KILT flapping in the wind, my Crystal Ski rep screamed by like Braveheart on ice.
John Malvicini-Johnstone won’t hit the slopes without his bright green tartan, a look which makes quite the impression on skiers in Madonna di Campiglio, a fashionable resort in the Italian Dolomites.
“A Russian once offered me €50 for a single photo with his kids,” the bearded Scot laughs as we tuck into crostata di mele (apple pie) and espresso in a mountain-top cafe.
Popular on weekends with the “ricchi” and famous from Milan and Verona, Madonna has an illustrious past. Among its first holidaymakers were the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph and wife Empress “Sissi” Elisabeth.
The court of Vienna decamped twice to the resort in the 1890s, holidays that are recreated every February with a carnival, grand ball and lookalikes dressed as the Habsburg royals.
But a week’s skiing at Madonna di Campiglio in Trentino does not require a royal budget.
“There are great deals to be had with really nice classy hotels,” John, 55, tells me. “Families love it because it’s a great place to learn to ski.
“While for those who want a challenge, you’ve got areas like Folgarida and Pinzolo which are quite tough.”
A delicious thin crust pizza at Jumper, a proper table service restaurant by the main lifts, will set you back just £4.68.
While my half-board package with Crystal Ski, staying at the 4H Golf Hotel a short ride from town on the regular hotel shuttle bus, was great value at £688 for a week.
The almost ski-in, ski-out resort (it’s a ten-metre stroll to the nearest button lift) offers spacious rooms, and breathtaking views of the mighty Brenta Dolomites.
For half-board guests, the restaurant is a la carte in the evening with a generous buffet breakfast in the morning. Meanwhile the pool, hot sauna and well-equipped spa with help soothe away the day’s aches and pains.
Madonna, the Pearl of the Dolomites, is sandwiched in a stunning valley between the Brenta Dolomites and Adamello-Presanella glaciers.
Canalone Miramonti, host of the Ski World Cup, is lit by night for carving under the stars, while there are four terrain parks including Ursus Snow Park at Groste — one of the top-rated in Europe.
The four main ski lifts all have blue pistes that lead back to the town — perfect if the kids get lost.
By night, the chic Italian High Street leads to a pedestrianised piazza surrounded by bars that favour aperitivo over apres-ski.
This Italian tradition of a drink and light snack at the end of the working day is just as welcome after putting in a hard shift on slopes.
At cosy Cafe d’Or, cocktails served in crystal glasses cost from just £4.26 and come with a plate full of prosciutto, cheeses, tomato or tuna bruschetta. These generous servings aren’t meant to replace dinner, but they can.
Some bars dish out pizza or, like my hotel bar, offer a full aperitivo buffet.
Still room for a hearty dinner? Cantina del Suisse offers quality steaks and fantastic wines.
Or for lively Austrian vibes — these mountains were once part of Austria-Hungary, after all — try Home Stube.
Six handmade beef, pork and veal wurstel served with sweet mustard and sauerkraut is from £21.30 for two but would easily feed four.
Try the tiramisu, disguised as a fresh mint plant growing in a clay pot, with a heady mix of coffee, Guinness, custard and chocolate making up the soil.
Madonna di Campiglio offers small-town charm, stunning scenery and culinary delights at a price well below rival European resorts.
So kilt or no kilt, it’s never been easier to live the bonnie vita.
Go: Madonna di Campiglio
GETTING/STAYING THERE: One week’s half-board at the 4H Golf Hotel with Crystal Ski Holidays is from £688pp based on two sharing including flights departing before March 21 from Gatwick to Verona and transfers.
See crystalski.co.uk or call 020 8610 3123.