My nine-year-old son is lying spread-eagled in the snow at the bottom of a mountain; his eyes are closed beneath his ski goggles, and he's making strange snorting noises. A distressing scene for any mother on her first-ever skiing holiday with her children. Images of head-on collisions and bone-breaking falls are never far from the mind - but I know better. My darling son is merely pretending to be asleep: his witty way of telling me that I've taken so long to get down the piste that he's nodded off out of sheer boredom waiting for me.
I admit I'm not the best skier in the world - sidestepping is more my style if the ground has a gradient. But how come my children, who've never set foot on a ski slope before, are bombing past me down the blues like they were born with skis on?
Determined to do better, up to the top I go again, on another scary chair lift. There's nothing but a vertical drop between me and the tiny dots of buildings below - apparently the lively resort of Tignes - so how I'm supposed to get there, on a pair of skis, is beyond me. "Just follow me - it's easy!" calls my son, zooming past. Easy it may be for him, a budding champion ski racer. Not easy for me, a budding champion couch-potato. The only thing that keeps me going is the thought of getting back to our hotel with its warm bed and big cakes.
We're staying at Mark Warner's newly acquired Chalethotel Hauts de Touvière, and I'm itching to get back there, to the hospitality and kind words, to the big vats of soup and perhaps even a nice glass of vin chaud. Skiing may not come naturally to me, but the après-ski certainly does. And if there's one thing that made our holiday special it was the fact that we were in such good hands. Mark Warner knows how to look after families, because it thinks of everything: a well-staffed crèche, nannies on tap, friendly staff, an abundance of delicious food and an informal, homely atmosphere.
The company is rightly proud of its latest addition, which it has refurbished. It has very specific requirements for its hotels: close proximity to snow-sure slopes and bags of room for kids' clubs and crèches - so it takes a lot for it to be satisfied. But the Touvière ticks all the right boxes, and more.
You cannot fail to be impressed by Tignes, either. It has got more runs than you can shake a ski-pole at, it is well-organised and user-friendly. The lifts are an experience in their own right: once we got over our sheer terror we even enjoyed them. We took the funicular up the Grande Motte glacier for lunch, swung our legs nonchalantly from perilously high chair lifts, and even braved the breathtaking and precarious "bubble lifts".
In fact, Tignes has such an array of ski runs (125 in "L'Espace Killy" area) that if you are not having ski lessons, it is well worth taking advantage of Mark Warner's pioneering ski-hosting service, which is free. The hosts, picked for their personalities as much as their skiing abilities, will accompany you and show you the best runs. Our hosts were great company and a goldmine of information. Join the group that suits you: be fast if you dare, intermediate if you're not so sure, or one of the "leisurelies" if you want to take it slow.
Children under 12 can't participate in the ski hosting, but this is where the company's childcare services come into their own. The nannies can look after your treasures at the hotel or drop them at ski school, pick them up for lunch, take them back in the afternoon, give them their tea and watch a film with them. Many families separate and meet up again at teatime - unmissable at the Touvière. This is a chance to share stories of skiing triumphs and wipe-outs (there's an award for the best accident of the week). After tea there's time for a nap or a game of hide and seek around the hotel. There's a telly in the living room with regular DVD screenings.
My kids are demanding to go back. While Tignes is great for skiers of all levels, it can be tough for scaredy-cats like me. But the children thrived and spent most of their time badgering their British Alpine Ski School instructor to take them on a black. He declined, thank goodness.
Nevertheless, on their last day, they treated me to a "show"' involving off-piste ski jumps and slalom races. But by the end of my stay, even I had managed to improve my speed. Next time, I'm booking some one-to-one lessons; my dream is that one day it'll be me lying in the snow, waiting for my kids to catch up.
Seven nights at the Chalethotel Hauts de Touvière in the French resort of Tignes with Mark Warner (0870 770 4226; markwarner.co.uk) costs from £416 per adult and from £216 per child sharing with parents. Children in their own rooms aged two to four years cost £371; five to 10 years cost £381 per person and 11-15 years cost from £391. The price includes return flights, transfers, welcome drinks, canapés, ski hosting, breakfast, tea and a three-course dinner with wine and room-listening. Childcare, ski lessons, ski hire, lift pass, lunch and bar drinks cost extra.
Our alternative ski idea
Just opened in the French resort of Peisey-Vallandry, a brand new village from Club Med (08453 67 67 67; www.clubmed.co.uk). With Paradiski and the Vanoise national park on its doorstep, it offers rooms with a view of the valley, a spa, indoor and outdoor pool, and Mini and Junior children's clubs. Packages start at £829 per adult and £705 per child.Reuse content