Covid put paid to last season’s skiing, so many of us are keen to venture out this year. But how to minimise the risks?

2020’s reports of large alpine resorts being super-spreader venues will leave many wondering if we will ever safely return to the slopes. But fortunately, there is a great alternative!

Now I’m a very average holiday skier and way beyond the first flush of youth. Black runs were always aspirational and reds only attempted occasionally. Thus, empty slopes free of wobbly beginners, piste carving teenagers and queue-free lifts were an impossible dream. Until, by chance, I found Valberg!

Just over an hour from Nice airport, Valberg is a small, but stunning french resort. Frequented mostly by Provencal locals and family friendly, it doesn’t attract the glitterati of the skiing world. Southern Alps resorts like this are almost unknown to UK skiers and there are lots of them!

Yet Valberg has 90km of piste, 26 lifts and 22 runs for beginners alone. More than enough to satisfy most levels on a week’s break. But the assets that make this place a gem are a gorgeous mild climate, guaranteed snow and no crowds!

January weekdays see visitors in sufficient numbers to keep things open, but as it’s mostly local french families and Riviera residents populating the slopes, only weekends are busier. Rarely have the family experienced a lift queue longer than a dozen or so people.

We ski here from Xmas to late January, often in shirtsleeves and sunglasses. With pleasant alfresco eating and post-prandial sun-chair snoozing most days! The locals tell me the proximity of the Med means a gentler climate, so those raw arctic days of the Northern Alps are a rarity, even in January.  Our extra thermal layers stay in the suitcase, but the factor 50 is a must.

 The quality of Valberg’s skiing is excellent, because the consistent weather helps maintain the piste. Milder night time temperatures are cold enough to preserve the snow, but minimize those scary icy sheets forming on busy turning areas. My Swiss/English companion, a veteran skier of 50 plus years, was amazed at the quality and consistency of conditions.

A canny lot the Valbergians, because despite the mild temperatures, they guarantee your holiday to be snow-filled. Ongoing investment in snow-making technology meant 2018 saw two million plus euros’ spent on the latest cannons. In 2019 it was a major new lift system and nursery slope re-modelling. We now doorstep ski from the edge of the village square and metres from our favourite bar.

January’s empty slopes are therefore a special boon for us seniors with time on our hands and very budget friendly too. £25.00 for a Bristol-Nice airline ticket, plus we only paid $179.00 euros’ for a 7 day lift pass. Les Arcs this year is $440 euros.  Ski studios can be rented for as little as £55-60 per night.

Connection to the resort from Nice is either car hire, or simply catch the snow-bus for less than two euros each way! What’s not to like?