Heading up a mountain at sun down goes against all the advice I’ve ever been given, but this was different. I was snug inside a snowplough, and privileged to be part of the crew that makes up Les Saisies’ piste-bashing service.
We chug/cruised easily up the slopes that I’d spent hours descending, intent on reshaping the shredded snow.
Soon the ice was whipping a snowstorm around us as we ploughed back and forward, making sure everything was in place.
My three-hour trip showed me the skill and patience of this team, and made me appreciate the hours it takes to get the snow ‘slope shape’ for our entertainment.
But where am I?
Snow sure Les Saisies is France’s top Nordic ski resort, with top views of Mont-Blanc. It’s just under two hours from Geneva Airport (70 miles) and 50 minutes (20 miles) from Albertville.
Over €30m has been invested in the resort over the past three years to improve its amenities, ski slopes and its 80km Olympic standard Nordic ski area
But what makes Les Saisies shine is its efforts to please a wide audience.
It’s a good choice for those keen to ski … and those keen not to.
For downhill fans there are 70kms of ski runs, with routes down to neighbouring villages, Hauteluce and Bisanne (also linked by the area’s free ski bus).
Ideal for beginners, and improvers, the area includes 12 green slopes, 22 blue, 15 red. There’s also five black pistes for advanced skiers and a snowpark. Most runs are wide and easily accessed, with views that prompt inevitable pocket fumbling to capture ‘that’ Facebook post. The cruisy blue to Bisanne has great views out over the Beaufortain. And the laid-back approach continues in this small, friendly village. Children too small to take the chairlift can take the three free rope tows – at Les Trolles, Les Lutins and Les Gobelins. The wide range of children’s options includes snow trailing, baby mushing, snowshoe outings, Enchanted Forest ski excursions, a Kids’ Club, and –exclusive to Les Saisies, Snooc.
This fun idea for free-touring fans combines ski touring and sledging (for over nines). There’s also amini crèche and a registered child minder service.
Advanced skiers can head to the top of Légette to try the black run with its narrow couloirs, and off-piste tree routes.
The 2017/8 season has some new attractions. The 500m-long Aiglon run piste has been adapted and dedicated to slower skiing to help beginners improve their turns.
The new gourmet restaurant, Le Table des Armaillis opens in December, headed by Michelin star chef Laurent Peugeot.
There’s also a year-round luge, for those keen to turn their world around on the mountain twister.
Snowshoeing and dog sledging are also part of the winter programme, but it’s also worth ‘getting high’ to try paragliding, or enjoy a panoramic flight.
Le Signal Leisure Centre provides indoor options, from bowling, swimming and wellness to evening entertainment in the restaurant/bar.
For those who like a little tradition alongside their purpose-built ski experience, this place is charming, with its Baroque church, old chalets, eco-museum and Mont Blanc backdrop.
There are a few good bar restaurants, but we found ourselves returning to Chez Gaylord, for it’s freshly prepared food, friendly, good service and sun-drenched patio.
Peak Retreats ambient new apartments, Residence des Armaillis, offer a south-facing, self-catered space with plenty of sunshine and great views of the Beaufortain Massif and Mont Bisanne.
The price includes spa access, where you can dip your toes into a hot tub, Jacuzzi, pool and sauna, which I did. Frequently!
The ski room (including personal boot warmers) is part of the complex, and the free ski bus is right outside your door.
The apartment comes with covered parking and a friendly reception team who can help with taxi bookings, meal deliveries and restaurant reservations.
Les Saisies also links to the Espace Diamant ski area, with access to 192kms of piste and three snow parks.
The villages of Crest Voland Cohennoz, Flumet, Hauteluce, Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe, Praz sur Arly and Les Saisies are all included in this ski area.
Peak Retreats offer seven-nights self-catered from £219pp, including Eurotunnel crossing with FlexiPlus upgrade. More information.
A family ski pass for Espace Diamant offers185km of pistes, including Les Saisies, Crest-Voland, Notre-Dame de Bellecombe, Praz sur Arly and Flumet.
A six-day lift pass for Espace Diamant, from £197 per adult (low season)
Seven days ski hire (skis, poles and boots) from £87 (low season) from Sport 2000.
A taxi from Geneva is from £440. A return from Chambery from £430. Alpyroad taxis – +33 (0) 633 86 65 50)