snowboarding

Snow business

In search of a cool winter break? Look to Les Arcs where quality snow, top notch accommodation and array of activities come as standard, says Kaye Holland

Winter holidays have a glamour all of their own. Perhaps it’s the thrill of swishing through perfect powdery snows, the apres ski or the gossip (guessing which celebs are on the slopes, where they’re staying and, crucially, with whom).

However attempting to select the best ski resort to visit this winter is akin to pick the spottiest dog in a kennel full of Dalmatians: nigh on impossible.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, TNT has a suggestion for the 2017/18 ski season - regardless of whether you’re in the process of finding your ski legs or a wannabe downhill champion.


Say hello to Les Arcs - the popular French winter sports destination that is part of the huge Paradiski area and caters to everyone from casual skiers (like yours truly) to experienced skiers and families alike.

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Regardless of your ability, you won’t be short of options. For Les Arcs is home to a huge network of groomed pistes, 70 per cent of which are situated at above 2,000m and rising to 3,250m - a height that virtually guarantees snow -  meaning that Les Arcs remains open even when other European resorts struggle.

Day one of our trip to Les Arcs saw me awake excited, yet with a certain amount of fear and trepidation in my heart, about making hitting the slopes. (It had been three years since my first and last foray into the white stuff).

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First though I had to be fitted out with ski boots and I won’t lie: I had forgotten that they’re heavy, hard to put on and, yes, can hurt (10 days down the line, I’ve still got welts on my calves from where the boots cut into my skin). It was all a bit of a faff to be truthful so I couldn’t help but hope that skiing in Les Arcs would live up to my great expectations.

Happily, however, it did.  Skiing, I soon discovered, is a bit like learning to ride a bike: once mastered, the basics don’t desert you.

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And so it was that, to my delight, I found myself slaloming - albeit a little shakily -  down the slopes against the backdrop of the breathtaking Mont Blanc (aka the highest mountain in the Alps) with the wind whipping my face. 

Coming from London, where I have had to train myself to block out the cacophony of daily life, there’s something incredibly special about swishing through the snow and drinking in the blue skies, mesmerising mountain views and late afternoon sun in silence. (Our group went early in the season, ahead of the crowds, which meant that often we felt as though we the only people on the pistes).

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On day two, in a bid to be able to end the trip effortlessly gliding down the mountain like US skier Lindsey Vonne, I signed up for a lesson with ESF Ski School (France’s largest ski school).  If you’re short on confidence - or serious about improving your skiing - than a few hours of tuition with an EFS instructor will certainly help you brush up your skills.


Our instructor Thomas dispensed advice such as “don’t  look down at your ski tips” (tougher than it looks, as having long planks attached to your feet isn’t exactly the most natural feeling in the world) and to “always bend the knees” (the tendency is to want to straighten them) with good humoured patience.

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And, after a few hours under Thomas’ tutelage, our entire group had swapped snow ploughing for parallel skiing (the sort of skiing that looks good on the slopes) and learnt to side step - a key technique to have in your arsenal, when you find yourself on challenging terrain. 

 

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After a long day on the slopes, we invariably looked forward to returning to our accommodation, Chalet Panda - which mixes the comfort of a hotel with sociable aspects of a hostel - shattered but elated.

If you want to stay in the thick of it, to be an easy stroll from both the slopes  (the nearest ski-lift is just 250m from the front door) and Les Arcs’ array of acres ski bars, then Chalet Panda covers these bases and adds the kind of delightful touches you hope for but don’t always get. Think friendly chalet hosts who will welcome you back every afternoon with a warming cup of tea, served with a slice of heavenly homemade cake. It’s hard to think of a better way to top off a day on the slopes.

Guests can also enjoy a swim in the large pool in the neighbouring Altitude residence or, if that seems too much like hard work, indulge in a sauna at Chalet Panda’s own private sauna before dinner.

You’ll find a menu filled with dishes so delicious, you’ll return a dress size larger - despite all the exercise you are doing. The cuisine is accompanied by a wine list that is compact but well chosen.

After dinner, it’s time to soak up the buzzing atmosphere of the resort at night. There’s plenty to do from pub quizzes every Sunday at Red Rock Cafe & Restaurant to swapping ski boots for dancing shoes at Whistler bar (which promises the best night you will never remember), before somehow staggering back to your bedroom.
 

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Speaking of the rooms, each one is furnished with natural wood to create a cosy, rustic atmosphere and boasts a private balcony (to make the most of those magnificent mountain views). And with twin beds, they are well suited to single skiers as well as couples and friends. What’s more, every morning your chalet hosts arrive to crisp up the sheets, fluff up the towels and replenish the shampoos.

All told, this is a place that guarantees a good time - I defy even the most tightly wound city worker not to feel the tension slip away after a spell in Les Arcs.

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Sure after a costly Christmas, money is no doubt tight but Ski Total offer plenty of budget friendly packages. And at the end of the day, you can either look back on January 2018 and say “I spent it skiing in a stunning French resort” or you can whack on the heating at home, hunker down and watch Celebrity Big Brother.
 

Ski you there?

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IF YOU GO
Ski Total (www.skitotal.com / 01483 791 935) is offering seven nights at the four-diamond plus Chalet Panda in Les Arcs, France from £499 per person this season. Price includes flights from London Gatwick to Geneva, resort transfers and chalet catering (daily skiers breakfast, afternoon tea with homemade cake and three-course evening meals with complimentary wine). For more information please visit www.skitotal.com

View the post here: http://digitaledition.tntmagazine.com/snow-business/

Interview: Matt Cardle

Essex boy, Matt Cardle, is back with a new album – his third in as many years. The 30-year-old former X Factor star spoke to Kaye Holland about music, Mel C and why James Arthur should stop mouthing off 

Hi Matt. Thanks for taking the time to speak to me today. It’s a pleasure.

Congratulations on the new album, Porcelain. How would you describe its sound? That's a difficult one. It’s very diverse - Porcelain was written in LA, New York and London. It’s my third album and I’d say it’s spilled over from both of the first two albums really. There's a lot of different styles on the album and I've been writing with loads of different artists [these include multi-platinum selling writer/producer Toby Smith (ex-Jamiroquai) and 16 time Grammy Award nominee, US superstar Brian McKnight]. I’d probably say that it’s lot more positive that my past albums – one of which basically documented the breakdown of a relationship – as I’m generally in a happier place. It’s also more honest – I produced it myself again and I play all the instruments, bar the violin.

What’s your favourite track off Porcelain? Well of course, I like them all – and I love each one on its own merits. But a particular stand out for me is In Chains [the album’s opening song].

Do you know what the third single you will be releasing off the album is? It’s a secret right now but I’ll be announcing it a in a few weeks time. My next single might not even be a track off the album…

 

  What songs, by other artists, are you loving in the charts right now? I love The Monster, Eminem’s new single with Rihanna. I actually just bought Eminem’s new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and it’s incredible.

You shot to fame when you won the seventh season of The X Factor (beating One Direction). Are you watching the show this season? I’m not. Honestly I’ve just been too busy - I’ve been back and forth from the States - and haven’t been home enough to be in watching the show on a Saturday and Sunday night. Plus I’ve just bought a place and haven’t got the TV sorted yet…

Speaking of The X Factor last year’s victor, James Arthur, has been mouthing off a lot about you (and other acts) in the press. Is there really a feud between you two or is it all tabloid fodder? We’re not friends and we definitely don’t see eye to eye. He’s constantly bad mouthing me (and other artists) – he’s such an angry person. But listen, I don’t want to keep going on about it and giving him more air time.

Ok so there is obviously no camaraderie between you and James but do you still keep in touch with anyone from your series of The X Factor? Yeah, yeah. I made a lot of great friends on The X Factor. I’m still in touch with the biggest boy band on the planet – One Direction – and caught up recently with Niall when he was in Australia. I’m also in touch with Dannii Minogue  - I love that woman to bits – and Aiden (Grimshaw).

And you recently collaborated with Mel C. How was that? Amazing. Mel's a legend and it was a real honour to be able to work with her. I’ve always been a fan of her voice. We had a lot of fun recording and filming the single Loving You.

Was the collaboration strictly professional? (Romance rumours have surrounded the pair since they teamed up for Loving You). There is nothing going on. I have a lot of love for Mel but she’s not my girlfriend. We knew when we duetted that this [media speculation that the pair are an item] would happen - we are both single.

Who else would you like to collaborate with? You know there are lots of artists that I’d love to collaborate with but I’ve never planned any of my collaborations and I am happy to keep it like that. I quite like seeing what opportunities arise and going with the flow.

You’re going to be touring with this album... Yes we've got a tour lined up – The Porcelain Tour - and I’m really looking forward to it. We’ll play 18 dates across the UK and Ireland next year. I always enjoy performing at the Hammersmith Apollo and Manchester Apollo, but this time we have added some new venues to the line-up like the Shepherds Bush Empire. I love playing live because that’s where people can see you for who you are. I get a great buzz when I see how much my music means to people.

 

 

In your down time, do you hang out with The Only Way Is Essex crowd being an Essex boy and all? No – I don’t really know that lot. I’m from Colchester, which is probably closer to Suffolk.

I heard that you’re a Spurs fan – do you go to the games? Yes Spurs is definitely my favourite football team, but I’m not the biggest football fan. The sport I really love is skateboarding. I got into skateboarding when I was about 12 and have been obsessed ever since.

What’s next for Matt Cardle? A holiday, I hope! I haven’t had one in three years.  I love snowboarding and used to go snowboarding in Switzerland every year but have been a bit busy in recent years!

Matt’s third album, Porcelain, is out now. Tickets for The Porcelain Tour, which kicks off in April 2014, are on sale here