Maribel, France - Legendary Slopes and Lively Apres-Ski
Pristine snow-capped peaks spread out on all sides as the ski lift takes us higher and higher up into the French Alps. The mountains are grand, stunning and peaceful all at once, but stunning and peaceful all at once, but their impressive size is making me feel like a tiny ant beneath the Eiffel Tower. After all, these are some of the highest in Europe with 80 per cent of the ski area above 1800m.
"Don't worry, I'll look after you - today I am your second mother," says my ski instructor Veronique. She knows I'm apprehensive about launching myself down the sides of these giants, but my excitement soon takes over.
and it isn't long before I understand why skiers and boarders from far and wide come here on their quest to find the 'Holy Trail' of Alpine sports.
Simply the best
We're in Maribel, at the very heart of the legendary Three Valleys, surrounded by the largest downhill area in the world with 600km of runs and about 200 lifts from which to choose.
There's also a nice selection of snow parks with half-pipes and jumps to try out, plus endless off-piste opportunities for adrenaline junkies seeking their fix. Beginner or pro, there are runs to suit riders of all abilities, and Maribel's long, wide slopes give its visitors plenty of room to manoeuvre.
Meal with a view
After a few hours on the slopes, my energy levels are low, so it's time to refuel. And what better place to do so than out on the piste, combining French cuisine with fantastic mountain views? Park your skis and boards and tuck in.
One of the most scenic spots is Restaurant Les Pierres Plates at a height of 2738m on top of Saulire. The lift will take you straight up to the summit, where you can enjoy a good selection of hearty meals before strapping your skis back on and heading down the mountain.
Another pearl is the Oyster Bar, which can be found at Cote 2000.
Here you can stop for delectable oysters and delightful wines in a cosy Alpine setting. Prices are reasonable with six oysters for - a lavish-yet-affordable treat.
A ski trip not complete without the essential après-ski session after a long day on the slopes, so unbuckle your bindings and let your hair down.
Le Rond Point is the No.1 venue - the party pumps from the early afternoon until 7.30pm, seven days a week. The venue is beautifully situated on the slope above the town centre and has an attractive terrace where you can soak up the atmosphere.
Continue the fun at Le Poste de Secours, a stylish club playing funky tunes and boasting a divine cocktail menu, slap bang in the centre of town.
Not far from here is Barometer, a laid-back bar where you can quench your thirst with the notorious French brew Mutzig Old Lager (7.3 per cent).
For late-night dancing, Dick's Tea Bar is the place to be. Step down into this underground cave where the DJs keep the party going 'till the small hours.
And if you're heading to Maribel in March, get into the festival spirit and check out the Altitude comedy and music event and the Little World music festival, which will bring international stars to the mountains.