Hotel review: Hotel Le Val d'Isére
Location, location, location! You couldn't get much closer to the main ski lifts and ski schools, which, as a first-time skier, is pretty handy when you're trying to walk in stiff, heavy boots while carrying your equally heavy skis.
What's to love?
As well as being close to the ski lifts, the hotel is perfectly located for the vibrant village centre with its shops, coffee bars and lively nightlife.
Best rooms in the house?
The hotel offers 52 rooms, all with en-suite facilities and flat screen TVs, starting from single rooms through to family apartments. Rooms are not in the 'luxury' category – if this is what you're looking for, you'd be better off booking at Le Blizzard just down the road. But the rooms are clean, tidied every day, and are the ideal place to lay your head and the end of a long day's skiing. After checking out some reviews on Tripadvisor, I was a little wary, but I found the rooms to be perfectly adequate for the price you pay.
Where to eat
The dining room offers great views of the Olympic downhill course, which is illuminated in the evenings. It's situated on the fourth floor, and is where you'll take breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner (all part of the price, including wine). As with the rooms, you get what you pay for. We thought the afternoon tea was fantastic, offering cakes and a tasty homemade soup every day. Dinner wasn't Michelin-starred, but we enjoyed every dinner we had, and treated ourselves to one night out at a local restaurant (try Sur La Montagne, we loved it). Later on in the evening, hotel guests gather in the lounge bar and swap their skiing stories - good and bad!
If you do one thing here, make sure it's...
Ski! While my boyfriend carved his way down black run after black run, I set off for the nursery slopes - and my first skiing experience ever. The lessons were organised by the hotel, and I was one of a group of five, with a fabulous French instructor, who became a hero for all the ladies, rescuing us every time we got stuck, or landed on our backsides. I was almost in tears after my first morning of lessons but, by the end of the week, I'd made my way down a handful of blue runs, and finished with a goodbye lunch at Folie Douce. OK, I might have snow-ploughed my way down most of the mountain to get there, but get there I did. While I was taking baby steps, my boyfriend joined the hotel's ski hosting group, which sees members of staff (usually young and very enthusiastic) take out skiers of all different abilities, and is a great way of meeting other people. At the end of the holiday, I'd discovered that skiing is a bit like life in general: with a bit of hard work and determination, you'll get there, and really start enjoying it - but you'll still fall on your bottom from time to time.
This place is perfect if you're...
A young family with children who are learning to ski. And, if there are young ones who aren't quite old enough, there's a créche to keep them happy, too, and give you time to hit the slopes. Or there's a kids' club, where they can get involved in snowman-building, face-painting and sledging. Equally, if you're a couple looking for a great-value ski experience - like we were - it's an ideal spot. And if you just want to go on your own to get your yearly fix of the white stuff, the vibe is so friendly, that people of all ages will feel comfortable and make friends in the ski hosting groups.
If you're a first-time skier, and your partner isn't, it might be good to go with another couple in a similar situation, so the learner has a powder partner in crime. Most first-timers have lessons in the morning and then have the afternoon to themselves, while boyfriend is off happily swooshing down the slopes. Alternatively, you can just ask your ski instructor to go for lunch, and enjoy a mountain-side tipple while your man does all the hard work...
You'll fly into Grenoble, where you'll take a coach transfer to Val d'Isere, which takes around two hours and 45 minutes. To make the trip - and life - a little bit easier, drive to the airport and get Purple Parking to look after your car for the week. As the UK's largest airport car parking operator, the company offers services at 19 key airport car parks across the UK, with prices for Gatwick parking starting from just £4 a day.
There are currently some fabulous offers with 25% off the headline price:
9 December, £545 per person (WAS £720)
16 December, £649 per person (WAS £872)
6 & 13 January, £675 per person (WAS £830)
Prices are for a week and include flights with Monarch from London Gatwick, accommodation, breakfast, tea, dinner with wine, and ski hosting. Visit markwarner.co.uk for more information.