After a disappointing season last year, Alpine resorts are celebrating early dumps of snow, giving that all-important base layer for a good winter's skiing. Check the French tourist board's Snow Bulletin on www.ski-ride-france.com. It was snowing hard earlier this week in Val d'Isere and conditions looked good for the season that stretches to May 4. Keep an eye on the resort's snowcam (www.valdisere.com) to watch it fall. The tourist office on 00 33 4 79 06 06 60 can also book accommodation for you.
As a gateway to the Espace Killy, Val d'Isere offers 300km of marked runs. This season the new Rhone-Alpes slope on Solaise opens and in 2009 the resort will be hosting the World Alpine Ski Championships. It's keeping up with the trend for igloos, too - Val d'Isere's have views over Mont Blanc and there is a new four-star hotel, The Savoie (00 33 4 79 00 01 15, www.lesavoie.com, doubles from 490 euros (pound;350) half-board per couple, based on a week's stay from February 16-23.
For Christmas breaks, under-12s stay free between December 22-29 in all the resort's hotels. Erna Low (0845 863 0525, www.ernalow.co.uk) offers self-catering for the week beginning December 22 for pound;543 a chalet for up to four people; with a Eurotunnel crossing with free Flexiplus upgrade the price is pound;693.
For those who prefer the train, Rail Europe (0844 848 4070, www.raileurope.co.uk) can get you to the French Alps on an overnight train from Paris one-way from pound;8 (sitting), pound;12 (in a six-berth couchette), or pound;30 (in a four-berth couchette) - book before December 10 for travel at Christmas or half-term
Where to stay
The Blizzard is one of the classiest hotels and is in the middle of Val d'Isere. It has a large bar with a roaring fire, huge comfy sofas and chairs, fab cocktails and funky jazz. It is also good for celeb spotting. And has a restaurant attached.
Where to hang out
The Billabong Bar, which serves burgers and chips, is a trendy place based on an American diner. It has screens showing snow boarders doing stunts and is the place for the hip ski set to be seen. Also for the trendy are the many boutiques selling all the cool snow gear.
The Face is the longest black run in Val, which is excellent in the morning. The resort is one of the largest skiing areas in Europe. The ski lift system is superb and you could ski all day and never be on the same piste. It is great for beginners up to experts with off-piste guides given. Check out www.valdisere.com.