Travel: French skiing destinations within driving distance
Sarah Loughlin picks her top three resorts to drive to from Jersey
AFTER a very shaky start last season weather-wise, I have a feeling Mother Nature has something special up her sleeve for us this year.
So dig out your salopettes, dust off your skis and get planning – 2015/16 is going to be a stonker!
Whether you like snow-sure but slightly colder February, or sun-soaked spring skiing in April, there is so much great skiing to be done, all within a ten-hour drive of Jersey.
After hopping off the ferry in St Malo and hitting the open road you can be in world-famous resorts sipping a vin chaud in no time.
Here are my top three for this season:
La Massana, Andorra 1,230m (9h 35m from St Malo)
Love skiing, hate cheese?
This is the place for you.
Tucked in the mountains between France and Spain, Andorra, the Catalan-speaking principality, is the only place I have eaten tapas while wearing ski boots.
Sitting on the balcony overlooking the slopes on a warm spring afternoon enjoying a glass of Rioja is miles away from my usual ski holidays, which have a heavy French persuasion, and normally involve a croque-monsieur and a demi-pêche.
As a cheese enthusiast I find it bizarre that people don't like the melted cheesy goodness that makes up the majority of mountain cuisine.
Whether it's fondue, raclette or tartiflette, it's just not everyone's cup of tea.
From the small town of La Massana you can access the Vallnord ski area home to Arcalis, Pal and Arinsal.
Vallnord is great value, ideal for families or groups with non-skiers and beginners.
Eat: Stop at stylish slope-side restaurant Paincocotte in Arinsal, for their signature dish of the same name.
This homemade bread bowl is filled with your choice of tasty-casserole style fillings.
Perfect to warm you up before you head back out on the slopes.
Pizzeria Angelo in La Massana village is a great place to grab a bite in the evening, with good service and fantastic pizza.
Après: La Massana is a small town, probably not a great choice if you like to party.
For a relaxed after-dinner drink head to quirky local bar Mon Bohemi where a beer will set you back just 2 euros.
For the non-skiiers, the capital city Andorra Le Vella is just a short drive away and has great duty-free shopping and Caldea, Europe's largest spa.
Caldea is well worth a visit with its open-air thermal lagoons and different therapies including a salt cave and a grapefruit pool.
Vallnord Ski Area:
Total piste: 93 km
Price for an adult 6-day pass: 204 euros
Number of lifts: 45
Season dates: 29 November –
12 April 2016
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France 1,035m (8h 45m from St Malo)
A place for all things extreme, during summer months climbers and mountain-bikers flock from all over Europe to make Chamonix their playground.
In the winter it's no different, with some of the hardest ski runs in Europe including the 24 km long Vallée Blanche.
This resort is one not to be missed if you are looking for a challenge and ideal if you want to ski off-piste.
However, if you want to ski from your door and don't like catching the bus between ski areas it's probably not for you.
There is plenty to do for non-skiers, such as the Montenvert train which takes you up to the Mer de Glace glacier which has an ice museum carved inside it.
Or for fabulous views of the Alps catch the Aiguille du Midi up to the glass-bottomed viewing platform Step Into The Void.
Unlike a lot of French resorts, Chamonix is only one hour from the airport and has a train station, ideal if you want to meet up with friends and family flying in from other places in Europe.
Eat: To get your cheese fix head to La Caleche for traditional montagnarde cuisine. Or if you want something a little different head to the Swedish-owned Gustavia Hotel for the three-course set menu which is great value and the food is incredible.
Après: Similar to VT, the average price for a beer here is 6-7 euros, and there are a lot of bars to choose from.
MBC, Chamonix's own microbrewery, is good for watching sports and catching up with friends.
Chambre Neuf is the place for live music and dancing in your ski boots.
Or head for a relaxed drink and a game of pool at Bar'd Up.
Keep an eye out for events in Chamonix such as the local ice-hockey team games at the sports centre.
If skiing hasn't tired you out, access to the swimming pool and ice-rink are included on your lift pass.
Chamonix ski area
Total piste: 150 km
Price for an adult 6-day Mont Blanc pass 293 euros 6 days adult – includes unlimited Aiguille du Midi, Montenvers railway and skiing in Courmayeur, Italy and Verbier, Switzerland
Number of lifts: 50
Season dates: 19 December 2015 – 17 April 2016
Val Thorens France, 2,300m (9h 40m from St Malo)
The highest resort in Europe, Val Thorens is not only part of Les Trois Vallées, the biggest ski area in the world, but to top it all off, most accommodation is ski-in-ski-out.
The best part of being so high is that you can ski for 15-20 minutes down the slopes before you have to get on a chairlift.
VT is great for groups of friends or families with older children.
Because of the vast ski area the lift pass is more expensive than somewhere like Andorra, so it is best to wait until the kids are old enough to take advantage of it.
This snow-sure resort is ideal for people who like to ski pre-Christmas or in April, you can get some great last-minute deals on accommodation during these periods.
I love Les 3 Vallées because you can ski all day, well actually all week, and never do the same run.
Made up of concrete high-rise buildings, it's not a pretty resort in the charming wooden chalet sense, but the view from the top of the mountain down over the town is still quite impressive.
Eat: For the best fondue in town reserve a table at L'Auberge, then when you are totally cheesed out, head over to the Red Fox for a digestif or two.
Or if you just want to grab a quick bite before Après grab a Frog Burger from the Frog and Roast Beef.
It won't disappoint.
Après: You will be spoiled for choice in VT when it comes to Après.
If you are a fan of the mid-afternoon slope-side beer there is the famous Folie Douce with live music and amazing atmosphere.
Or if you want to ski until last lift head to the Frog for live music and as much dancing on the table as you can shake a stick at, or try Danish bar Café Snesko who have their own theme song and set fire to things at regular intervals throughout the evening.
The average price for a beer in town is 6-7 euros.
If you want to keep a clear head for the next day why not head out on a Snowmobile Safari?
It's a fantastic way to explore the empty slopes just as the sun goes down behind the mountain.
Les 3 Vallées ski area
Total piste: 600 km
Price for an adult 6-day pass: 289 euros
Number of lifts: 169
Season dates Val Thorens: 21 November to 8 May 2016
Sarah Loughlin is a Travel Writer from the UK, visit her website www.itsonlyaplanerideaway.com for travel features to inspire your adventures and tips to get you there.
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