Some years ago I emerged spluttering with cold and damp into a raging blizzard above Val d'Isere. It was two weeks before Christmas, the weather was dreadful, the snow was deep. Our hardy troupe of early season skiers were ecstatic. It looked as if a perfect winter's skiing lay ahead.

This year spirits are higher than ever with some of the best early snowfalls for years. In fact the conditions in many resorts are more like February with lifts starting to run weeks earlier than usual. In St Anton the snow is up to 150cm deep, Cervinia is fully operational with 200cm and in Chamonix there's 250 plus at the highest levels and even Andorra boasts between 50 and 100cm.

No wonder Nick Morgan of Le Ski, which has chalets in Courchevel 1650, is rubbing his hands in gleeful anticipation.

"We had the first snow on November 22, since when two metres have fallen," he says. "It's a fantastic base for the season because the snow settles down and is topped up during the rest of the winter. It's also a joy for the ski-shop owners because fewer skis will be broken and fewer edges knackered."

In Courchevel itself, enthusiasts have been using seal skins to clamber to Saulire at the top of the resort and ski the five or six miles to the valley floor.

Roger Dunford, who runs a ski shop in 1650 with his French wife says: "This has been the best start to the season we have had for more than ten years. I was skiing yesterday in powder and glorious sunshine. Pure sex." RH