FREE WHEELING; The Mont Blanc village of Valmorel has everything a winter sports fan could want but, perhaps best of all, it's a traffic-free and family-friendly resort.
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You would hardly guess that Valmorel is a purpose-built ski resort as this pretty Savoie Mont Blanc village has retained much of its original Savoyard style.
Something to shout about
Located in the Tarentaise Valley, Valmorel is linked to Saint Francois Longchamp in neighbouring Maurienne. The Grand Domaine ski area has 165km of gentle runs, suited to beginners and intermediates. This quiet, family-friendly resort is rarely crowded, even during French school holidays.
It's especially child-friendly as the resort is traffic free. Valmorel is small enough to get around on foot, by shuttle bus or on the Telebourg cable car that links the hamlets.
The quaint pedestrianised main street has everything from bars, restaurants and shops to ski hire, a bank and spa.
On the piste
We stayed at the friendly, three-star Hotel du Bourg (hoteldubourg.com), with views of the slopes from its balconies. B&B costs from [euro]131 (PS108) for a double room per night. The family-run hotel has a new owner and is being modernised. I loved its cosy bar with log fire, occasional live music and cocktails.
Bright and bubbly
Saint Francois Longchamp was playing cheery Disney songs for ski school children. There is something for all ages here, snow-shoeing to paragliding or speed riding. Muscles can be soothed in the balneotherapy centre with its bubble massage benches, saunas and pools.
So mush fun
The Col de la Madeleine, rising to 2000m, may be a famous cycling stage on the Tour de France but, in wintertime, you don't need wheels to cross it. We enjoyed a steep descent through spectacular scenery on a sled pulled by huskies underneath the towering Le Cheval Noir Mountain. It's just so mush fun!
Being France, the restaurants are superb and not too pricy. Out skiing, we enjoyed lunches at La Petite Bergerie in Saint Francois and Les Voiles du Nant in Valmorel, and dinners at La Marmite and Ski Roc in the village.
Slip, slidin' away
My favourite night out was at Le Prariond, with its mountain views and cosy fireside. We enjoy great vin chaud, fondue and myrtle tart, and getting there and back by Snake Gliss (toboggan chain) was a scream.
Other activities include microlight flights, cross-country skiing, airboards and snow buggies. Apres-ski isn't too rowdy.
Jet2 flies from Edinburgh and Newcastle to Chambery, an hour's drive away. Airlines like easyJet fly from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Geneva, two hours' away. Inghams and TUI offer holidays to Valmorel and Peak Retreats to St Francois Longchamp.
All white now
Savoie Mont Blanc is home to 110 ski resorts, covering two-thirds of the French Alps. Visit: savoie-mont-blanc.com, valmorel.com and saintfrancoislongchamp.com
4* Aquis Caleta Dorada, AI, March, 7 nights, from Glasgow, PS379,
4* Mitsis Rinela Beach, AI, May 2,16, 7 nights, from Glasgow, PS469
4*+ Aquis Marine Resort, AI, May 3, 10 nights, from Glasgow, PS399
4* Beatriz Costa and Spa, July 17, 7 nights, from Glasgow, PS539
www.holidayandflightcentre. com or tel 01698 425 444.
3* Dunas Mirador, AI, April 17, 7 nights, from Glasgow, PS399
4* Milord, HB, May 14, 7 nights, from Edinburgh, PS379
3* Hi Bouganvilla, AI, May 6, 7 nights, from Glasgow, PS325
4* Gran Bahia Principe, AI, June 18, 11 nights, from Manchester, PS1199
4* Rosamar Garden Resort, AI, June 15, 7 nights from Glasgow PS499
www.barrheadtravel.co.uk or tel 0141 222 2223.
Last minute choice
You can go on a round-the-world trip without leaving North Yorkshire at Thirsk's Crab Manor. Each of the 17 rooms of this Georgian boutique hotel are decorated with a picturesque theme, from Bora Bora and Cape Town to Lake Como and Las Vegas. The award-winning Crab & Lobster restaurant also serves traditional British fare, as well as fresh, local seafood. Visit crabandlobster.co.uk or call 01845 577286.
BUSTLING The resort centre
NESTLED The pretty village of Valmorel