What is it? The newest five-star hotel in Val Thorens, in the French Alps, the Pashmina opened in December after three years of construction. The owners have been hoteliers in Val Thorens since the first skiers arrived here in the 1970s, and were keen to move away from the rabbit hutch architecture featured in many older French alpine hotels. Larger than your average ski lodgings, most of the Pashmina's sumptuously furnished rooms are 36 square metres (and have spectacular mountain views). The décor focuses on the region's mountain heritage; shower rooms, for instance, feature wall-to-wall images of skiers tackling dramatic local slopes. The hotel also offers two- and three-bedroom family suites with kitchens in which a hotel chef will prepare your meals, along with the unique Igloo Pod - a converted polar research tent, erected at the side of the hotel, complete with cosy double bed (below), wood-burning stove and huge views so you can fall asleep under the stars.
Where is it? At 2,300 metres, Val Thorens is the highest and most snow-sure of the resorts that make up the Three Valleys, the world's biggest ski area. It has some 600km of pistes along with world-class off-piste skiing.
Who is it aimed at? Everyone from well-heeled young guns eager to take on the challenges of Val Thorens' extensive slopes to families keen to sample a range of activities, including Europe's longest toboggan run and highest zip line. Access to the slopes couldn't be easier since the Pashmina is ski in/ski out.
What is there to do apres ski? The Pashmina Spa by L'Occitane offers a wide range of massage treatments and there's a swimming pool, indoor and outdoor jacuzzis, a sauna, a hammam and a fitness room.
So what's the skiing like? Consistently good, with plenty of variety. Val Thorens' highest run is at 3,230 metres, which generally ensures great snow, and it has one of the longest ski seasons in Europe, from late November to early May. And you can easily access other resorts such as Meribel and Courchevel.
And what about the dining? There are two restaurants, overseen by Romuald Fassenet, a recipient of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France. Le Base Camp offers casual dining set over three floors in an intimate and relaxed atmosphere; the menu varies from local mountain dishes to themed evenings (it was Chinese on my visit). Les Explorateurs is aimed at gastronomes and, to complement an adventurous menu (filet of John Dory steamed with absinthe, anyone?), there is an interesting collection of ancient ice axes decorating the walls.
What's the bottom line? The Igloo Pod is €340 per night for two, half-board, while a Junior Suite costs from €255 per person, half-board. For more details, go to www.hotelpashmina.com.