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Monday, 1 February 2010

It's all gone dark

Is it me just back from a dazzling white ski hol? Or was today just too black to believe? Out for my usual 50-minute run while Little Miss Outdoors attends a French class I couldn't get over just how dark and bleak Glasgow felt tonight. Perhaps Scotland has grown more accustomed over the last month or so to the lighter shades of snow and ice but even so today seemed blacker, darker, more overcast and far too dreary to be true.

Ms Outdoors and Little Miss Outdoors,
Flaine, with Mont Blanc
in the background. Awesome!

Anyway, back to the recent ski the French Alps! While I'm always keen to extol the virtues of Scotland's great outdoors – and I have waxed lyrical in recent months about the joys of winter walking – I would by lying if I said the Alps are anything short of amazingly stunning.

Last week they were even more amazingly stunning than I've ever seen them, with masses of snow covering so many valleys and peaks in the Grand Massif.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fly off to Flaine on a press trip, courtesy of Crystal/Thomson ski (see there are still a few perks left in the world of journalism). (And, yes, I did take my primary school aged daughter out of school for a week. Naughty me!)

Just a 1.5-hour transfer from Geneva and with a huge choice of graded slopes on offer, Flaine is made for families. While I headed off-piste for some challenging snowboard fun (and more falls than I could count), Little Miss Outdoors was entertained by miles of blue and flattering red runs (and only one fall in six days of skiing!).

The family focused hotel, the Totem, was also of a much higher standard than I'd expected. The package price for the all-inclusive meals and accommodation holiday seemed to be on the cheaper side of budget conscious so I'd expected the Totem to offer basic but adequate rooms and food. But both were better then average and the three-course dinners (with free wine) were superb.

It's not usually possible to find a budget-friendly ski holiday (and especially while the pound remains weak against the Euro) but the up-front, pay-before-you-go deal, with flights, transfers, accommodation and all food included has to be a good value way to go if you want to ski this year. Just one meal out in a French ski resort for two people can easily cost €70-plus so to have all the food included in the holiday price is a huge bonus. Book your lift pass, ski hire and lessons in advance and you'll likely save even more money.

My only wish is that I'd taken two weeks off work instead of the one. The day we left for home there had been at least a foot of new snow and two hours spent gliding through fresh powder on and off-piste only left me hankering for more and more snowboarding.

So maybe it's high time I tried snowboarding in Scotland again? The last time I headed north with my board was many years ago and it turned out to be very windy, very overcast, very cold and way too busy. I've heard it's so much better this year. Anyone want to tell me the best slopes to head to?

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