This bargain Alpine break beats the global meltdown

You don’t have to sacrifice that ski holiday. Jonathan Brown snaps up a deal

Extraordinary times require extraordinary deeds and, of course, sacrifices – or at least that was what my wife said when I nervously mooted the idea of an early January ski trip with a group of mates.

Although I’m a late convert to the delights of skidding downhill with two planks strapped to my feet, the annual pilgrimage to the Alps, with its shot of post-Christmas adrenalin, fresh air, high-altitude sunshine, manly companionship, and prodigious alcohol consumption, has rapidly become one of the highlights of my year. That was before the economy crumbled and the pound plummeted.

Then, suddenly, salvation. I was told it was possible to get a week’s top-quality piste action in the French Alps for £500. This included flights, accommodation, ski hire, lift passes and transfers as well as some of the best snow western Europe has witnessed for years. It was too good to refuse.

Getting there proved easy enough, Ryanair was selling off taxes-only flights from Stansted to Grenoble, while Liverpool-based ski operator Mountain Heaven has self-catered three-bedroom apartments sleeping eight at the resort of Les Sept Laux – just over an hour from the airport – for £599 a week (£75 per person).

Ski lift passes at the resort are considerably cheaper than elsewhere in the French Alps, and with equipment hire (including a crash helmet) set me back a little more than £200. With transfers and airport parking included this even gave me enough to indulge in a few euro-inflated beers.

At this stage it should be pointed out that Les Sept Laux, like many French ski stations, has none of the

Disneyesque charm of Austria or Switzerland. Though it takes its name from seven small lakes high up in the mountainside, at its core is the “village” of Prapoutel, where the most obvious feature is a utilitarian apartment block redeemed, to a degree, by its Le Corbusier-styled lines. Beneath it is a dated and slightly depressing underground shopping mall, home to an amusement arcade, a couple of bars, a reasonably priced supermarket, and the resort’s only disco.

That said, our accommodation was slightly away from the centre in a new development of high-quality apartments, Les Granges, decked out handsomely in Alpine style complete with spacious balconies, stunning views over the mountains and direct access to the piste and the main chairlift. The development also has its own spa but, at ¤80 a treatment, this was one luxury I was prepared to forgo.

So what of the skiing? Les Sept Laux offers a huge variety. A comprehensive chairlift network – with only a couple of drag lifts – provides access to challenging black and red slopes, a snow park, as well as some enjoyable beginners’ blues and greens that wind their way picturesquely through the tree line. Anyone looking for off-piste drama is also well catered for.

The lifts link the ski area’s three settlements, Prapoutel, Pipay and Le Pleynet, which range in altitude from 1,350m to 1,550m. Out of the school holidays and during the week, the well-tended slopes feel empty.

At the weekend, however, it is a different story. On Saturday mornings the roads leading up to the villages fill up with buses and cars from across the Isère region. Many make the two-hour drive from Lyon, while Grenoble supplies hundreds of students who inject a welcome youthful energy into the resort. By Saturday afternoon the ski lifts are busy and the slopes relatively crowded, though there is nothing like the level of congestion of the most popular resorts.

By night, while the place doesn’t exactly rock, you will need a reservation to sit down to a fondue in Prapoutel. In the early hours, the shopping-centre disco does lively business with a predominately teenage set. By Sunday afternoon, however, the crowds largely melt away.

Whatever happens with the economy, at these prices skiers might well be able to look forward to another trip to the slopes next year.



Compact Facts

How to get there

Jonathan Brown travelled to Les Sept Laux with Mountain Heaven (0151-625 1921; mountainheaven.co .uk). A week costs from £370 per person, based on eight people sharing a self-catering three-bedroom apartment at Les Granges. The price includes transfers, taxes-only flights with Ryanair from Luton to Grenoble, discounted ski pass, and equipment hire.

Suggested Topics
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
    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
    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
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years