The letters V, I and P are very much de nos jours, as they say in the French Alps – so much so they are losing their power. Now, any fool who splashes out £250 on a bottle of vodka in a nightclub can sit in the VIP area, where they sponge down the leatherette seats more often than elsewhere.
I was crestfallen to discover that the luxury ski chalet company VIP actually stands for Val d'Isère Properties. But it turns out its new Platinum Collection really does make you feel very special without the need for silly money. The idea is to provide a "totally tailored holiday experience" that is a cut above your average week on the slopes but which doesn't, in these belt-tightened times, leave a big hole in your pocket.
Ski trips were one of the first luxuries to be jettisoned during the recession, not least because many punters had got into the habit of going twice a year during the economic boom. Bookings across Europe were down considerably in March last year. Yet here's a chance to experience the high life without needing to be a high roller, and Val d'Isère provides a suitably breathtaking backdrop. Go just once this year, but feel better about the sacrifice by adding a touch of luxury.
The VIP experience starts before you even leave home. My personal chef called to discuss my dietary preferences, and not just to see if I was allergic to nuts or lactose intolerant. Do you want French cuisine, or a broader fusion of international styles? Would you prefer to go organic? Should your cheeseboard be locally sourced? Once there, the chefs take painstaking hours over the preparation of the dinner, as if they were building a Formula One car out of foie gras in the kitchen while you relax over champagne and canapés. The sommelier, meanwhile, has already picked out a selection of fine wines to accompany the meal.
The "chalet" is actually Aspen Lodge, a traditional Savoyard property right in the heart of Val d'Isère, and the Platinum clients are housed in the three top-floor suites which sleep eight or 10. After you've been met at Geneva airport and been whisked off to the resort in a private transfer, you are greeted by staff who are as bubbly as the stuff in your glass. They are attentive but also discreet, and they don't "live in", allowing you some privacy with your smelly socks and incipient hangovers.
When the strenuous activity is done for the day, all you have to do is stretch out on the massive sofas in front of the open fire and gaze out on the mountains towering above the south-facing balconies. And a masseuse will come to your room to ease those aching limbs with a variety of treatments including those designed specifically to address the needs of skiers and snowboarders.
If you are still feeling energetic, an astonishing leisure centre has opened up in the village, designed and decked out with the kind of municipal munificence that the French do so well. The only thing that's lacking is a hot tub at the chalet, but then you can't have everything. Can you?
Ah yes, in my luxuriating befuddlement I almost forgot the actual reason for being there. Val's steep slopes are on your doorstep, or a five-minute trudge from the chalet, and the Platinum trips include your passes, ski and boot hire, and guiding or lessons.
And, believe me, the instructors are very patient with beginners. I felt most honoured to be taught by Ancelin, a local lad who revealed that he was only the 13th boy to be called by that name in France since the Second World War. That makes him a Very Important Person, surely – especially as it means "little god" – and he was all the more so for taking my life in his hands and treating it with such care.
Meanwhile, Jean-Marc had the more enviable task of showing the seasoned skiers around, and had the presence of mind to send them home shortly before he found himself trying to out-run an avalanche while exploring off-piste. He's an official mountain guide who knows every inch of the uplands, even if they are not always quite in the same place as the day before.
After the hard work, it's off to lunch at one of the restaurants that overlook the piste, such as La Fruitière, a charming old dairy at the top of La Daille gondola, where you jostle for space amid the milk churns (next door is the raucous La Folie Douce with its pumping music and dancing on the tables), or Le Signal, an elegant establishment at the halfway station of Le Fornet, with stunning views across the valley and an impressive collection of local art.
It may not have been deliberate but our party was made to feel extremely important on the way home. We had a plane to ourselves, with more staff than passengers, and our luggage was on the carousel before we even got there. Now that's VIP status – though you have to make sure it's the first charter flight of the season returning home in order to enjoy that privilege. However, the rest of the VIP treatment is there for the taking.
How to get there
Seven nights with VIP Chalets (0844 557 3119; vip-chalets.com) in Val d'Isère start at £1,129 per person and, with the Platinum Collection, at £1,619 per person, based on March departures. The price includes return flights, transfers and accommodation on a catered basis. Platinum Collection guests receive extra services including valet parking, airport lounge access, private transfers and personal chef.Reuse content