Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Would You like to Ride. ...in My Beautiful Balloon? Skis Are Not the Only Exciting Way to Get about a Resort

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Would You like to Ride. ...in My Beautiful Balloon? Skis Are Not the Only Exciting Way to Get about a Resort

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN CHAPPELL

THE snow on the pine forests and mountains below lies in shades of blue-grey like a monochrome Victorian etching. Up here the quiet is almost unsettling, with only the whirr of the gas flame below the balloon and the odd rustle of a ski jacket to break the silence. From time to time, the pilot comments on where we are - there's Mont Blanc (4,807m/15,771ft), Aiguille du Midi, and the French ski resort of Megave, far below.

I'm startled to notice the picturepostcard-view twitch into life - tiny skiers curving down the etched pistes, cable cars ascending in slow motion.

Just as we took off there were waves and shouts from men shovelling thick snow off the roofs of chalets. With only a wicker basket between us and them, it was hard not to feel a bit like a Jules Verne pioneer going Around the World in Eighty Days.

You can't help musing and daydreaming up here. Prosaically, I decide that rising above it all in a hot-air balloon over the Alps is an ideal escape for the moderately sporty partners and chums of the ski-crazed. I mean those hearty types who can never be dragged away from the piste before nightfall.

Of course, it's the perfect activity for skiing refuseniks like me, who plead our usual excuses every winter - bad knees, unfit muscles, terror of throwing ourselves off the top of high mountains. Then we always get seduced by other winter resort attractions and agree to tag along with the crowd again - the sparkling snow, log fires, warm chalets; snow bells and sleigh bells and whiskers on kittens ...

Megave certainly knows how to tap into the fantasies of reluctant skiers.

Not only does it offer balloon rides, the town keeps its Christmas decorations up until Easter, helping to create a winter wonderland of twinkling yuletide trees, fairy lights among the (real) icicles on the eaves and church chimes amid falling snow in the village square.

From our balloon, we can see the layout of Megave's streets and the spire of the little mediaeval church - snow ploughs clearing the roads, tiny figures filtering past the casino and chic designer boutiques. …

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