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POWDER DRILL; Peter Fenton heads off to the French Alps for DIY repairs to his off-piste skiing technique.

The gap between the trees was narrow, steep and filled with deep snow. The question our instructor James asked us was, did we have the "tools" in our skiing "toolbox" to tackle the job? A quick glance in my skiing "toolbox" revealed the equivalent of a couple of rusty nails, a blunt saw and some superglue.

Sure enough, I bodged the job at the first turn, swallowing a generous mouthful of French snow in the process.

James had helpfully filmed my descent, later pointing out where I was going wrong (everywhere) with each uncontrolled plunge into the powdery white stuff.

Later in a bar, I was made to stand on a stool. Not as a punishment, I should add, but to demonstrate the point of balance I should be trying to achieve on my skis.

After a couple of mornings with James, I felt my toolbox was starting to acquire at least one or two useful objects- a cordless drill maybe and... OK, enough DIY.

So a week on the Top Gun course with the European Ski School in Les Deux Alpes should see you, in toolbox terms, ready to add a fair-sized extension to your all-terrain skiing skillset.

If you are a good intermediate or advanced skier, you can improve your piste technique, learn to tackle the off-piste "steep and deep" and catch some air in the resort's state-of-the-art Snow Park, a mecca for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

The school is the second largest in the resort after the ESF (French Ski School) and the English-speaking instructors take out groups of eight. They also teach awareness of mountain conditions as well as avalanche safety and search techniques.

Whatever your standard, and particularly if you are just learning, Les Deux Alpes, a two-hour drive from Lyon Airport (90 minutes from Grenoble), is an ideal resort and it can be easy on the pocket.

Don't feel short-changed if you arrive and find there aren't two alps. There is plenty of mountain to explore. In fact the resort's name is derived from the two villages of Venosc and Mont de Lans who found that the shared alpine pasture where their cattle grazed would be a lot more profitable if they invited skiers along instead.

L2A, as it is branded, is France's second oldest resort after Chamonix and the first to introduce a lift pass so skiers didn't have to search in their pockets for money every time they went up the mountain.

There is terrain to suit all standards but to the beginner or intermediate skier it offers a fantastic chance to enjoy the full top-of-the-mountain experience as it is "upside down", with the easiest runs at the top and the toughest on the lower slopes leading into the village.

At the summit is the largest skiable glacier in Europe, with lots of wide easy (blue) slopes and a few more challenging (red) runs for less expert skiers to hone their technique while taking in breathtaking views of the Alps and Mont Blanc.

Half way down, there are more intermediate runs and the Crete plateau with some very easy (green) pistes for beginners and a handy "magic carpet" like the moving walkways you find in airports to take you back to the top of the nursery slope.

On the lower slopes there is an easy winding path back to the village and a choice of steep but wide black-classified runs - Diable and Valentin - for the more adventurous. Off to the side of these is also some excellent off-piste skiing - if you have the tools to tackle it, of course.

The resort itself is stretched out along the main road, with chairlifts, cabin lifts and a cable car at various points to take you up the mountain.

On the western side of the resort is the much smaller Vallee Blanche ski area which has a handful of blue and red runs which catch the morning sunshine. We stayed at the Hotel de la Valentin, run by the charming and helpful Vincent and his English wife Alisa.

With its comfortable lounge and open fire, neat rooms with shiny new ensuites, sauna, free Wi-Fi it was hard to believe it was only a two-star hotel.

Get there | Rooms at the 2* Hotel de la Valentin in Les Deux Alpes start at [euro]52pppn h/b, Ryanair flies from Dublin to Grenoble from [euro]54.99 one-way in Feb-Mar, subject to availability (fares do not include optional fees/ charges) Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Lyon. For more information visit TIMEZONE Ireland +1hr CURRENCY Euro And at less than PS50 per person per night for halfboard in low season, it is tremendous value.

There are also three-star hotels from as little as [euro]78.

Too much choice is the only problem when eating out. L2A has 72 restaurants, ranging from kebab takeaways to Michelin-starred fine dining and 30 lively bars.

For a gourmet treat, try the Raisin de L'Ours, where the smoked salmon starter came with a shot of vodka!

Les Deux Alpes is rightly popular with English visitors for its good value, relaxed attitude and lively nightlife.

And once the instructors have re-equipped your toolbox, it's easy to ski-it-yourself.

Whatever your standard, Les Deux Alpes is a good choice


VALUe Hotel de la Valentin

SNOW GOOD Les Deux Alpes

WHITE STUFF Going off piste

SUMMIT GREAT Easiest runs are at top of the mountain
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 8, 2014
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