Going skiing should be a pleasure, not a slog

Simon O'Hagan just wanted an easy journey, a pretty resort and a choice of manageable runs. He found it all in Paradiski

There are probably as many types of skier as there are resorts – from people who aren't happy unless they're cheating death on the blackest of black runs to those who are content to potter from one chocolat chaud to the next.

I'm closer to the latter camp. Give me a challenge and I'll shirk it. Those big bumps you get – moguls? No thanks. Blue runs? Fine. Red runs? OK, but with a sharp intake of breath and time to stop awhile and pluck up courage.

Don't get me wrong. I like skiing. And I love the mountains. But I also like to keep things simple. Getting to your destination shouldn't be too stressful. A train and a taxi is ideal. And, when you arrive, it should be at a real place – a nice little village with shops and locals (preferably in France), not some industrial-scale complex. And when I finally do hit the slopes I might want to test myself a bit, but mainly I'm looking for a big choice of manageable runs.

I think I have found just the place – the huge skiing area in the Tarentaise that goes under the name Paradiski and stretches from Les Arcs in the west to La Plagne in the east. With 242 runs (260 miles of skiing), and rising from 1,200m to 3,250m, there's something for everyone.

The centrepiece of Paradiski is the astonishing feat of engineering that is the Vanoise Express, the unique double-deck cable car linking the Les Arcs side with La Plagne. It vastly increased the skiing possibilities when it opened in 2003. Not that the possibilities were ever exactly limited. The Vanoise Express is perhaps the most spectacular four-minute journey in the world. Even if you're sticking to skiing on one side of the valley – and only the most adventurous and energetic really need both. "Express" remains something of a misnomer, though, in part because the car operates without a single supporting pylon. Don't ask me how they did that. You glide along, 380m above the valley floor, in near-silence and a profound state of awe.

The Express has not gone without a hitch. Technical problems closed it for the 2007-2008 season and for a project that cost €15m and around which an entire tourist strategy was built, this was a bit of a disaster. But it was up and gliding again last winter, which was when my family visited.

We stayed close to the Express's arrival point on the Les Arcs side, in the Vallandry part of the extended resort of Peisey-Vallandry. One of the many great things about Peisey-Vallandry is it's only a half-hour taxi ride from Bourg-St-Maurice. And from London, Bourg could hardly be easier. You board a train at St Pancras and, eight hours later, you're there.

Vallandry is rather too exposed and spread out but it is pleasant enough, with footpaths zig-zagging between the different levels, and a good range of shops and restaurants. The shops mattered because, having previously stayed in chalets, we went down the apartment route. I arrived in Peisey with a certain amount of built-in resistance to the idea of self-catering, but it melted away within seconds of crossing the threshold of the L'Orée des Cimes apartment complex, the stylish, wood-panelled lobby of which smacked of a five-star hotel.

Our apartment was spacious and elegant, with a balcony from which we watched the sun go down. We had free use of a pool, a gym, a Jacuzzi and a sauna. The ski-hire shop was right next door; the nearest lift was 50 yards from where our equipment was kept, and we'd remembered to bring our own porridge. It was all good.

Sticking mainly to the Les Arcs side we were able to go out as a family – my wife and I, both of us inclined to caution, and our two rather more thrill-seeking teenage daughters – and still all have a good time. From the highest point we reached – the 2,425m Col du Grand Renard – there was a fabulous long red that turned into a blue and took you down to Arc 1800. Heading back towards Vallandry there was a ski park where my daughters could hit the racetrack and get airborne. Closer to home, there were innumerable runs through trees, which gave the aesthetic experience my wife sought. And everywhere, loads of space.

Calling somewhere "Paradiski" smacks rather of hubris, and perfection in skiing comes in many guises. But for us, this was one trip that would be hard to improve upon.

Compact Facts

How to get there

There are two direct train services a week from St Pancras to Bourg-St-Maurice – one overnight Friday- Saturday, and one during the day on Saturdays. Return fares start at £149 in standard class and £229 in Leisure Select (08432 186 186; eurostar.com). Peak Retreats (0844 576 0170; peakretreats .co.uk) offers a week at L'Orée des Cimes from £856 for a one-bedroom apartment in low season to £2,434 for a two-bedroom apartment during the February half-term. One week's unlimited Paradiski ski pass costs €249 per person.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Day In a Page

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms