THERE may be resorts with off-piste runs that are longer or more severe than those of Val d'Isere/Tignes, but there is none that offers such a choice of worthwhile runs starting conveniently close to the top of its lifts - many of them suitable for mediocre, but adventurous, skiers. Every sector of the piste map, from Pissaillas in the east to the Aiguille Percee in the west, is peppered with the orange arrows that indicate a launching point. After fresh snow, it's fascinating to spot good skiers finding ever more remote slopes to exploit. Don't be tempted to set off without guidance.

PLUS POINTS: Big ski area. Pistes of all standards. Reliable snow. Lively nightlife by French standards. Improved and improving village appearance.

MINUS POINTS: Poor sports facilities. Piste grading and maintenance poor. Lack of attractive mountain restaurants. Spread-out resort, making bus rides inescapable.

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