Peisey-Vallandry ski resort
Although long established amongst the French skiing community for its Nordic snow sports scene in particular, it's fair to say Peisey-Vallandry – which is made up of five small settlements – had been greatly overlooked by international guests in favour of its larger neighbour Les Arcs.
However, that all changed a little over a decade ago when the Vanoise Express double-decker cable car was built to connect Les Arcs to its neighbour La Plagne. This created the giant Paradiski region – one of the world's three biggest by some measures – with 425km (264 miles) of pistes spread across 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres).
The spot chosen for the lift station on the Les Arcs side was Peisey-Vallandry. As a consequence, international travel companies rapidly built a swathe of swish chalets and apartments. But there has been none of the over-development that has blighted other big name French resorts.
Instead, Peisey-Vallandry's growth has been contained and managed to be in keeping with local traditions and the environment. It is, in fact, promoted as the peaceful part of Paradiski, where its Nordic sports (such as cross-country skiing and winter hiking) are as important as its excellent terrain for downhill skiers.
Peisey-Vallandry is located on the edge of the Vanoise National Park, within the Tarentaise Massif in the French Alps. The resort is at the heart of the Paradiski region, between the resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne.
Peisey-VallandryResort Elevation: 1600m
Top Elevation: 3226m
Base Elevation: 1600m
On the slopes
Linked by the Vanoise Express to the rest of the Paradiski area – where there's glacier skiing and a massive snowmaking arsenal – snow cover is normally reliable in Peisey-Vallandry from early December to late April.
The resort's own ski area is seamlessly integrated but represents less than 10% of the overall Paradiski region. Only beginners or less experienced intermediates are likely to want to limit themselves to these slopes.
These usually quiet local runs are mostly sunny and wooded, so are protected from the wind. Along with a relaxed atmosphere, the slopes afford great views of the Mont Blanc Massif, Beaufortain and the Tarentaise Valley, and include one of Europe's longest easy trails, the 7km-long (5 miles) La Forêt.
For everyone else, there's a vast ski area to explore, with 425km (266 miles) of pistes divided between the two neighbouring resorts. Both offer a huge skiable vertical (2,000m/6,561ft) that both rank amongst the biggest in the world. There's something for all ability levels, from 'motorway cruising' runs, to steep technical descents, tree and mogul skiing and snowboarding, and several top-notch terrain parks. Heavy investment in state-of-the-art uplift means that most terrain is served by a fast, comfortable chairlift or gondola.
The resort is known for its Nordic snow sports activities, which include 43km (26 miles) of cross-country ski trails, a biathlon ski school, and a children's nursery area complete with easy-to-ride carpet lifts and a sledging hill.