Why Peisey is the perfect place for a chalet ski holiday to discover the incredible Paradiski area
There's a nervous excitement as I hear the click of my boots, then off we go onto the ski lift. It's been seven years since I've been on skis.
I've forgotten how much I missed the feeling - not the wind chill in my face - but the anticipation that any minute I would be on top of the world.
Unless you have experienced skiing, it's hard to comprehend a 'cold holiday' as many of my friends say. But for me there is nothing quite like it.
I pause for a few seconds, take a deep breath, then off I go, and it's like riding a bike. I try to remember the technique, to relax, to lean forward to bend the knees.
With admiration, I watch others on the slopes and in my group and then I just look up and take in the views and it’s breathtaking.
I'm in the stunning resort of Plan Peisey in the French Alps.
It's part of a huge network of five villages, including the more well known resort of Les Arcs.
Within the vast area, there are all kinds of slopes for different abilities, everything from gorgeous tree-lined runs to wild, white-knuckle off-piste.
My husband and I are staying in a cosy, wooden chalet, called the Fleur de Neige which sleeps 15 and is operated by Ski Beat. We loved the little home comforts and little touches of luxury like L’Occitane products in the bathrooms.
Most importantly, Ski Beat hand-pick wonderful chalet hosts that really make you feel at home. We were welcomed by former teachers Tony and Carol Gilmour and they were friendly and helpful, offering great tips and advice about the resort as well as cooking fabulous meals.
After waking to unreal views of the mountains each morning, we are drawn to the lingering aroma of a home cooked breakfast, eggs, bacon, toast or cereals and yoghurts if you prefer, before strolling a few metres up a short path to ascend the ski lift.
From our base we can head up towards Les Arcs or we can get on Europe's largest cable car, The Vanoise Express, it's a double-decker cable car that links La Plagne with Les Arcs, acting as a vital link in the Paradiski area. A lift pass to cover this whole area costs from 205 Euros for an adult and 244 for the week - family deals are available.
On the first two days we're finding our feet, my husband getting used to his board again in an area that is very welcoming of boarders.
There are so many lovely runs to help with the basics and there are plenty of places to catch your breath, grab a drink and soak up the sun while enjoying the scenery. The mountains are scattered with chalet-style restaurants and prices are relatively reasonable, for example eight Euros for an 'assiete de frites'.
The best hot chocolate, by far, was from Le Solliet, a cosy mountain restaurant in Villaroger, Arc 2000, on the other side of the Les Arcs ski area. It really is worth the trek.
As we ski towards base, we find ourselves exploring the nearby village of Vallandry, it’s just a ten minute walk from the chalet and its high street is the ideal place for buying gifts or local delicacies.
After a day out on the slopes it's back to our lovely chalet, and in the sauna, before gorging on French baguettes delivered from the bakery just hours before and delicious French butter. Then there's the yummy cake - a different flavour each day made by our lovely hosts.
After all, skiing uses so much energy you need lots of calories to keep you going!
And if you are wondering whether they cater for dietary requirements, we had vegans in our
chalet and they had lots of options throughout the week, some tasting better than the non-vegan alternative.
Later in the evening we got a three course home-cooked meal with bottomless wine. It’s all part of the Ski Beat chalet package.
Then we hit the local pubs and bars with the rest of the group. It's a great way to get to know people in the chalet if you haven't got a large enough group to commit to a skiing holiday.
The resort of Plan Peisey has some lovely restaurants and lively bars. There's live musicians, quizzes and themed nights across the resort.
For live music and a friendly atmosphere, head to Bar Mojo in Peisey Vallandry, a laidback locals bar that's relaxed enough to take the children for a pre dinner drink.
For a livelier night out with mainly British seasonaires try the Mont Blanc bar, where you can also watch sporting events and play pool. On the other side of the resort, by the ski lifts, is La Vache, a popular bar where Ski Beat often holds a quiz night where its chalet guests compete against each other.
Located at the top of the Vallandry, Plan Peisey and Grizzly lifts, Aux Enfants Terribles serves food and drink throughout the day.
We really enjoyed the apres ski vibe, it wasn't as crazy as resorts like Meribel but we had just as much fun.
There is plenty of delicious Savoyard cuisine, mainly crusty baguettes, fondue and the traditional dish of the area, tartiflette - it’s potatoes, reblochon cheese, bacon and cream.
All evening meals are provided in the chalet but hosts do get one day off, usually the Wednesday, so it’s worth looking around and booking a table. We chose is L'Adress in Vallandry, on recommendation from our hosts. It’s a modern but cosy restaurant. It didn't disappoint, with a yummy burger, tasty pizzas and a chance to try the delicacy - escargot!
Plan Peisey is generally much quieter than other French resorts we have visited and this was great because we didn't waste much time on ski lifts. After a couple of days finding our rhythm we had a guide to show us around and help with tips and advice.
Yann, is head of Peisey ESF and knows the area like the back of his glove. He helped to improve our confidence, not only advising on technique but taking the stress away of getting lost or ending up on a tough black run.
"The best tip I can give you is to smile. If we ski with a happy face we will relax and enjoy.
If we ski with a mean face (and he demonstrates) we will be stiff and not smooth" Yan explained.
I'd definitely recommend getting a guide or private lesson during a trip, I always feel it
helps me get the most out of my week, whatever my ability at the time.