Why a skiing holiday proved more successful for my love life than a decade of dating in London

Advice

I’ve been using apps to date in London for nearly a decade – but last month I went on a ski trip and met more eligible single men than ever before. The best part? No carefully curated dating profile required. 

Maybe this shouldn’t have surprised me. There’s something about the free spirit of a holiday that makes it easier to fall head over heels. I’ve been guilty of this before.

The idea for my trip to the mountains first took root when I wrote about being single in this very paper – several Telegraph readers commented that skiing was where they found lasting romance. A quick tally of friends showed that I know a surprising number of couples that met on the slopes.

And so I began to think, why not try it out for myself? I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain: a new skill, time outdoors and maybe, just maybe, a little romance.

Most daunting was the idea of going on a ski holiday solo when I was a beginner – for support I invited my single friend Jess. I knew no matter what happened, we’d be glad to have gone together.



ski holiday romance dating


Lizzie and Jess on their first day of ski lessons in Argentière


Credit: Jessica Carpani

Wanting to learn the ropes and be able to meet people easily – romantically or otherwise – we decided to opt for UCPA. This is a not-for-profit French organisation with hostels hosting activities across France and available to British travellers through the operator Action Outdoors. In winter, you can take skiing and snowboarding lessons at any level, as part of all-inclusive packages. 

It’s cheap, cheerful and filled with opportunities for meeting like-minded people. Think of it like a summer camp for adults. Dorm rooms, group ski lessons, buffet-style meals on communal tables and organised entertainment. Tick, tick, tick, tick.



UCPA Argentiere


Think of the UCPA like a summer camp for adults, and you’re not far off


Credit: UCPA Argentiere

On the plane to Geneva where our transfer to the French resort of Argentière in the Chamonix valley awaited, Jess and I filled each other in on the recent chapters of our love lives. The ending of a long on-again, off-again scenario; the short-lived fling with someone from home at Christmas; the one with much potential but a complete lack of commitment; the date that was so tiresome it didn’t last longer than 20 minutes. The list goes on. In summary: we needed this trip more than ever. And reader, it did deliver.

Everything I dislike about dating apps – the admin of keeping up with messaging strangers, the pressure to actually like someone when you finally meet, the way you have to distil yourself into two sentences and a few photos – is removed when you meet organically. 

Yes, that could be in your local pub, but on a holiday like this one you don’t get one fleeting moment. You have a whole week to get to know someone, to see how they are with their friends, with a drink, outdoors. Are they kind? Are they funny? Are they optimistic? Plus, you can sense the chemistry in the chairlift queue, at the breakfast buffet or dancing on a table in your ski boots before you’ve even committed to a one-on-one drink. 



ski lessons ucpa argentiere chamonix


There are plenty of opportunities to meet people on a ski holiday like this one


Credit: David Robertson

I liked that where we were staying was very international – yes, there were more than 50 Brits at the UCPA in the week we visited (where the majority is normally French), but there were also people from Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and more. We quickly made friends with the women in our room and on our course, bonding over the fact that many of us were single.

For Jess, her meet-cute came when she bumped into a tall Danish man in the stairwell. He had the same energy as Jess: always laughing and in awe of everything around him. In the days that followed, we saw him in the sauna, on the slopes, at the bar, at breakfast and more. Each time, I’d find an excuse to slip off and leave them to chat.

Meanwhile, I was intrigued by several different men and flabbergasted by this. I date in London but rarely feel a true connection. Why was I finding it easier to see the possibility of romance here? Perhaps it was the interesting, outdoorsy people drawn to a ski holiday, or that it was more relaxed with none of the pressure of a “date”. 

There was the digital nomad from Bulgaria. He was softly spoken but with plenty to say. He offered to teach me how to boulder and we spent an hour climbing and chatting. Then there was the pool game we had with a group of men from Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes. There were also the British solo travellers who competed with us in a YMCA dance-off against the French. 

And then, there was the Parisian, Maxime. And suddenly there was no one else. 

We met on Jess’s last evening in a bar in Chamonix – I had extended my stay by three nights, hoping to progress my skiing ability on to the red pistes. Not to “maximise” my stay, as my dad joked when I recounted the trip to him later.

Maxime, in his late 20s like me, was also staying at the UCPA with a group of friends, and we were introduced to him by one of the British solo travellers we’d become close with. They were all sharing a room together, and had piled onto him when they saw him in the bar. With us, Maxime and his friends were far politer, shaking our hands and introducing themselves.

I was taken aback by how friendly he was, how he chatted and took pictures with me as if we had known each other far longer. He was funny (in two languages, no mean feat) and had a silly side.



chamonix france les caves


Maxime in Chamonix at candlelit bar Les Caves on the night he met Lizzie


Credit: Lizzie Frainier

We moved to another bar together, this one underground with flickering candles and a proper dance floor. I don’t like to kiss and tell, but unfortunately there is photographic evidence.

The next day Jess left and I was apprehensive about socialising solo. But within minutes I was reminded of all the wonderful friends we’d made, with intriguing stories and a love for the outdoors. And, of course, Maxime. 

I joined him and his friends for cheese and wine that evening. He was flirty and kind, just as I remembered. We continued to bump into each other, and in a moment of “why not?” I wrote my phone number down with a message on a note and delivered it to him. There was a round of “ooh la las” from his friends, and I disappeared before he could open it. Cue an excruciating hour in the canteen where I could see him out of the corner of my eye but had no idea if he’d read it, or what he thought.

And then, ping, there was a text. That night we snuck away from the social hub of the UCPA to a local bar where there was a lively band, and swirled around the room together. His dance moves were kooky and I found it endearing, as mine were no better. We decided we would have twins one day. “Charlie for the boy,” he said. “Lucy for the girl,” I replied. He told me he loved the note, how old school it was. We walked back holding hands in the snow.

On the last full day I opened up about Maxime to Clay, a fellow Brit from Sheffield staying with his boyfriend and 10 pals, who was on my beginner’s ski course. He had become my cheerleader on the slopes that week and now in my love life, too. I told him that Maxime routinely works on an oil rig before returning to a houseboat in Paris. He gave me a grave look, warning that the life of an oil rig worker’s girlfriend isn’t easy – I told him not to get ahead of himself. 

Later I joined Maxime for an espresso. He asked me if I visit Paris often – I do. He said he’d like to see me when that happens. I told him he is always welcome in London.

The next day was changeover day, and at breakfast there was a strange air as people departed en masse and said their goodbyes: the ice around our romantic bubble was beginning to shatter. We were returning to reality. I wondered, does love at altitude mean the same thing at home? 

It hasn’t been long enough to find out, though the three playful drawings I have since received via WhatsApp from Maxime asking me to choose our destiny (with a dog at home; with twins on holiday in the Alps; and one I cannot share in these pages) look promising for our future on a houseboat in Paris. No doubt a houseboat plastered with hand-drawn notes if we keep this up. Whatever happens I know that this experience taught me more than learning how to ski.

In fact, Jess and I have both said since returning home that next time we think of reaching for Hinge on a lonely Sunday night, we will find an activity to do instead. I think I might try bouldering in Vauxhall. Jess has lined up a walk in Sussex with friends of friends from this very trip.

So yes, I can now conquer a red slope – thanks to an excellent teacher who, yes you guessed it, met her boyfriend on the slopes – but I also know that dating apps are not the only option for finding love. Do things you enjoy and the right people will fall into your path. I might not know who my next partner will be – but I’m pretty sure he’ll be a skier.

Take a walk in Jess’s ski boots

When Lizzie invited me on a last-minute trip to the French Alps, I was quick to say yes. I was exhausted by the dating scene in London and ready for an adventure. I’ll admit I was a little nervous though – and not just because I’d never skied before. 

Staying for just five days at UCPA Argentière, we had no time to waste and set about mingling with soldiers from the British Army, a pilot from Geneva and Mr Digital Nomad. It felt like we’d stumbled on the epicentre of interesting single men. 

On the stairwell one night, I almost ran straight into a towering blond Dane with bright blue eyes. Starstruck, I took my shot. “Hi,” I blurted out. It was not my finest opening line. Lizzie quickly interjected to ask him his name. “Loki*,” he replied.

I stifled a laugh. A previous – yet brief – romantic interest of mine had also been named Loki. Maybe I was being blessed by the Norse Gods.  

Arriving at Le Tour the next day for a lesson, we remarked that I was dressed like Kim from Chalet Girl, while Lizzie was the spitting image of Bridget Jones. We might have looked the part but would that increase our chances of finding love? 



ski trip romance dating chamonix france


Jess was quick to say yes when Lizzie suggested a spontaneous ski trip on a dark and wet January day


Credit: Jessica Carpani

Luckily, that night after an evening of playing group games, I found myself alone with Loki. An advanced skier with a charming sense of humour, I was dazzled by his stories of life in Copenhagen. I told him of my hobbies and he called me a “reading horse”, which I understood to be the Danish equivalent of a bookworm. We laughed, we kissed. Perhaps the God of mischief was exactly what I needed. 

For my final night we headed into Chamonix where we met a group of bashful and funny Parisians. By the time we’d reached the dance floor, Lizzie was already kissing her new beau. 

The next day, Loki held off on his morning ski runs so we could say goodbye. It was hard to return to reality but I knew I had to leave our whirlwind on the slopes. That said, should I tire of London dating again, I know I can always return to the mountains to meet like-minded, physically fit and outgoing men. Maybe there’s even a third Loki out there for me yet.

Jessica Carpani

*This name has been changed

Essentials

Lizzie and Jess were guests of UCPA Argentiere; Lizzie paid to extend her stay. A four-day beginner’s course costs from £545 per person, including accommodation, lift pass, full board with three meals a day, instruction and equipment rental, with Action Outdoors (0203 328 5443; action-outdoors.co.uk)


Have you ever had a holiday romance? Do you think ski holidays are a good place to meet someone? Please let us know in the comments below

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