Becky McLeod is a mother of three from Yorkshire who regularly drags her kids abroad to show them the world—someday, maybe, they'll appreciate it.
Looking to wallow away the winter in alpine serenity? Or perhaps rocketing down the piste is more your style? Ski holidays in France are a classic for a reason, and charming Chamonix has everything that the skiing tortoise or hare could ever desire.
Winter Olympics wannabes should make a beeline for Chamonix, whose challenging off-piste terrain is world famous. Free-riding steep runs seem to go on forever, and check out the Valle Blanche glacier for majestic views, dramatic blue ice shelves and talcum soft snow. Other notable mountains for thrill-seekers include Balme, Brevent-Flegere, Houches and Grands Montets. Each of these runs offers something uniquely challenging for the seasoned skier, with different grades of off-piste terrain.
Some tour providers offer services similar to a boot camp, with female mountain guides who have trained the SAS and British army. Check out the specialist ski company White Blancmange and get picked up from the airport in a Hummer limousine. Bring crampons, plenty of rope and an anything-goes attitude, and you will fit right in.
The Slow Lane
If you'd like more experience before taking on the tricky runs, or are skiing with children, start off in the Les Planards and Savoy area around the foot of the Brevent. Curious and slow-burn types will enjoy taking photos of the feathery snowflakes, chunks of greenish ice, and vast and brutally beautiful vistas of snow.
Kids will love Chamonix as well, and are well-catered to across the region. There's a sports center, and indoor pool with water slides, novelty sleigh rides, an ice-skating rink, snow shoeing and a cinema showing kids' flicks during the day. Tired and overworked parents can leave their kids with one of the nannies available for hire through the resort.
Lounge in a Lunar Landscape
Off-piste, the resort is dotted with chic eateries, slinky bars and plush accommodation. Stay up until all hours of the morning and visit Jekyll, MBC, Bar'd Up, Chambre Neuf or The Pub, and meet lots of like-minded party-animals.
Expect saunas, aromatherapy, massage, cinemas, more comfy sofas than you can shake a ski at, and stunning reclaimed timber interiors. Retire back at the chalet for a champagne infused spa, gold flecked soap and a restorative massage. Planning to propose, or celebrating something special? There's no better place to be.
To slate your hunger after a day of skiing, La Cabane des Praz is a stylish restaurant with bewitching views of the surrounding mountains. The food is simple, but tasty and elegant; sample a nice local red to wash down your delicious steak.
On the budget end of the scale, Chamonix doesn't disappoint, with around 100 restaurants that are friendly to the budget-conscious traveler. Fondues can be found for around 25 Euros and pizzas tend towards 15 Euros. Cosy and laid back restaurants include Caveau and Boccalatte. On the posh end of the scale, try Bistrot and Albert Premier, both Michelin rated (although maybe send your kids off with the nanny for these).
The 'Hell Yes' Heli-Tour
Another must-see in Chamonix is a bird's-eye view from the helm of a helicopter as it hurtles past the Argentiere glacier. Squeeze past the sharp teeth of the Grandes Jorasses at a dizzying speed and then reach the highest domain in the French Alps—Mont Blanc, with a soft plonk on the peak at 4,810 metres above sea-level.
Chamonix is one of the most famous ski resorts in the most famous skiing region in the world, and its persistence proves it's here to stay. The closest airport is Geneva, with frequent flights from British airports.
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