A Skier’s Choice Of Where To Stay And Ski
15th January 2018
As the MD of Ski Line, I guess I have been very lucky to ski in so many ski resorts around the world, I’ve lost count just how many I’ve been to in the past 23 years running our business but it’s a lot! Some I have loved, others, I’ll never return to.
It’s important that a good travel agent knows the ski resorts they offer but on most of my trips, I spend more time trapesing around ski chalets, hotels and apartments than I do skiing on the slopes because it’s the accommodation that we really sell, and I can tell you that’s not nearly as much fun as the time I spend on the slopes.
The ten ski holidays below are ones that stand out as some of the best I have been too, selected not because the snow was so good, or because of the company of the people I holidayed with, but purely on the accommodation and facilities of the accommodation that I stayed in and of course the value for money. I hope my experiences might give you a few ideas of places you might like to try for your next skiing holiday.
I’ve stayed in all of Club Med hotels over the years, I like them all, well most of them, but Sensations in Val Thorens I’ve visited 3 times. I think for what you pay, its exceptional value for money. The all-inclusive deal includes a full area ski pass, which in the 3 valleys costs €300 for a week! ski lessons, which I no longer need are also included, but advanced skiers get an ESF guide to go off-piste with, which is also included. I like to think of myself as a light drinker, but if I’m not staying at a club Med hotel, where the bar is free, I’m always shocked to read my credit card bill, especially if I’ve been skiing with a group and buying rounds of drinks. Lunches are also included with Club Med and there is no need to return to VT for lunch, Club Med have two hotels in Meribel, by booking with reception, you can have lunches at either of the Meribel hotels!
I love the 3 valleys, what’s not to like in a ski area with over 600km of skiing? there are so many wonderful chalets and hotels. Club Med sensations opened a few years ago, I was lucky enough to get invited to the grand opening.
Sensations was the venue for our end of season ski trip in 2017. Myself and the 260 clients who joined the trip all loved it so much we decided to go back again in April 2018, but this time, with 350 people attending. Most of our group from the previous year invited friends to join them, it’s that good! The trip was so popular that it sold out last September, and we still had over 100 clients wanting to book.
I have to confess, I’m a bit of a foodie and I enjoy good wine. Club Med’s French roots, (its now owned by the Chinese) means that good food is important, we all know how the French are with their food and wine! You can expect a huge choice of wonderful dishes at any of the Club Med hotels, but at Sensations the executive chef has 3 Michelin stars to his name.
The bedrooms at Sensations are very good, with funky lighting and spacious interiors. 90% of the rooms have balconies and many are interconnecting, ideal for families, although there isn’t childcare here.
Following on with the theme of good food, I have never eaten so well as I did at Chalet Saskia. They have a fantastic chef there who is called Marcus, he’s a master of flavours and loves the attention he gets from guests staying at Saskia. Marcus has worked for the owner of the chalet for many years, his wife Rosa acts as one of the hosts and his daughter attends the local school. I hope he never leaves, I’m sure the owner does too!
I pretty sure if this chalet was a restaurant it would be awarded a star. You only have to read the reviews on websites such as Trip Advisor to see I’m not alone in my praise of Marcus’s cooking. Unlike many chalet hosts, who spend all day skiing, Marcus locks himself away in a tiny kitchen and conjures up his magic, he often spends most of the morning buying his ingredients himself at the local markets. He is very particular about what goes into his dishes and the proof as they say is in the pudding!
The chalet is great too, it’s divided into 2 halves, East and West, both have huge dining/living rooms, each side sleeps 13, or a larger group of 26 could take over the whole chalet.
Chalet Saskia has got all the toys our clients are looking for, a hot tub, sauna and steam room. Sarah and I had one of the rooms in the eves, which was large and spacious, with lots of space for drying damp ski gear.
Chalet Saskia is located in Vaujany, which is one of the best villages in the Alpe d’Huez ski area. The skiing on this side of the mountain is, in my opinion, the best and the off-piste skiing is excellent.
I’ll defiantly be going back to Chalet Saskia… If they’ll have me.
Now I’m not a fan of self-catered skiing holidays, I don’t want to cook, clean or do the washing up, I prefer to save all of my energy for the skiing. However, I felt I had to include at least one apartment on my list. A few years ago, we wanted to ski with a friend who won’t stay in chalets or hotels or even fly, so we chose Les Arcs 1950 Village for our ski holiday which was over the February Half Term. The development was built back in the 1990’s by Intrawest, the same company that developed much of Whistler, in Canada. Today its owned by P&V, who have done a good job in maintaining the standards and facilities.
Arc 1950 is built on a plateau in the Les Arcs ski area at 1950m, so its snowsure and 100% ski in ski out. You literally, ski from the ski storage room on to the slopes, and the resort is car-free. There’s a huge underground car park beneath the development, which can be a little confusing when you first arrive, but essentially it means that you are never far from your car to your apartment with luggage.
I stayed in one of the larger duplex apartments, sleeping up to 10, with 4 bedrooms and sofa beds in the lounge, although I wouldn’t fancy sleeping in the lounge myself! Its unusual for apartments to be so large. Smaller apartments which sleep 6 to 8 people are also available here. They are spacious by normal French apartment standards.
The village has everything you need. There is a small supermarket, which is eye wateringly expensive, so make sure you stock up in the hypermarkets in Bourg St Maurice in the valley below before heading up the mountain. There is a good selection of restaurants to suit all tastes, a few bars, ski school and ski hire shops.
Chalet Hotel & Spa Le Savoie – 5* hotel without a 5* price
I first saw the 5* Hotel Le Savoie the year before it officially opened, that must have been about 7 years ago, I was delighted to see a new 5* hotel opening in Val d’Isere and tried to get a contract to offer it to our clients. The rates were far too high for us to make any money, so we parked the idea.
Then, 4 years ago, the then MD of Inghams, Andy Perrin, whispered to me that he had just taken over the whole hotel from the owners who also owned several chalets in Val d’Isere leased to Hotel Plan, Inghams parent company. This was the first time a UK tour operator would offer a chalet hotel of a 5* standard. Tour operators normally get run down hotels to run on chalet lines.
Its central location right in the middle of Val d’Isere is ideal for easy access to the skiing and of course the best of Val d’Isere’s nightlife.
Andy Perrin chose to only employ the best resort staff to work in Le Savoie and selected excellent chefs to make sure that Le Savoie would be their flagship property.
It’s run like a chalet, British staff, often students, but in the case of Le Savoie, only the best people got to work here. One night a week the staff have a night off, it will be twice a week for the 2019 ski season. The food was excellent, 5 delicious courses each evening with greatly improved wines from the normal chalet plonk.
For the price you pay, it’s exceptional value for money, particularly when compared to the cost of other 5* hotels in Val d’Isere. The rooms are 5* standard, with large comfy beds. You only have to read the reviews on Trip Advisor to see I’m not alone in enjoying my stay here as 97% rated it as Excellent or Very Good. Only two reviewers rated it as poor and neither stayed there! I do wish Trip advisor would moderate its reviews. We send lots of clients here and all love i. I really can’t recommend it enough, it is a top place to stay in Val d’Isere, and I should know, I normally ski in Val d’Isere at least once a year and have stayed in over 50 of the chalets there over the years.
Finding a ski chalet in Austria anywhere apart from St Anton, used to be impossible. Then the contracting team at one of my favourite chalet operators started to think outside the box, when Crystal holidays were closing many of their ski chalets, the guys at Ski Total where thinking outside the box, well, outside of St Anton!
They came up with some crackers in Austria, of which the Abendrot quickly became a favourite of mine and my wife Sarah’s. We loved the skiing in Ischgl, its high and snow sure with an excellent lift system, but choosing a good affordable base to stay isn’t easy. However it is now!
96% of visitors the Chalet Hotel Abendrot rated it as Excellent or very good on the Trip Advisor website, and I’m not at all surprised. It’s in the centre of town, but suffers from no noise issues. It’s around 50m from the number 1 piste so you can ski almost to the backdoor and it’s only a 3 minute, flat walk to the nearest lifts.
We loved the bar area, where fellow guests congregated after skiing and before the evening meals. There were occasional quiz nights and other activities held there too. There is a reception area which was well staffed , nothing was too much trouble for these guys. The hotel is bright and the spacious rooms all have Austrian beds, most have a balcony.
Theres a lovely wellness area to soothe aching muscles which is kept spotlessly clean.
This is another of our chalet hotels, and this means that fully qualified chefs will run the kitchen each year and during our stay the food was exceptional, so too was the service provided by the staff.
If you are looking to ski somewhere other than Val d’Isere or St Anton on your next skiing trip, I recommend Ischgl and especially the Chalet Hotel Abendrot.
Most of our clients ask for Courchevel 1850, I never get that, Courchevel 1650 is I think is a much better place to stay. The nightlife is better and the slopes are quieter, its also better value for money. Skiers staying in other resorts in the Three Valleys always head over to 1850, its where many of the lifts are and on the map, it looks like it’s where all the fun will be. Because 1650 is at the far end of the ski area, many simply stop at 1850 before heading back to Meribel or Val Thorens, a big mistake!
One of my favourite chalets Rikiki, is run by a good friend of mine, Nick Morgan, who this year won the Daily Telegraph Snow Award for being the best ski tour operator, something I was very pleased with, I was with him when he picked up the award at the London ski show.
Chalet Rikiki has for many years been run by the same couple, Dave and Megan, who in the summer run their own version of a catered Barge holiday, nobody in their right mind would want to spend the winter in a barge, so for years the couple have opted to leave the slow life on a French canal to run a ski chalet in the Alps working for Nick. They are great hosts and excellent cooks, a good chalet holiday is made by the people running it.
Chalet Rikiki is in a quiet corner of 1650, its back door leads on to the nursery slope, which is why I chose to stay here when I was skiing with a group, some of whom were new to skiing.
The chalet has a good selection of rooms including some single rooms so its great for a group of friends.
The choice of accommodation in Tignes is huge, I surprised myself that this one made it on to my top 10, I always like ski in ski out convenience. There’s a flat tow rope not far from this chalet which will get you to the lifts or even though I hate to have to get the bus its only a 1-minute bus ride I had a very enjoyable week a few years ago.
The hotel recently underwent a complete refurb and its looking great. The hotel is an excellent choice for families, especially if you need childcare. Its operated by Mark Warner, who have a good reputation for family ski holidays.
I like this hotel when I stayed here with my son Max, he loved the Turkish bath and the heated swimming pool, as Max was a teenager at the time I was looking for a holiday that would cater well for teenagers, as I had several meetings to attend over the week and Max was probably too young to ski on his own, I left him under the watchful eye of Mark Warner team who made sure he had a fantastic time. Mark Warner offer childcare for infants to teenagers. Several tour operators do, but for me, Mark Warner have the best ideas for teenagers. Max always talks about the trip still as one of his best.
I’m going back nearly 17 years since I stayed in Chalet Valentine, it was purely by accident that we ended up staying in chalet Valentine, it happened to be the only resort where we could find childcare for our son who was two at the time, it was our first ski holiday as a family with all 3 children, so I might be looking back with rose-tinted glasses. At the time, not many people had heard of La Rosiere, only Ski Esprit, went there at that time who were an independently owned company, today they are part of the larger Hotel Plan group. In my view, La Rosiere is one of the very best ski resorts for a family skiing holiday.
Chalet Valentine is their smallest chalet (sleeps 5) in a building called Les Grandes Alpes and Ski Esprit still run 3 chalets in the building, all are good and if I still had young children, it would be right at the top of my list of places to stay. It’s located at the foot of the nursery slopes with easy access to the rest of the ski area which links to the Italian side and La Thuile. The childcare for young children with ski Esprit is excellent, you’d expect a company that’s been exclusively arranging family ski holiday for 35 years to do it well, they certainly do, and I constantly recommend them to families with younger children.
I picked this chalet as its great value for money, I took all our team to stay here several years ago, after we had a record-breaking season. It’s not a catered chalet like so many others we offer, and for some of our clients, this is a good thing. The chalet is staffed, they clean and prepare a continental style breakfast but guests can either cook for themselves or dine out as we did.
Why do I like this chalet? It’s good value for money for what is a very luxurious place to stay. The amazing views from the lounge look across the town and lifts of Val d’Isere. Its located in an area, known locally as millionaire’s row. If you haven’t stayed in one of the chalets up there, you wouldn’t know it was there. Access is via a rather unremarkable garage door down in the village which cuts through the rock up a steep private drive to the gated road, at the other end of the road is the bottom of the famous ‘La Face’ run.
The owner of the chalet, bought the land for many millions of Euros and built two wonderful chalets, called Cristal A & B, sleeping 12 in one and 10 in the other. I wish he would change the names to something a little more special!
What you get for your money, are very luxurious, spacious chalets, with some of the best views in Val d’Isere, comfy beds, hammam, a lift serving the 4 floors and an outdoor decked area which in spring is very special.
To book an equivalent catered chalet you might pay £2,000pp more, for that you eat very well in the best restaurants of Val d’Isere.
Club Med Valmorel – Ski in ski out luxury all-inclusive hotel in a resort you might not have considered before
I’ve picked two Club Med hotels for my list, I could have picked a lot more. It’s no secret that I believe Club Med offer some of the best skiing holidays we offer. The all-inclusive nature means great value for money no matter if you ski as a family or even large adult groups.
I was very surprised when Club Med announced it was opening a new hotel in Valmorel, I’d never skied there before but I was very impressed, there is around 150km of piste and lots of opportunities to ski between the pistes if the snow is good and it never seems to get too tracked out.
Since we have acted as agents for Club Med, this was the second new hotel they had opened, and for me they had got everything right. Its location above the resort is ski in ski out, the boot room was big and spacious. The rooms were of a good size with great bathrooms too.
It was the dining areas and bar that did it for me. The main buffet restaurant has 4 dining areas, which Club Med cleverly manage, they fill each beautifully designed and crafted space before opening the next. I guess this helped them to manage the service better, which was excellent for the guests too.
I’m always banging on about the food at Club Med, for me this is an important part of any skiing holiday. You can stay in a catered ski chalet and have a gap student cook your meals, chalets are always good value compared to a hotel, but when compared to Club Med, for what you get, I’d ski with Club Med any day.
Club Med have gone from strength to strength, this winter they opened a new Club Med hotel in Samoens, that I have yet to see after it officially opened in Dec 2017, although the whole team had a site visit just as the carpets where being laid in the summer. I’m sure it would have made this list if I’d been able to attend the opening. Next winter will see the opening of a new, possibly even better hotel in Les Arcs 1600.