Bite-sized breaks out on the slopes

Even if the weather lets you down, there’s plenty to enjoy on a quick getaway, says Mary Novakovich

A surprisingly big chunk of the ski industry is locked into the idea that one size fits all: a seven-day holiday running from Saturday to Saturday. But not everyone can manage a whole week of skiing time – or would even want to. My fellow dinner guests at Hôtel Les Aravis bore witness to that: among them a couple of dads with their sons on a short boys'-own holiday; parents giving their kids a relatively inexpensive introduction to skiing; and a woman on her own with loads of annual leave to use up.

We were all here to spend as much time on the slopes with as little hassle as possible – and without spending a fortune for the privilege. A 60-minute transfer from Geneva airport took us to the hotel in St-Jean-de-Sixt, halfway between the two French resorts of Le Grand-Bornand and La Clusaz. Most of us arrived in time for afternoon tea offered free to guests every day, with scrumptious cakes made by a former chef at Bettys Tea Room in York. A few had gravitated to the bar, while those of us who were hiring equipment waited our turn to get kitted out in the downstairs bootroom. Our ski passes were handed to us on arrival. We had nothing to do but gorge on cakes, sink a beer or two and wait for our three-course dinner.

It was a relaxed, efficient introduction to a quick fix of skiing. Ski Weekender has been running midweek and weekend breaks in the Aravis mountain range for 13 years, and its simple formula works beautifully. Choose an area with a short transfer time, run a hotel as if it were a catered chalet, offer stays during quiet times early in the week, have everything at your guests' disposal – all at an affordable price.

On the first morning, most of us joined the group led by two of the Ski Weekender ski hosts, John and Dougie. Rather than waste your precious three days trying to find your own way around, let the ski hosts do the work for you. They also sort out transport to and from the resort in time for afternoon tea. The only catch was the weather. The big drawback of a short break is the possibility of three days of heavy snow, zero visibility and leaden skies.

Our hosts took us first to Le Grand-Bornand, a family-friendly resort with a multitude of gentle slopes where we could get our ski legs back at the start of a new season. It was just as well the ski hosts were there: the relentless snow made it extremely difficult to see where we were going. We were happy to dispense with piste maps on these wide, quiet cruising runs and be led like sheep. When visibility did improve a bit, I could spot some of the small farms on the mountain where cows are kept during the winter to produce reblochon, the delicious Savoy cheese.

A stroll through the village was a pleasant way to end the afternoon, admiring the 19th-century church and traditional Savoyard buildings draped in a heavy coat of snow. Building in Le Grand-Bornand is kept within strict guidelines, preventing the kind of horrors seen in many purpose-built resorts. The same is true of La Clusaz, Le Grand-Bornand's slightly smarter neighbour, where I headed the following day.

By this time the snow had eased. Connected to La Clusaz's Massif de Beauregard is Manigod, after La Clusaz, Le Grand-Bornand and St-Jean-de-Sixt the fourth resort in the newly created ski domain of Lake Annecy Ski Resorts. The wide slopes with plenty of tree cover were practically empty. Even during half-term, I was told, you won't find the hordes on the Massif de Manigod at 1,650m. Perhaps they're not aware that the Aravis mountain range has its own unusual microclimate that gives it a lot more snow than its altitude would suggest.

Back at the Hôtel Les Aravis, it was the kitchen staff's night off. We were given the following options: we could try one of the village restaurants; a Ski Weekender staff member could drive us to La Clusaz or Le Grand-Bornand for dinner; or we could troop down the road for a takeaway pizza. By this time, our group had bonded into one big genial bunch, and almost everyone plumped for a lazy pizza supper in the comfortable lounge. I, however, had an Alpine cheese obsession to feed, which had to be satisfied with raclette at Le Mazot Délices (00 33 450 02 35 28) directly across the road.

By the third and final morning, I felt as if I had been there for a week – and I still had a whole day of skiing ahead of me, thanks to my evening flight. This time I could go back to Le Grand-Bornand and see what was hidden from me on that first snowy day. The skies were still resolutely grey, but the powdery snow was glorious. There was just enough time before I left to say hello to the new arrivals. That's when the envy crept in, knowing they were going to spend the next few days in this warm and convivial place.

Travel Essentials

Getting there

Ski Weekender (0845 557 5983; skiweekender.com) offers Mon-Thu breaks at Hôtel Les Aravis from £280 per person, including transfers, lift passes, breakfast, two dinners, wine, afternoon tea and two days' ski hosting. Flights and equipment hire costs are extra. Thu-Mon breaks start from £455 per person.

Geneva airport is served by airlines including easyJet, BA, Flybe, Swiss and Jet2.

More information

lakeannecy- skiresorts.com

legrandbornand.com

laclusaz.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
i100
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments