With some of the best early season snowfalls in several years, and after a very stressful few weeks at home, a weekend away for some medicinal ski fun was just what I needed.
Booking one of the last available ‘early season’ deals from Ski Talini we headed for the village of St Martin de Belleville, on the edge of the vast 3 Vallees ski area, the biggest ski area in the world with over 600km of pistes.
The forecast was looking snowy, exciting for my powder loving husband and I – he equally excited about the drive up to the resort village on snowy roads – always makes me anxious! (A 20 euro upgrade at Geneva airport gave us the safety of much needed winter tyres.)
Just before we left the UK, snow reports had placed Les Menuires-Saint Martin at the top of the league tables for fresh snow with 210cm+ on the top slopes. Driving up from Moutiers the fresh snow alongside the climbing mountain road testament to the fantastic early season snow awaiting us.
Our first morning is the official opening of the resort and without a whiff of celebration (no champagne popping or fanfares in this sleepy village) the bubble lift opens for the first time this season.
With just two days to ski, we decide to explore and work our way over to the far side of the ski area to Courchevel via Meribel. From the top of the Saint Martin Express chairlift we are skiing fresh snow on top of a groomed piste, skiers heaven. Not a soul in sight this long red ‘combe tougnette’ makes our thighs burn and faces smile. Just the best to be back on skis, even if only for 48 hrs.
Weaving across the valleys, we swoop down past the Moncler and Dior shops in Courchevel 1800 before a quick (expensive) coffee stop and then work our way back via the Saulire cable car dropping down past our pre-kids hang out the ‘Rond Point’ bar in Meribel and up the Plattieres bubbles to connect back over to St Martin de Belleville.
I’d hoped to ski back via Jerusalem but this iconic ski run was ‘ferme’. Deciding to ski it anyway, we skip our way over the powder fields, down through some shrubs and pretty stone houses and cross a stream towards the bottom (I’m sure this isn’t on the pisted section!).
After six hours of skiing for the first time since last season, our drink at the opening of the renovated ‘Pourquoi Pas’ bar, behind the old church in the centre of the village of Saint Martin, is like nectar and the hot tub at Chalet de la Lune much needed once we make our way back to the chalet.
One of three chalets in the Ski Talini group, Chalet de la Lune is the largest, sleeping 12 people (the other two sleeping 10 each). We lucked out for our weekend being the only guests, Chalet Anges was full and Chalet Polaris also booked with a gang of teenage boys and their fathers – I was a bit envious of their table tennis table! However, our French Chef Anthony, and his partner Hermione, both new Talini hosts, made sure we had everything we need.
After a second epic ski day of seven hours in powder discovering the slopes above Les Menuires and Val Thorens, we devour the fresh bread and pistachio cookies left out for us for ‘afternoon tea’.
St Martin de Belleville, the oldest of the ski resorts in the Belleville Valley, but only linked in to the ski area in the 80s, is a quiet base within this huge network of pistes. In contrast to the purpose built Les Menuires (60s) and Val Thorens (70s) the village is a network of small streets with old buildings, many of which have been renovated to luxury levels.
New chalets are currently being built alongside the main St Martin bubble lift, at eye watering prices, but the demand for properties here is still on the up. There are no swanky boutique shops in St Martin; it is a more discreet resort, quiet and perfect for a ski weekend, or longer if you have the time and the budget.