Although most minds are currently fixed on the 2009/10 ski season, here in the office we are starting to think about 2010/11! Every January we head over to France to meet with suppliers to make sure we bring you the very best in offers for the season ahead and to find out about any new ski properties. This year’s annual European contracting trip was preceded by a visit to Avoriaz and Samoens. After a slight delay to our flight into Geneva, we headed to the transfer desk at arrivals, where our driver was waiting to take us up to Avoriaz.  We were staying at the Balcons du Soleil apartments which are divided into several buildings in the Falaise area of Avoriaz, all with direct access to the slopes on skis – comfortable apartments with great views in an ideal location. We also visited the Antares apartments over in the Crozets area of the resort. You just need to know about two lifts that connect the Antares to the centre of the resort to make getting around easier. These apartments were renovated a couple of years ago and are great if you’re on a budget. As evening fell, we made our way alongside the horse-drawn sleighs and snow-cats that were ferrying people to and fro. I was pleasantly surprised at how pretty Avoriaz was, especially at night, with kids tobogganing on the side of the piste and lights illuminating the resort. We spent the evening at le Sangle, a lively restaurant specializing in traditional Savoyard fare – with a particularly tasty fondue! [caption id="attachment_785" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Avoriaz by night"]Avoriaz by night[/caption] The next morning visibility was limited as we set off to explore the Portes du Soleil ski area, but as the snow was falling no one seemed to mind! Our guides from the tourist office were keen to showcase the extent of their ski area and we skied wide open runs, through trees and over to ‘The Stash’ – an ecological snowpark designed by Burton using timber from fallen trees. Unlike some snowparks, The Stash welcomes all ages and levels and is definitely worth checking out if you’re staying in the Portes du Soleil area. After a fantastic lunch at Le Bistro in Avoriaz, we headed off to Samoens for the second half of the trip. We stayed at the Fermes de Samoens, 800m from the resort centre but with a ski bus right outside the door. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to use the leisure facilities, but instead settle by the fireplace for a quick drink in the Bois de Lune and then off to the Neige & Roc for a fantastic four course dinner. [caption id="attachment_787" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Perfect January ski day"]Perfect January ski day[/caption] The sky was blue as we rode the Grand Massif Express gondola from the village up to the ski area and we were surrounded by absolutely stunning views of the beautiful landscape. The snow-capped ‘Mole’ really stands out and is particularly photogenic. The fresh snow and excellent conditions made for a really memorable day on the mountain! Although we would have skied all day, we had to stop for lunch before heading down the mountain and Restaurant Lou Caboëns was a perfect choice. Apparently the chef has a Michelin star so standards are high (but don’t be put off – they serve typical alpine food). [caption id="attachment_786" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Perfect ski day in Samoens"]Perfect ski day in Samoens[/caption] We stopped in at the new CGH residence, La Reine des Prés, which is a 7 minute walk from the gondola (alternatively there’s a bus that goes every 15 minutes). The residence is stunning and offers all the facilities you’d expect from a CGH property. After a day experiencing the ski area (albeit in perfect conditions) I think it’s safe to say we had one of the best Mondays in a long time!