Condé Nast Traveller
Scaling the slopes doesn't have to mean shy-high prices. Now a savvy set of good-looking, great-value boltholes are rocking the winter-break scene.
Hôtel Des Dromonts, Avoriaz, France
Long-standing hippie hotel
The bar at this groovy little ski-in-ski-out hideaway feels much as it would have four decades ago when movie movers and shakers including Steven Spielberg and David Lynch pow-wowed here over apéros. They were in town for the annual Avoriza Fantasy Film Festival, and the spectre of Hitchcock's floating head still fills the place - on one of the vintage posters for the event hanging on the walls. Far from talking big deal, the crowd here now (30-someting couples, families with teenagers) come for digestifs after gorging on steak tartare and bubbing fondue in the restaurants. Dromonts is freshly revamped:it opened last winter as part of the chic French group Sibuet (Les Fermes de Marie, Altapura). But the hotel, built in 1964, retains elements of the pychedelic. Jocelyne Sibuet has updated the interior while keeping time with its hippie beat in trippy chashing colours of tangerine and purple, cow hides and egg chairs. Clad in cedar shingles with walls at haphazard angles and a steeply pitched roof, the exterior is just as quirky. Il all fits in with the resort itself, which was the brandchild of ex-Olympic skier Jean Vuarnet and architect Jacques Labro, who wanted every building to blend into the landscape. Avoriaz is at the heart of Les Portes du Soleil ski area, with its 650km of pistes, and has had a good snow record over the last few seasons when other places fretted about unseasonably warm temperatures. It is car-free (all part of Labro's master plan), so the only way to get around is in horse-drawn sledges or on skis. Exploring it at night, all you hear is crushing and whooshing and the tinkle of sleigh bells. Spielberg would approve: it's just as fantastical as ever.