Here’s a sign you’ve arrived in the French Alps for a ski holiday: there’s a cable car hanging in the front lobby being used as a lampshade.
And speaking of ‘light’, that feeling of having no money left in my wallet is another I’ve often faced when going skiing with my family.
Luckily, French firm Pierre & Vacances has developed a new apartment block in Méribel — gateway to the 370-mile ski mecca of the Three Valleys — that aims to soften the blow to skiers’ budgets.
Formerly a car park, the recently opened Residence L’Hévana is just a five-minute walk from the slopes and costs from £1,303 a week — that’s £325pp for a family of four.
On entry, there’s a large lounge area with chairs and colourful beanbags, an array of Swedish-style bookcases and antlers on the wall. Someone’s thoughtfully added a store of moderately priced wine bottles you can buy if you can’t be bothered heading out to the shops and there’s even a pool table.
Like most of P&V’s ‘premium’ apartment developments, it has a large pool with a combined paddling area, a four-person hot tub, saunas and a ‘deep nature’ spa.
There’s a cheery bar upstairs — tick. The Skiset shop is right next door to hire equipment (at a discounted rate) — tick.
A ski room with lockers and heaters — tick. The modern apartments are small(ish) but perfectly formed, with a kitchen, lounge and dining area — tick. And you can pay a bit extra to get jam, honey, tea, hot chocolate plus fresh bread and pain au chocolat delivered to your door daily — double tick.
Granted, the layout is somewhat labyrinthine, so getting to, say, the bar or the ski room can become a bit of a navigational nightmare. However, overall, it’s comfortable, affordably priced and gives you the flexibility to decide how much or little you’re going to spend around the resort.
For me, food is a focus. This is the Savoie region — home to cheese, cheese and more cheese.
And aside from the skiing, I also make a fair attempt to offset the damage by dancing at party central the Folie Douce, featuring an outside Cleopatra-themed cabaret on the day I go, complete with acrobatic dancers.
I slide down the Charlie And The Chocolate Factory-style helter-skelter to the toilet at Bar Le Rond Point (every bar should have one) and hike through the forest path to reach Le Clos Bernard, an idyllic restaurant in the woods with a roaring fire for the chefs to cook enormous steaks on.
Other highlights include fondue and raclette restaurant Le Rastro — double cheese! — and, closer to the apartment, L’Igloo, a hamburger and pizza joint that literally goes for a cool vibe with an eating area styled to feel like you’re having dinner in, well, an igloo.
On the mountain, there are now relaxation chalets for a few moments’ chilling as well as romantic heart-shaped wooden huts. And following the Swedish example, mountain managers have also installed free picnic areas.
Under blue skies, with a day in the largest ski area in the world and with that hot tub back at the apartment calling to me, my thoughts quickly turn to the best route back… perhaps via a bar with a slide in it?
A week at Premium Residence L’Hévana in an apartment sleeping four, starts at £1,303, pierreetvacances.co.uk.
Return flights from London to the closest airport, Lyon, start at £31 one-way, ba.com
MORE SKI BUDGET BREAKS
Megève, in the heart of the Mont Blanc massif, is a village that’s been popular with artists and ski lovers since 1916.
The medieval centre has loads of artisan shops and galleries, and three Michelin-starred restaurants.
But you don’t have to break the bank to stay here. Pierre & Vacances’ Residence Le Mont d’Arbois has great views and a wellbeing centre.
Seven-night self-catered stay in an apartment starts at £177pp, pierreetvacances.co.uk
Borovets is known for the cheapest ski lessons in Europe and is ideal for novices thanks to the high number of beginner and intermediate runs.
It also offers fantastic après-ski for those on a budget, with a large number of bars.
Crystal Ski Holidays offers a week’s half-board holiday at the four-star Festa Chamkoria from £371pp, including flights from London Gatwick to Sofia and transfers, crystalski.co.uk
There’s no shortage of family skiing here. With Mont Blanc towering over, it offers scenery to die for. It’s perfect for intermediates and beginners, with fine off-piste for advanced skiers.
Courmayeur’s also fab for foodies and the SkyWay Monte Bianco cable car provides access to serious descents including Vallée Blanche.
A week’s half-board at the three-star Hotel Dei Camosci starts at £487pp, crystalski.co.uk
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