A ski resort for families

Valmorel is very family friendly and very underrated. The ski area is undemanding but prefect for beginners and low intermediates to learn and progress quickly in peaceful surroundings. There is also plenty of very good childcare for families with young children. Club Med have one of their best properties right on the slopes where children of all ages are catered for and the ESF also run a comprehensive childcare facility.

Family friendly ski resort
Valmorel was built with families in mind

Although, Valmorel is a purpose-built resort, it is not an eye sore, in fact the village is pleasant with plenty of wood-and-stone buildings with slate roofs (See photo below). The resort is made up of mainly self-catered residences which cluster around a car-free high street but best of all wherever you stay, you’ll never be far from a lift. The ambience is very family orientated and you will never see any drunken youths falling out of bars in this resort.

Family friendly ski resort
Family friendly ski resort of Valmorel

The Grand Domaine area features lots of wide and flattering slopes for beginners and less confident intermediates, with around 43% of the pistes graded blue. The easy- to medium-level skiing takes place mainly around the Cheval Noir, and Valmorel’s ski area is lift-linked to Celliers, Doucy Combelouvière and – beyond the Col de la Madeleine of Tour de France fame – to Saint Francois Longchamp.

The ski area contains three nursery slopes and one free drag-lift. The beginner areas include a 3km green run through the trees to the village of Doucy, which is great for first-timers to gain confidence and really feel they are going somewhere.

Valmorel
Ski Resort Valmorel, France

There are amazingly eight parks in the resort. Two snowparks, one for beginners and the other which contains a 120m half-pipe and funboxes. Two more are skicross courses, and there are three freeride zones, Cross-country skiers have 20km of marked loipe, which begin at Les Avanchers (2km from Valmorel) and continue towards Empyrée and Pierre Laron. Access to the trails is by free shuttle bus.

Valmorel has received the Famille Plus label for its childcare facilities. The main childcare is at Club Piou-Piou, in the village centre, which looks after children from 18 months to three years from Sunday to Friday. Lunch and lunchtime supervision are included, so that parents can ski all day. The children’s snowpark – the Pirates Adventure Zone stretches into the forest to give access to lots of fun activities including a bouncy castle, a beginners’ terrain park and skicross.

WHERE TO STAY IN VALMOREL

Club Med is one of our favourite places that we recommend to our clients with young children as the in-house childcare is amazing and offers age-related activities for children aged four months right up to 17 years. The location is also spot on being ski-in, ski-out and with everything under one roof we bet the only time you will want to venture further afield is when you click into your skis. As Club Med is all-inclusive the only thing you will need to pay for are spa treatments and ski hire.

Club Med ski holidays
Club Med in Valmorel, France

La Grange aux Fees is a comfortable residence set beside the Lanchettes chair in the Hameau des Lanchettes upper area of the village. It has an attractive wood-and-stone interior, a spa and indoor swimming-pool. Valmorel’s only hotel is the pastel pink Hotel du Bourg, which has been here since the resort was first founded but has now been modernised. It has a minimalist interior designed in retro 1970s style, in keeping with the era in which it was built.

WHERE TO EAT IN VALMOREL

On the high street, Le Ski Roc restaurant and wine bar is one of the places to eat typical Savoyard fare in a chalet setting. South American-themed Jimbo Lolo is for tapas and Tex-Mex, and it also serves bison steaks and burgers.

Le Savoyard and Le Petit Prince feature Savoyard dishes such as salads and pasta. For pizzas the choice lies between Le Cafe Alpin and Le Perce-Neige.

Club Med contains three restaurants: the buffet-style Le Celeste and Les Cerfs with dishes from around the world, and gourmet La Laiterie which is a la carte.

There are four mountain restaurants in the immediate Valmorel ski area, including Les Voiles du Nant, at the top of the Altispace chair-lift, which serves good burgers. Also on piste is L’Altipiano,   offers Asian wok dishes. Another favourite place to eat is O Pôt Agé, in Les Avanchers, where everything is cooked using seasonal local produce. You can take a bus or ski here from Valmorel.

For some après ski your first stop should be either La Cordée at the bottom of the piste or Le Café Alpin. Then there is a handful of bars along the pedestrianized high street, including Le Perce-Neige, which has outside seating and heaters. We also recommend stopping at the Hotel du Bourg for a drink in their cosy pub.

South American-themed Jimbo Lolo has a bar with wooden swings for seating, and palm trees. Le Sound Pub and Club is divided into two separate sectors: the first is a pub with billiards, table football, karaoke and quiz evenings, whilst the other is a club that’s open until 4am and often holds themed evenings. Club Med has an in-house bar and puts on live shows every evening – non-residents having dinner here can join in too.

Why bother with ski resort guides?

Ski resort guide editor Chris Gill reflects on his wasted career.

I’ve been in the ski resort guide business for over 30 years, first as the Editor of the original consumerist book, The Good Skiing Guide (not to be confused with the Good Ski Guide), then as co-editor of Where to Ski and Snowboard and now as editor of a new series of related smaller books, starting with Where to Ski in Austria . So I know a bit about resorts, and guides to resorts.

Ski resort guide to Austria
Chris Gill’s latest ski resort guide

My books have provided me with a living, but in other respects have been a waste of time, I’m now told. I got into an exchange on Facebook the other day with a guy who was firmly of the opinion that guidebooks and other organised presentations of information and advice about ski resorts are to be avoided. The best source of help in choosing a resort, he asserted with absolute confidence, is a lively online forum.

He was putting this view forward in response to a post of mine publicising Where to Ski in Austria. Had he read it? No. Had he even seen it? No. But he knew from experience that all such guides were fatally flawed.

The gist of the guy’s argument was that the author of a guidebook can get hung up on a particular aspect of a resort, and it may be an aspect that doesn’t matter to you, the individual reader. Thus, the advice you get is likely to be misleading. On the other hand, if you go to a forum you’ll get advice from many quarters, automatically eliminating that kind of bias.

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. When I go to forums and feedback sites, what I see is a bit of a mess, out of which I find it difficult to extract sense. I find a lot of strongly expressed views, often conflicting, resulting from the random experiences of people whose background, prejudices and competence are unknown.

Contrast that with what guidebooks offer: organised presentation, clear and consistent evaluations, and the knowledge that you are reading the considered views of someone who is dedicated to figuring out the merits of different ski resorts – and figuring them out for different people with different requirements.

I’ve visited every important resort in the Alps multiple times. I do it by spending weeks of the winter on the road, moving from resort to resort every day or two (depending on how big the ski areas are). And I’m in resorts to observe, not to enjoy myself. (OK, mainly not to enjoy myself.) I think this means I’m better placed to arrive at balanced, impartial judgements than people on holiday.

On reflection, the sales and support Where to Ski and Snowboard enjoyed for 20 years encourage me to think it hasn’t all been a waste of time, after all.

Convinced? Not quite? If you’d like a taste of what Where to Ski in Austria has to offer, register here for a link to a downloadable chapter.

http://www.wheretoskiandsnowboard.com/the-book/

http://www.wheretoskiandsnowboard.com/sample/

The Best Ski Runs In Whistler with Guy Hetherington of Alltracks Academy

Guy Hetherington is the Head Coach at Alltracks Academy ski school in Whistler, and a long-time Whistler local. He leads an unrivalled coaching team who coach on ski instructor courses, off-piste skiing, and all-mountain ski improvement courses. With years of experience in the resort, Guy is an expert and knows all the best ski runs in Whistler. Here he let’s you in on his secret list of top trails.

Ski school Whistler
Guy Hetherington head coach at Alltracks Academy, Whistler.

Whistler Ski Runs

Whistler, Blackcomb is blessed with over 200 ski runs making it the largest and most diverse ski area in Canada. Like all vast resorts, new visitors can become slightly disorientated and sometimes miss the best options due the sheer size of the area and the amount of runs available.

If you are planning an unforgettable ski trip in Whistler this winter, make sure you are well-prepared with Guy’s top three ski runs in this amazing area. Let the countdown begin…

Ski school in Whistler
Alltracks Academy for off-piste and all mountain ski improvement courses

In 3rd Place: Gun Barrels

If there has been heavy snowfall overnight, there is no time to waste on some gentle cruisers first thing in the morning. Other skiers are competitors for powder, so your run choice has to be on point!

Every morning, I check the Whistler snow alert, and if there has been 20cm of snow or more, Gun Barrels is my go-to ski run. Located on the outer ridge of Harmony Bowl on Whistler Mountain, the “Barrels” are only a few minutes ski away from the well-located Harmony Express lift. Amazingly, the barrels are usually quiet and skiers are able to find fresh snow throughout the day.

Ski school in Whistler
Alltracks Academy can teach you how to ski in powder.

In 2nd Place: Lake Side Bowl

I have been fortunate enough to Heli-ski multiple times, and I know how much the guys on the Alltracks Academy off-piste courses enjoy their time with Whistler Heli-Skiing. If you are craving the Heli-Skiing adrenaline rush, a few runs at Lakeside Bowl should satisfy your cravings. 

Located just beyond the resort boundary, on the Blackcomb side, Lakeside Bowl offers up a true off-piste feeling with deep snow, steep chutes and some exciting cliff drops.

Ski school in Whistler
Take an Alltracks Academy off-piste course and you will soon be skiing like this!

In 1st Place: Surf’s Up 

I would like to pretend I had to think long and hard over my top choice. But to be frank, it was an easy decision. Surf’s up on Blackcomb regularly boasts the very best snow in the entire Whistler Blackcomb area. But it is not just about the snow. It is significantly exposed due to cliffs. There is also a no-return entrance if you catch my drift. Naturally, this run is for strong, confident skiers and snowboarders. 

Once in the couloir, you will need to nail a couple of jump turns (or straight-line it if you are up to that). After this, you will be welcomed to a slightly convex slope offering up the opportunity for some great turns.

When you reach the bottom, promise me you will look back and enjoy the fine view of this magnificent slope and your tracks upon it! 

Hotels in Whistler

If you are thinking of booking a ski holiday in Whistler check out our hotels in Whistler. There is a wide range of accommodation options in this world-class resort to suit most tastes and budgets.

About Guy Hetherington & ALLTRACKS 

Guy is a director and Head Coach at Alltracks Academy. He is one of a handful of CSIA Level 4 Examiners, a Rossignol International Athlete and recognised as one of the finest ski instructors in the country.

Alltracks Academy offer a variety of ski courses. Ski Instructor Courses, Off-Piste Ski Courses and All Mountain Ski Improvement.

For More info:
info@alltracksacademy.com

+44 (0)1794 301 777

Why stay in a traditional Alpine hotel?

Most new build hotels in the Alps tend to offer a very similar look and feel these days, which quite frankly lacks the Alpine charm I am after. We too often hear the  words: minimalistic, chic, cool and urban, associated with the new Alpine look. Surely, if this is what I wanted I would have stayed in London or gone on a city break. Having said all that for some, modern design hotels work well and if you are of a certain age these hotels tend to be the place to be seen. To be honest the facilities, such as the Spas, pools, restaurants, and bars cannot be faulted as they are amazing.

Personally however, I would always choose a more traditional Alpine hotel as after all for me Alpine and traditional go hand in hand. I prefer the discreet service, intimacy, the luxurious warm feel of wood panelled rooms, the fire place in the living room always lit, the friendly barman and best of all the family owners meeting and greeting me on arrival. Many traditional hotels are of course family run and have been passed down with love and attention from one generation to the next, so you can always expect to be very well looked after.

Who would suit a more traditional hotel?

  • Couples looking for a romantic weekend or a full week in the Alps.
  • Families looking for good friendly service.
  • Those looking for a more authentic experience.

My favourite traditional hotels in the Alps:

ST ANTON, AUSTRIA – HOTEL SCHWARZER ADLER

Hotel Schwarzer Adler in St Anton
Hotel Schwarzer Adler in St Anton, Austria

LECH, AUSTRIA – HOTEL KRISTIANIA

Hotel Kristiania in Lech, Austria
Hotel Kristiania in Lech, Austria

KITZBUHEL, AUSTRIA- SPORTHOTEL REISCH

Sporthotel Reisch in Kitzbuhel, Austria
Sporthotel Reisch in Kitzbuhel, Austria

CHAMONIX, FRANCE – HOTEL MONT BLANC

Hotel Mont Blanc in Chamonix,France
Hotel Mont Blanc in Chamonix,France

MEGEVE, FRANCE – FER A CHEVAL,

Hotel Fer A Cheval in Megeve, France
Hotel Fer A Cheval in Megeve, France

LES GETS, FRANCE – HOTEL MARMOTTE

Hotel Marmotte in Les Gets, France
Hotel Marmotte in Les Gets, France

SAN CASSIANO, ITALY – HOTEL ROSA ALPINA

Hotel Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano, Italy
Hotel Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano, Italy

CERVINA, ITALY – LES NEIGES D’ANTAN

Hotel Neiges d'Antan in Cervinia, Italy
Hotel Neiges d’Antan in Cervinia, Italy

MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY – BIOHOTEL HERMITAGE

BioHotel Hermitage in Madonna di Campiglio
BioHotel Hermitage in Madonna di Campiglio

ST LUC, SWITZERLAND – HOTEL BELLA TOLA

Hotel Bella Tola in St Luc, Switzerland
Hotel Bella Tola in St Luc, Switzerland

KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND – HOTEL CHESA GRISCHUNA

Hotel Chesa Grischuna in Klosters, Switzerland
Hotel Chesa Grischuna in Klosters, Switzerland

 

If you would like to know more about these hotels please feel free to call me or one of the team at Alpine Answers. We would be delighted to help you experience any of these wonderful and charming hotels.

Happy skiing from Earl and the Alpine Answers team.

Is Christmas week low season?

Here we are in July and prices for catered chalet holidays for the Christmas week have just come down in price. Christmas week used to be a high season period of the winter with high demand and high prices. A week in the snow and mountains was a hot ticket for a festive family ski holiday. However, after three relatively poor seasons for early snow in the Alps it’s not so much ‘ho ho ho’ as ‘low low low’ for the festive period in 2017. So we ask ourselves, “Is Christmas week low season, with great value prices to match?”

It’s hard to say if the low prices for this Christmas is a new trend which will follow for many years to come or if the low prices are just a reflection of the relatively poor starts to the season in recent years regards snow cover. We suspect that if we have a couple of winters with bumper early snowfalls in November and December that the Christmas week will be back to its status as a prime week to ski. However, for this season, at least, it would seem that British holiday makers are holding back from booking a Christmas  ski holiday forcing the hand of tour operators to stimulate demand with some generous price cutting.

Contrary to what one might expect this price cutting has not just been confined to just the lower lying resorts but has also been extended to traditionally snow-sure high altitude ski resorts like Val d’Isere and Tignes. Does this mean a family Christmas ski holiday is actually no longer as highly sought after as it used to be? Perhaps the poor early snow of recent seasons has little to do with the drop in demand for skiing at this time of year and other holidays around the world have become more appealing – heaven forbid! Without a full scale MORI poll we might not fully understand the reasons behind the current fall in popularity of Christmas skiing. However, the good news is that for those that do love a Christmas ski holiday there are some great value holidays to be had.

Christmas week low season example prices (as at 27th July):

Chalet Echo (sleeps 8 – 9) in Val d’Isere was priced at £1,019 per person (flights and transfers included) and is currently priced at £849.

Chalet Colombero (sleeps 6) in Tignes was priced at £939 per person (flights and transfers included) and is currently priced at £799.

Chalet Christian (sleeps 8 – 12) in Alpe d’Huez was priced at £979 per person (flights and transfers included) and is currently priced at £799.

Chalet Meleze Dore (sleeps 12) in Meribel was priced at £939 per person (flights and transfers included) and is currently priced at £769.

Chalet Abode (sleeps 8 – 10) in St Martin de Belleville. Book this luxury chalet for Christmas week and every member of your party receives a FREE lift pass (worth approximately £250)

 

The perfect Christmas ski holiday chalet
The perfect Christmas ski holiday chalet – Chalet Abode

If you would like to book a great value family Christmas ski holiday this winter then check out our full selection of chalets:

Ski chalets available for Christmas week 2017

Christmas week certainly seems to be low season for the 2017-2018 season but many families will see that as something to celebrate. Only 150 more days to go!