VIP Ski Holidays
VIP Ski holidays had been popular with our clients since the early 1990's when Alpine Answers was created. VIP Ski was initially set up in 1989 by Paul Niwano and Mark Hutchinson with Paul in resort and Mark managing a small office in London. Contrary to popular belief, "VIP" actually stands for Val d'Isere Properties rather than Very Important Person. Beginning with a few catered chalets in Val d'Isere, the company has now expanded to operate nearly 80 chalet and chalet hotels across the major resorts in Europe.
From the beginning VIP Ski Holidays have aimed to operate at the premium end of the market. When Mark and Paul bowed out of the business sometime in the 1990's Andy Sturt took the reins and has driven the business on from its small beginnings. He is largely responsible for the brand VIP Ski.
As VIP Ski was finding its feet in Val d'Isere Andy Sturt was running his own property business in Morzine, Alpine Property Search (APS). Having torn his cruciate ligament on his first season (whilst working as a ski instructor) he toyed with the notion to set up a business based in the Alps. However, creating a new business from scratch was out of the question whilst he only had £300 to his name. "I knew that to set up a business finding properties in the French Alps for UK buyers I would need more than that," he told the Independent. "I started sanding and varnishing balconies for Morzine hoteliers, and managed to save another £700 by the end of the summer of 1988. I came back to the UK, went to Barclays Bank, and they lent me a further £5,000. I then had enough to buy an electric typewriter, fax machine, and a minibus, which was a back up plan for airport transfers if things went badly wrong."
With an excellent command of French Andy soon got the hang of property dealings and was taking leases on chalets and letting them out to UK holidaymakers. Returning to the London in the early 1990’s, Andy ended up meeting Mark, and together with a silent partner bought VIP Ski. Soon after they acquired another small chalet holiday company called Snowline. For several years the two brands operated out of the same office in Wandsworth, London, each with their own brochure and portfolio of chalets. In time, however, the two products were brought together and marketed under the one name, VIP Ski.
From this point on VIP Ski began to take shape – with financial backing they began to develop their own properties to add to their portfolio. Chalets Nebraska and Dakota in Morzine (both now sold) were the first to have been built from the ground up, and many more followed. VIP Ski currently operate chalets and chalet-hotels in 12 alpine resorts and employ around 200 chalet staff each season.
VIP Ski were one of the only package holiday companies to focus on the luxury end of the market, offering a full service with flights, transfers and even private nanny childcare. The key to the company, and Andy's ethos, is attention to detail: "There is absolutely no doubt that you can pay less but you will have to compromise somewhere. I just want ski holidays that I can be really proud of ... our guests have to come back, and they have to come back with their friends."
VIP Ski Holidays are careful with their hiring process and is passionate about picking the right staff to go 'above and beyond' for their guests. It is vitally important to VIP Ski to choose resort staff who really care about their guests. VIP chalets are all either on the piste (or very close to one) and inside are furnished to a high standard. They range from chic boutique-hotel style properties to traditional chocolate box chalets.
VIP Ski went into administration 18th November 2020 but subsequently resurfaced 01st June 2021 under the same name, logo, branding and website. The new VIP Ski has a smaller portfolio of properties having dropped resorts Alpe d'Huez, Meribel, St Anton, Lech and selected properties in Val d'Isere (although they now have the addition of Arc 1950). They also dropped their flight programme from the UK and no longer offer ATOL protected flight inclusive packages. Instead they offer catered chalet accommodation with included airport transfers from Geneva (at set times).
VIP Ski – Comments from Alpine AnswersAlpine Answers have long supported VIP Ski who are a popular choice with clients looking for a genuinely comfortable ski holiday. The company is well managed and now benefits from a really strong brand presence. Going on a VIP Ski holiday is something of a status symbol in certain circles and as a result VIP Ski guests, to some extent, pay for the brand.
The VIP Ski staff were always friendly, engaging, motivated and well-trained. Whilst you won't find staff on their gap year before university, some are still young and unqualified. That said the level of service was unfailingly high and in the larger CLUB properties meals are in any case prepared by experienced, professional chefs.
Perhaps VIP Ski were left with no choice other than to go into administration. However, in so doing their winter 2020-21 clients were left to fend for themselves and struggle through the ATOL money recovery process. It will be interesting to see how much brand loyalty for VIP Ski remains going forward. Our guess is that memories will be short and that within a few winter seasons VIP Ski holidays will be as popular as they ever were.