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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Courchevel 1850
Country: France
Domain: Les Trois Vallées
Author: Hurtle
Date: 11-18 January 2009
Our holiday: Sole skier: the purpose of my trip was to do an Inspired to Ski course. It was nice to be able to link up with another, most congenial, snowHead at Gatwick and, when not in class, we mostly skied together (with others) throughout the week.
Basics : Although the initial booking was through Inspired to Ski ( http://www.inspiredtoski.com/) accommodation and travel were through Mark Warner. Flights - at slightly ungodly times - were with Viking Airlines, about whom there are some very unflattering comments on t'internet, but they were fine, everything perfectly efficient and on time. Do not, however, be tempted by their hot bacon baguette - which tasted of mildly warm (and well-worn) shoe leather. As an aside, I used, as recommended by Spyderman, Cophall Farm Parking (http://www.cophallfarm.co.uk/index.asp) to park my car near Gatwick - super-efficient and superb value at £34 for the week.
Lift system : Awesome. I'd forgotten quite how many lifts there are in the Three Valleys domain. Yes, the lift pass price is steep - full price is €225 for a week - but the number of lifts/runs and the superb piste maintenance fully justifies the price, IMHO. Compare it, say, with the average train journey in the UK!
The terrain : Piste layout and maintenance can't be faulted and, for the most part, signage is excellent. Very difficult to get lost on the (pisted) mountain, even for a numpty with no sense of direction like me.
The snow : It hadn't snowed for about three weeks when we arrived, but there were lots of pistes in excellent condition, albeit with stones showing through here and there.
Off-piste : Didn't do much and no powder around, but then we did have six clear days of sunshine and blue skies!
The resort : Courchevel 1850 is quite an attractive town and has all facilities one could possibly require. Having said that, all I bought in town were some postcards and some orange juice: better to avoid the temptation of all the expensive (very) shops. A few Russians around, perfectly well-behaved (I only had to explain once what a queue was) a fair old mixture of nationalities otherwise, including lots of British and quite a few Dutch.
Food : The best place for information on the Three Valleys generally is to be found on this link in skimottaret's website. Decent self-service food is to be found at Chenus (at the top of the lift of the same name from 1850) and my personal favourite, Bel Air, is as good as ever - excellent food and service, and beautiful views. What with half board and tea at the hotel, didn't sample much else of particular interest.
Accommodation : Mark Warner Chalet Hotel Dahu. Brilliantly situated within two minutes' walk of the main lift system at La Croisette, there really couldn't be a better situation. Nothing fancy, but clean and my single room (without supplement) was spacious, though I gather that not all the single rooms are as nice. The food wasn't haute cuisine, but was wholesome and plentiful, and the wine allowance at dinner was generous and potable. The prices at the bar were very good indeed - less than €4 for some quite fancy cocktails. The numerous Mark Warner employees around the place were unfailingly charming and helpful. (Used their guiding service once - nice young man, enjoyable ski.)
Costs: Despite the dreadful exchange rate and the fact that Courchevel 1850 has always been one of the most expensive ski resorts in Europe, my week's skiing didn't cost me any more than an average week's skiing has cost me over the last 10 years - only this time, the price included 15 hours of the best tuition I've ever had in my life. I couldn't recommend Inspired to Ski more highly, and particularly the instructor who took my class, Angus Meldrum, just brilliant. A holiday booked direct with Mark Warner in the same accommodation would have cost much, much more, including a wopping single person supplement.
Conclusion: An enjoyable, instructive and excellent value holiday. There were lots of nice people on the course, many of whom had been numerous times before. I certainly aim to do this package again.

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