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Val Thorens - Late Season Skiing

koh-i-norSkiing late season, especially when Easter is in the second half of April, is risky. My husband was convinced that going to Val Thorens at 2300m would the antidote to that. After 11 hours (over 2 days) in the car we arrived in a frosted cloud - still in our shorts from the beach!

After many a hectic, child-fraught ski experience we decided to stay in a decent hotel this time, with easy access to the slopes. This immediately paid off as the friendly staff at the new 5 star Koh-I Nor Hotel whisked our luggage, skis and all, from the car to lockers and room, and then parked the thing! Meanwhile we were given a refreshing welcome drink in the quirkily classy bar. I was sold immediately!

The rooms are all warm carpets, wood panelling (watch for splinters!), large framed TVs and furry cushions on super comfy beds. The full glass doors to patio gave, mainly, inviting views out to the mountain and slopes. The children were through an interconnecting door selecting movies on their large screen whenever the opportunity arose.

Each morning, after a hearty buffet breakfast we took the lift to the locker room below and got kitted out before being presented with our skis and gliding off from the door. It was as easy as that! Morning skiing was best, by the afternoon the snow could be in thick sticky clumps. Apparently this year had much less depth than the year before. It was glorious to ski with barely a glove needed, down to tee-shirts at times, but of course this meant that the snow quality suffered. Much as I like to be warm, and the height of this resort did compensate, I hate to admit it but for pristine conditions April could be a bit late. There were days when I didn't feel I was elegantly slithering down the mountain in a flourish, but was ploughing on.

Of course it was wonderful too - I'm becoming fussy, as you do when you have skiied a few times. The range of runs was great, you can make use of the Three Valleys ski area so there is plenty off variety. One day we skiied in such a smog that we could barely see each other and nothing of our location. It was like being on a white woolly planet. We were amazed to find our way home as you couldn't see lifts, edges or people until you were upon them.

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We were very pleased to be staying in such a stylish, yet homely, hotel. By mid-afternoon we would be swimming or sweating in the sauna in the Spa. The kids were welcome there too and they even offer treatments for them. It was always a pleasure to be in the room too - propped and snuggled up to watch a film together munching on a room service burger. The bar was another favourite hang-out with tempting cocktails, a real fire, a mish-mash of interesting sofas and chairs and live music sometimes. The terrace, with heaters, showcased the mountain views. On Easter Sunday the children were thrilled to be part of an Easter Egg hunt there - finding lots of treats under chairs and in corners. It's a great hotel for families in so many ways.

Always trying to perfect our skiing technique (to prepare for old age, my husband says) meant that we approached the British ski instructor, David, through his website - www.davidmitchell-ski.co.uk - I can highly recommend his quietly confident manner and experience. He made many suggestions that kept us improving throughout the holiday.

The hotel offers the half board option at a reasonable price (relatively speaking) if you pre-arrange it. The evening meal, impressively created by the 2 Michelin star awarded chef, were a multi-coursed extravaganza of high quality and creativity. We preferred to take a look around the resort, trying here and there, not overeating, plus taking picnics on the slopes during the day. Favourite choices were the furry chandeliered La Maison Blanche and La Paillote where we were looked after by friendly Loic. La Montaña Restaurant looked lovely but too slick for our children. La Folie Douce is booting out music for those who want some atmospheric, piste-side apres-ski - our kids wouldn't let us stop! When we did eat in the hotel they allowed us to choose one dish (it did make me choke paying €30 for pasta though) and the children were happy with their menu.

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Our last day and we discovered the best runs of all. On the Cime Caron and down the long black (Combe de Caron) and red (Col de L'Audzin). We were flying confidently at last. My 9 year old daughter insisted I did the mogal black (Cristaux) but that left my knees shot and thighs burning. It was one of the first moments in my life when I thought - I'm Too Old! She loved it of course. We holed up for lunch in a lovely cabin restaurant, during intense snowfall, before returning home tired but happy.

That night the snow continued to fall heavily. As we packed up the car the freshly powdered slopes glinted in the sunlight. We said farewell to Val Thorens, a place I had become quite attached to, on a day when the conditions would have been just perfect! Thats the way it goes...

Nice drive out of there - mountains