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Family skiing in the French Alps, catered chalet style

by | TRAVEL talk

After a care-free week in the French Alps, we are now devoted to catered chalets for our family ski holidays

It was the après ski cakes that clinched it, especially the raspberry and white chocolate one. After four years of staying in apartments on our family ski holiday, we opted for a catered chalet this year and it was such a hit, particularly with our nine-year-old, that I doubt we’ll ever go back to self-catering. It makes a ski holiday so much easier: no cooking, no washing up, and no need to shop in the overpriced resort supermarket (except to buy tonic for our bottle of Duty-Free gin!). Instead, there’s more time to get the kids in their thermals, lounge about on the sofas, play games, and, of course, ski – and when you ski more, you can eat more cake. The promise of a delicious slice of homemade cake and a hot chocolate is also a great way to coax your ski-crazy child off the slopes at the end of the day. No more tantrums when it’s time to go ‘home’.

And it quickly felt like home

We went with Skibeat, a chalet specialist of 30 years so they’ve got the formula just right. They have 54 carefully-chosen chalets across nine resorts in the French Alps, sleeping six to 25 people. Ours, the Fleur de Neige, slept 15 and was in the charming little resort of Plan-Peisey. Our lovely chalet hosts weren’t your usual youngsters fresh out of college. The more ‘mature’ Tony, 63, and Carol, 51, were teachers who had got the seasonaire’s bug after visiting their son who worked a few winter seasons. It’s their third year with Skibeat and they know the resort inside out, giving us tips about where to eat on their night off (Wednesday) and where to see the best live music. Carol does a mean cooked breakfast, served with a smile by Tony, who also does the washing up and bakes the cakes. In the evening, they were back in the kitchen in their aprons again, still smiling, preparing a selection of delicious three-course meals with free-flowing red, white or rosé. Our personal favourites were the courgette crumble starter, the tartiflette, the chicken provencale and the Bakewell tart. Two vegans in the group were also well catered for. Kids under 11 can eat early at 6 pm and are also fed very well with all the trusty favourites – spaghetti bolognese, fish goujons, pasta carbonara and cottage pie – followed by pudding, and sometimes (if they’re well behaved) another slice of cake.

Our chalet was in the perfect location

Just 50 metres from a six-person chair lift up into the Les Arcs ski area and to the Vanoise Express cable car which whizzes you over to the La Plagne ski area in just four minutes. Together with Peisey-Vallandry, these resorts make up one of the world’s largest ski areas, known as Paradiski, with pistes to suit skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. Whatever your level, you can book lessons with ESF – Ecole de Ski Francais. The ski school meeting point was just behind our chalet, so not far for Freddie to carry his skis.

We were lucky with the piste conditions

It snowed halfway through our week to give a nice powdery layer to soften any falls and to give the pine trees a winter wonderland sprinkling. Even if the elements don’t play (snow)ball, Paradiski has excellent snowmaking machines to keep the slopes open. There are plenty of wide, open blue and red pistes to improve your turns, some challenging blacks and plenty of off-piste for those brave enough. Pine trees on the lower slopes provide shelter and good visibility on windy, blizzardy days. The west facing slopes get plenty of sunshine and have beautiful panoramic views of the rivers and valleys below.

There’s plenty for non-skiers too

One morning we took the quaint little bucket lift, otherwise known as the lobster pots, down to the old village of Peisey and jumped on the free bus to the Centre Nordique de Pont Baudin, a vast area with well-marked trails where you can try cross-country skiing, snow-shoe walking, and hiking. Families can also take a sledge ride with reindeer, dogs or horses. Forget Lapland, it’s all here. This time, we just went for a walk, following the yellow footstep signs, crunching through the snow and admiring the Persil-white peaks around us, but next time we plan to book a family reindeer ride. And there will be a next time. Our son made us promise, just as he was tucking into his second slice of raspberry and white chocolate cake.

Bev’s Tips

Don’t miss:

Le Monde Magique de Montalbert, the little trail through the forest on La Plagne side, where the children can take a gentle blue through the trees to spot charming wooden statues of fairies, dragons, witches, bears and other fairytale figures. Get up close and you’ll even hear the bears grumble, the fairies twinkle and sing and the dragons roar.

The best hot chocolate:

Piping hot, creamy and served with a smile, the best chocolat chaud was in Le Solliet, a cosy mountain restaurant in Villaroger, Arc 2000. You can reach it via Piste du Rhonaz, Piste du Solliet and Piste des Lys.

Après ski:

The Mojo Bar in Peisey Vallandry is a friendly, French-owned bar with a live acoustic band a few times a week and perfect to take the children for an early evening drink. They do a fabulous charcuterie board too. The weekly Quiz Night is also fun. All the Skibeat chalets compete against each other in a fun, friendly battle of brains at La Vache, a bar at the top end of Plan-Peisey, hosted by quiz master/resort manager Robert. We came last, but only just!

Babysitting:

Independent agencies can supply babysitters in resort from €18 an hour or you can hire your very own seasonaire Nanny, or share one with another family.

For tired muscles:

The lovely ladies at Massage Me will come to your chalet and set up their massage tables and fluffy towels in your bedroom. They offer a host of treatments – relaxing, sports and deep tissue, full body, shoulders, backs or legs. Prices start at €45 for 30 minutes but I would advise at least 45 minutes (€63). I can also highly recommend Jazz, who isn’t afraid to dig deep and relieve those knots. No pain, no gain.

Top tip:

Opt for the ‘smart lessons’, smaller groups of six children and held over lunchtimes so there’s less people on the slopes, which means your kids will learn faster and won’t spend so much time queuing at the lifts. Book early, particularly if it’s half term, as courses get full quickly. Also, it’s worth investing in a full Paradiski pass as not only does it give you access to the whole area, it also gives you fast track on all of the lifts, which can be very useful when you’ve got little ones in tow and in the school holidays.

Factfile

With Skibeat a week’s fully hosted ski holiday to Plan Peisey Les Arcs, with direct access to the Paradiski region and it 425km of pistes, costs from £519pp in winter 2018-19.

This price includes return Manchester flights, transfers, 7 nights accommodation in a chalet, with cooked breakfast, homemade afternoon cakes and tea, a 3-course evening meal with wine (6 nights) and the services of a friendly chalet host.

A week’s stay at the Chalet Fleur Neige costs from £759pp.

1 Comment

  1. Nigel

    Great article Bev. Thank you. Might give the catered chalet thing a go

    Reply

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About The Author

Bev Fearis

Bev Fearis is a travel journalist of more than 20 years and has written for the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Daily Express, Boundless, Best and more. She is Editor-in-Chief of TravelMole.com, a leading newswire for travel professionals in the UK, US and Asia Pacific. She lives in Sussex with her ski-mad husband and 9-year-old son, who is already a better skier than she is!

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