Skills once learned you never lose, there at the ready to be recalled when and where they are required … right?
Wrong, as I learn quickly when venturing out on to the slopes of the Trois Vallées and Espace Killy.
This ‘Skifari’, run by Powder White, takes us on a journey through two of the French Alps’ most prized destinations in what is not so much a ‘best of both’ but more a ‘best of it all’ adventure.
Our first port of call is the 600km of powdery terrain in Courchevel, which offers some of the best on- and off-piste action the region‘s finest resorts can throw at us.
But before I can take it on I need to get my skiing skills up to speed.
As the rest of our group heads for the intermediate red slopes, myself and another opt – wisely – for a ‘refresher’ course.
It ends up being more a ‘refresher … for beginners’ lesson, however, as my ski legs are clearly elsewhere.
Thankfully, our New Generation instructor Tom is friendly and informative, his smile assuring me it will all be OK.
He points out Mont Blanc miles away on the edge of the skyline: “The clouds round its summit mean snow is on the way,” he informs us as we peer, impressed, into the distance.
Initial hesitancy as my heart jumps several inches towards my throat quickly subsides as I begin to find a rhythm, and I’m quite pleased with how well I’m doing.
But there are several things that are unavoidable when skiing – you will spend more time on your ass than you thought, and ski school pricks will whiz past you with such ease they can turn around and ski backwards while throwing you the sort of look that says, ‘look how much of a bumbling, unbalanced buffoon you are!’ Or maybe it’s just me.
Once Tom’s dispensed the essentials – balance, looking down piste, resting on the balls of your feet, managing that creeping terror – it is time to head out solo.
Warming up with a smattering of easy green runs, starting with the long Bellecote, it’s not long before I’m picking up speed with hordes of other nascent snowplough-ers – Courchevel is well equipped for both entry level skiers and the more experienced – before impatience (a trait both essential and detrimental to improving your skiing) sees me jump straight for a tasty blue where the predictable happens.
I’m cruising, feeling good, before a moment’s concentration lapse through an increasingly steeper, narrowing, icy section sees me careering like Mr Bean into a snowbank, where I’m left embarrassed and clutching my knee.
Time for lunch. I navigate my way to Le Chabichou to join the rest of my group for a bite and swap stories of our morning escapades, and I’m relieved to find I’m not alone in my premature exhaustion – one of our group threatens to fall asleep in her dessert.
I manage a couple more post-grub runs before retiring to the Savoyard-style Chalet Nid d’Aigle, to try and salvage muscles that haven’t been used in a long time, and for dinner, courtesy of our chalet hand Nathan.
Waking the following morning, a peek out the windows reveals four inches of fresh powder has arrived overnight and with this good news, we head to our new location, the Espace Killy.
This resort is home to 300km of pistes, and the resort of Val D’Isere, which hosted the prestigious FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 2009.
Taking in the breathtaking downhills that the world’s best would have descended at 80mph, I opt for some ‘warm up’ slopes – Val D’Isere is certainly for the more skilled.
As the morning progresses, the clouds shift and the sun comes out and it is, quite simply, stunning – as the peaks reach into the sky it’s easy to feel on top of the world (I ignore the pantomime cow ‘skiing’ downhill in the distance).
But as any skier will know, holidays on the slopes are just as much about the après-ski as the sport, and we kick it off early today.
So it’s lunch at La Fruitière (lafoliedouce.com), where a few glasses of vino (or more) are sunk before we head outside to the accompanying La Folie Douce.
This can best be described as a daytime nightclub at 2700 feet, complete with pumping tunes, live percussion (an electric violinst from London holds sway amidst the amassed throng), singers and a defiantly up-for-it-crowd of thrill-seekers.
And it is a cast-iron fact – I decide – you ski better after alcohol.
On our final morning, some in our group venture off piste, others stick to pushing it out towards reds (or rather rouge-y blues) while I set out to settle a score with that earlier nemesis piste.
Second time round, with my teeth gritted and certainly not much grace, I manage to conquer it without making a fool of myself.
We’ve enjoyed some of the finest skiing the Alps have to offer – next season, it’s all about the black runs. Maybe.
Powder White Skifari. Prices from £549 per person, including inter- resort transfers and catered chalet.
Lessons can be booked with New Generation
Eat, sleep, drink
Budget: Les Chenus offers a buffet at the top of the Chenus bubble car, with plain and hearty grub ideal for refuelling.
Mains from £7. It’s packed from 12.30pm onwards so get in early. courchnet.com
Midrange: Fire and Ice offers spectacular outdoor eating at the foot of the slopes, where simplicity is done with style with burgers, pastas, pizzas and ice shots. Mains from £17. leportetta.com
Luxury: Simply put, Le Chabichou is Courchevel’s finest. It boasts a menu to die for and has two Michelin stars to show for it.
A true experience to keep your energy levels up and your tastebuds in awe. Eight course menu starts at £90.
Budget: Rocky’s Bar is a Brit-heavy sports-themed bar fond of boozy, fancy-dress themed nights.
It’s ideal for tanking a few beers – from around £5 a pint – and getting amongst it.
You have been warned: we were there on Burns Night with loads of kilt-wearing, whisky-downing Scots.
Midrange: Courchevel’s The Funky Fox is a top venue for good times (live music, DJs, pool tables, etc) and passable prices (beers from £6).
The ever-popular bar is open ’til 4am and really only gets going once the crowd descends from elsewhere.
Luxury: If you’re after a sophisticated touch then check out Purple Cafe, a stylish Parisian cocktail bar.
You’ll pay more for your drinks here, around £13, but the ambiance and glam setting makes it shekels well spent. courchevel.com
Budget: Le Peupliers is a three-minute walk away from the heart of Courchevel 1850, with ample rooms and friendly service.
And at £80 a night, tres reasonsable for one of Europe’s premier ski locales.
You can save your money for the après-ski.
Midrange: For home comforts and a view to stun you every morning, head to Chalet Nid d’Aigle in 1650.
It’s comfy, spacious and has its own hammam room. Perfect for dining, resting and recouping and getting ready for that big night out.
Book as part of a package with Powder White.
Luxury: If you have recently won big then team up with some mates and hire one of the Le Portetta‘s six lofts for the week.
Prices start at £2390 per loft per week, but they sleep up to six, and offer privacy, space and elegance to make it a stay to remember.
They’re self catered but the hotel offers use of a chef.
Photos: Getty; Thinkstock; TNT