending the escalators we were straight on to a Swiss rail train. 

Joe Troman

Many a quip is made about the precision of Swiss transport, and from this authors experience, every one of them is true. The trains not only ran on time but were comfortable and uncrowded. The direct journey to Sion was done in under 2 hours, but I couldn't help but wish it had gone on for longer. The tracks skirted around Lake Geneva before plunging into the Valais, winding up the middle of the valley making various stops along the way until we alighted at Sion.

Waiting for us at Sion was Max, the owner of our accommodation for the week. He drove us from the station up through the old town of Nendaz, to the new alpine station of Nendaz. Apricot orchards producing the local liquor abricotine, fleeted past the windows of there minibus as my ears popped on the ascent. Arriving in the town, it was apparent that I was in a different world from the mega-resorts I had become so accustomed to. The compact but not cluttered town is made up of wooden chalets lined the quiet streets as Max explained that 95% of the residences in the resort were privately owned apartments. 

Arriving at, Etoiles des Montagne, I immediately felt at home, although it was unlike any other chalet I have ever stayed in. Each of the six rooms housed a mammoth king size bed had its own unique charming decor and modern bathroom. The rooms were more like a hotel than a chalet but still maintained a homely feel. The living area was made up of contemporary pastel tone furniture emanating from a huge wood burning fireplace all housed under a high pine ceiling and surrounded by huge panoramic windows. Outside there are balconies on every floor where vistas of the whole Valais valley will tempt you outside, whatever the temperature. The newly built boutique chalet maintains a classic alpine feel without falling into the cliché chalet palette of matching red cushions and curtains, a refreshing change.

The nuances didn't stop at the decor. In the classic alpine chalet formula, a gap year student boasting a two-week pre-season cookery course cooks each of your evening meals. In Etoiles de Montagne however, Andrew who manages the chalet works with a professional chef to create a tailored menu which is prepared in-house. Each evening the meal is beautifully prepared and accompanied by wines of the region specifically paired with each dish. Over the week we would eat a range of cuisines from all over the world, each meal crafted with huge experience, Andrew's goal is for the food served in the chalet to not allow guests any reason to eat out.

After a deep nights sleep, I awoke to calm surroundings, but my head was spinning. The cause was not the chalet wine, but the thought of getting back on snow. After a hearty breakfast I went through the familiar but foreign motions of pulling layers and layers of ski wear on, but with the addition of a new knee brace.

The hotel's minibus ferried the group to the foot off the main gondola in Nendaz, where we collected our ski hire and met our instructors. The lift whisked us from 1400m through the forest to the Tracouet peak at 2200m. Here there is a fantastic array of beginner and intermediate slopes perfect for blowing away the cobwebs or learning new skills. My instructor from Nendaz's local ski school coaxed me down the pistes helping me find my feet and edges.

Joe Troman

Descending from Tracouet, we headed up further to Plan du Fou, before riding down to Siviez to meet some more of our group for a warming lunch where we had a date with a traditional alpine couple: cheese and meat.

Ascending from Siviez, the cablecar straining as it carried my newly acquired weight. Arriving at the summit of Mont-Fort was a breathtaking experience. Stepping out from the lift station the mountain falls away from you allowing for almost 360-degree panoramas. Iconic mountains like the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc are all visible on the horizon line nestled under their white blankets.

Coming down from the mountain by cable car we skied back to Siviez, where Max was once again waiting for us in the chalet's transfer bus to bring us back to our alpine haven.

After another mouth-watering meal, Andrew stayed and talked with us about the chalet and the business. The family have invested so much more than money into the enterprise, and it shows. The attention to detail and care for guests is second to none.

Riding the following day I explored the area at my own pace and in my town company. Whilst I tried to focus on my technique, the jaw-dropping vistas tried their best to distract me. Getting my legs back was a slow process but the exceptionally well-groomed pistes made it a straightforward one. The 4 Vallées area encompasses numerous villages and towns, however plotting a path from zone to the zone can be a tall task for skiers below an intermediate standard. 

Carving from area to area, I eventually found my way back to Nendaz, where I rendezvoused with the group for a well-earned beer in one of the local bars. Quickly changing and grabbing some trunks we headed to the Spa des Bisses for some much-needed muscle soaking. In the middle of town, we looked out from the outdoor pool through the forests and out over the valley. Hopping from sauna to floatation pool to the steam room to near freezing plunge pool was exactly what my tired body was yearning for.

The decision to eat out that evening was one I was sceptical of. How could any restaurant live up to our private chef dinners? We admired the stars as we walked along a dimly lit road to the local haunt of La Lanterne. 

As soon as we sat at the table I can see why we had been recommended this restaurant. An assortment of amuse bouches was served before the main event. Local meats cooked to perfection and presented to us on a hanger in the centre of the table with an assortment of sauces and seasonal vegetables. There was a theatrical element to the evening too, as the hanging meat was doused in alcohol and then set alight. Needless to say following the spa and filling meal I had no trouble sleeping through the night.

On our last day of skiing, we hurtled around the mountain, each of us back into the swing of things. Smiles were aplenty as the warm Valais sun beat down on us, the region is known for receiving 300 days of bright sunshine a year, and we certainly weren't complaining. As we had lunch I worried whether we might be a little late for our train back to Geneva, but that proved to be wasted thought. Skiing until 3 pm, we popped back into the chalet to change and collect our bags. Max dropped us off at Sion and before I had time to think we were sat back on a train heading for Geneva.

Whilst much of my apprehension and concern about returning to the pistes was in my head, I'm not sure that I can imagine a better place to find my ski legs again. The team at Etoiles de Montagnes went out of their way to ensure my every need was catered for and provide a relaxing environment away from home. Nendaz itself proved to be the perfect base for my relaunch on to snow.

Joe stayed as a guest of Switzerland tourism in the fantastic Etoiles de Montagne chalet and flew with SWISS. 

Members receive a £25 discount with SWISS throughout the season.