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Bed and BOARD; Holiday'96.

The long drive to a skiing holiday usually left the kids bored silly.

But this year we found a shortcut that left the kids board-stupid!

The incredible craze for snow-boards - like skate-boarding but with softer landings - has left youngsters impatient to get up and at it.

And at Val d'Isere, with its 300km of slopes, the choice is awesome.

In fact you would need three to four weeks of dawn-to-dusk action before the kids run out of places to practise jumps and death-defying leaps.

This time we took our car and three children aged 16, 13 and ten on the overnight French Railways' motorail from Calais to Moutiers with a couchette and a handy picnic.

The night and nagging kids passed problem-free and, already in our ski pants, we were in Moutiers, just 40 minutes from Val d'Isere, for breakfast.

We were rested and ready to enjoy our first day without that long-journey hangover.

That's the advantage of the motorail - you get two extra skiing days.

The service arrives at breakfast time and, on the final day, you can ski during daylight before catching the late departure for Calais.

It means you travel back in your snow gear, but it's worth it for those extra hours on the slopes.

And here's the handy tip: When you arrive at Val d'Isere, don't join the endless queues waiting to book into hotels or apartments.

Instead, head straight for the ski-lift and check in after 5pm to avoid the rush. It will give you vital extra hours free to ski, snowboard and, hopefully, sunbathe.

Don't forget snow chains for your car. If the weather closes in, the French police insist on your car being fitted with them.

They can be hired from the RAC or AA who will show you how to fit them.

Also, get in touch with the Ski Club of Great Britain which has guides in many resorts, including Val d'Isere, to help those who can already ski.

There are facilities elsewhere in the resort for beginners.

Val d'Isere used to be considered one of the snootier Alpine centres with ski snobs boasting about their prowess and sneering at the less skilled.

Today the local tourist people are keen to point out that those days are over and all-levels of snow sports - and those who just want to tour - are welcome.

On your way through the valleys stock up with beer and wine - and food! - in the inexpensive hypermarkets. But you'll find that the higher up the mountain you go, the higher the prices in the shops and restaurants.

At the bottom of the slopes we enjoyed cheaper fare than the mountain- top eateries.

But a leisurely meal amid some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world is a special treat.

CHECKOUT: VAL D'ISERE

French Motorail (0171-203 7000) from Calais to Moutiers, based on a car, 2 adults and 2 children and overnight couchettes, pounds 555 return.

Stena Ski Holidays (0990-747474) 1wk self-catering apartment in Val d'Isere, for 2 adults and 2 children pounds 595 total (Jan), pounds 1089 total (Feb). Includes Channel ferry crossings.

1wk ski pass pounds 125.

Further information: French Tourist Office, 178 Piccadilly, London W1 (0891-244123).
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Ward, Tony
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 14, 1996
Words:531
Previous Article:Go Forth and find treasure; Holiday'96.
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