As the slopes of the Sierra Nevada come into view, I have that familiar excited feeling in the pit of my stomach that I’ll soon be on the piste.
What’s less familiar is the journey up into the mountains from the southern Spanish coast, driving past arid fields and olive groves before reaching snowy peaks 2,100m above sea level.
What makes the Sierra Nevada so special is its proximity to sun-splashed holiday resorts – the Costa del Sol is just a two-hour drive away.
And by choosing to take a ski trip late in the season, I’m treating myself to the best of both worlds – a spring beach holiday and a ski break.
By combining a stay at the luxurious ski hotel El Lodge and its sister property Marbella Club, I’m able to put on my skis and salopettes long after many other European resorts have closed for the season, and also soak up the first rays of Mediterranean sunshine.
As a guest of their Ski & Sun package, I start my trip at El Lodge in the mountains.
The Sierra Nevada ski area is more impressive than I’d imagined.
It looks more like the purpose-built ski resorts of France than the chocolate-box villages of the Austrian Alps, with the highest runs reaching more than 3000m. And with 29 lifts and more than 100km of slopes, it’s expansive enough to satisfy the most experienced skier.
With just 20 rooms all decked out in Finnish timber and interiors designed by Andrew Martin, El Lodge retains the intimate feel of a private chalet, while pairing it with the trendy opulence the better known Marbella Club is renowned for.
And with a heated outdoor pool, spa facilities and a very welcoming lounge - apres ski almost proves to be as important as skiing itself.
What sets El Lodge apart from its rivals is the top quality food and drink. Inspired by the alpine surroundings, I develop a real taste for cheese fondue, and I can also testify that the grilled veal chop and scallops with sea urchin puree are sublime.
For the ultimate indulgence, I treat myself to Riofrio caviar – a delicacy from Granada – with a glass of champagne. An extravagance, yes, but a tasty one.
My days on the slopes are fun, although I do find myself hankering after the comforts of El Lodge.
Experienced skiers may also expect more information on skiing and snow conditions, but this should improve over time.
When I travel down the coast to the more established Marbella Club, it soon becomes clear that El Lodge has a lot to live up to.
Enjoying a gin and tonic in the Champagne Room, the scene feels very different to the Costa del Sol I remember from my teen years.
Established by Spain’s Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe nearly 60 years ago, this boutique hotel was once nothing more than an old farmhouse before it became a prime location for the international jet-set.
After a few days skiing, the Marbella Club gives me a much needed opportunity to relax – either enjoying the sun by the pool or in the hotel’s extensive gardens.
Packing a suitcase for this trip was tricky – I never thought I’d be squeezing flip flops and a big down jacket into the same bag – but the satisfaction of rolling two holidays into one is unbeatable.
Natalie Marchant was a guest of Marbella Club (marbellaclub.com; 0034 95 282 2211). Marbella Club Golf Resort & Spa offers rooms from £300 per night based on two people sharing.
El Lodge is currently closed due to a fire but bookings are being taken for 2015. Visit ellodge.com or call 0034 958 480 600.
British Airways offer flights to Malaga from £78 return including taxes and charges. To book visit ba.com or call 0844 4930 787.