Carving Shapes on and Off the Piste
Ski resorts and fun, fashionable and it’s not all about the slopes in The Three Valleys…
Article By Kate Morfoot
Long gone are the days that novice or even non skiers are not well catered for in the mountains. Nowadays, there is more to a skiing holiday than carving the powder. Tour operator, Ski France (formerly Madame Vacances) and many of the ski resorts provide alternative fun solutions for those who don’t wish to ski, or ski their entire holiday.
Take for example staying at Chateau De Candie; a luxury four-star destination where you can reside for your pre-ski and après-ski holiday or as a base for you and your family. This is near to the cross-country skiing resort of La Féclaz.
At the Chateau de Candie there are 28 luxury rooms including family rooms, elegant suites and luxury bedrooms. All set within six hectares, it has a heated outdoor swimming pool, its own vineyard and there are ambitious plans for a multi-million investment into a decadent spa launching later in 2017. There’s a gourmet restaurant L’Orangerie set in the heart of the chateau and there is plenty of space to relax by the fire in the lounge. The hotel is managed by Frederic Claude, who is the former manager of the Waterside Inn at Bray.
Non-skiers can visit the nearby historic towns of Chambéry where you can enjoy guided walks, shopping and cafes and the spa town of Aix-Les-Bains where you can grandly follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria. Take the opportunity to visit ‘Lac du Bourget’, the largest natural lake in France and in addition you can explore the towns cycling, take in the arts and culture and of course sample the local wine and cheese.
There is an abundance of excellent restaurants and cafes in Aix-Les-Bains, however, the one that stands out for delicious food served with local Savoire wine is the new Restaurant Le 59. The management are the last private owners of Château De Candie and are currently on track for Michelin-Star status.
Ski resorts in the Three Valleys are fun and fashionable, so for those in the group who don’t want to ski daily, (if at all), my suggestion is to book a hotel that accommodates and caters for everyone’s needs. Ask yourselves; is it near the heart of the town? Is it a ‘ski-in-ski-out’ hotel or a bus ride from the slopes, does it have a spa? Are the après ski venues easy to access either with or without skis so everyone can meet up?
I stayed at Hotel Le Mottaret at Méribel-Mottaret which is ideally located next to the slopes. It’s warm and welcoming and importantly the staff are fantastic making everything as comfortable as they can for you. Great food is provided in the buffet restaurant. There is a good selection of drinks avilable at the bar and a wood burner in the lounge with lots of sofas, keeping everywhere warm and cosy. Children can be kept entertained in the gamesroom and there’s a pool table in the lounge. The hotel is particulay appealing to those with youngsters and children under 18 who can stay for free in the hotel over Christmas and the week leading up to Christmas and are given free ski hire from the ski shop next door to the hotel.
The launch of brand new bedrooms offers a mix of modern and comfortable standard and superior rooms. There are twin rooms, large family rooms, plus a deluxe bedroom with two double bedrooms, one ensuite and a family bathroom with a balcony. All the bedrooms have stunning views over the mountains and there’s an outdoor jacuzzi.
Méribel-Mottaret is situated in the heart of the largest lift-linked ski area in the world, Les 3 Vallées, offering lift passes for just one valley (Meribel + Mottaret or Courchevel) or the extensive Three Valleys. It provides slopes for beginners and experts alike. You can easily and quickly travel from one resort to the next covering just a few pistes even if you are a complete novice skier. Half the ski area comprises blue and green runs. However in Méribel there are legendary pistes for the advanced – the La Face, the Olympic Downhill, situated next to the Roc de Fer, this black run makes no concessions that includes a very steep start.
The location is beautiful, it’s an ideal destination for those wishing to explore with 600km of pistes and 160 lifts. Hikers will find over 40km of cross-country trails to enjoy. Fancy exploring areas of picturesque beauty where you are unable to on skis? Then try snowshoeing. Snow shoes are fitted over your walking boots, walking with snowshoes and poles become a magical adventure. You set off into the sparkling snowy woods and meandering trails into the mountains where breath-taking views can be found from high up in Méribel-Mottaret before you return visit Lac de Tuéda and the Nature Reserve where you can see birds of the forest. Snowshoeing is a great thing to enjoy as part of group and can be booked by Ski ESF.
There are plenty of activities for all the family including, igloo building, snow biking, bowling and hot air ballooning. When the lifts close, try the Snake Sledge where you can swoop down the slopes on a train of sledges steered by instructors.
If snow of any kind, apart from walking on it, is not ticking any boxes, head to the Olympic Centre which hosts and Olympic ice-rink, pool, fitness centre, spa with hot tubs, sauna and steam rooms all under one roof. It’s a good place to soothe your muscles after a hard day out on the slopes.
It’s easy to ski on the many blue runs over to Courchevel and Courchevel 1850 or you can catch a bus that runs regularly from Méribel into the town centre. Created in 1946, this resort celebrates its 70th birthday this season. Picture sunny blue skies, fantastic views of the mountains and powdery snow! If this tickles your snow socks, then book a ski lesson with Maison Sport. A novel online website that matches skiers and snowboarders with their ideal independent instructor based on requirements such as language spoken, skill level, experience and cost. It’s described as the Ski-Uber, where you can book direct and save 15 per cent on the normal cost of lessons by booking online. My instructor, Ewan was Scottish and he has over 20 years ski-teaching experience. A two hour lesson getting my turns right set me up for a confident 12km ski with friends from Méribel -Mottaret to Courcheval with the best hot chocolate stop served at the Fire and Ice outdoor bar at Coucheval 1850, allowing us to bask in the sunshine wrapped up in fur blankets!
Courcheval ski resort is sleek stylish and fashionable. It leaves no stone unturned offering top class hotels, restaurants, shops and opportunities to party and pampering. One street alone houses Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, (just perfect for window shopping) and the place boasts seven Michelin starred restaurants. Aside from these there are over a hundred restaurants catering for all tastes and budgets. A fun lunch restaurant and excellent venue for après-ski is the famous La Folie Douche where tasty cuisine and live entertainment can be found inside the warm wooden building and club music beats and live music outside in the snow with quite a lot of people dancing on the tables…
Hotel accommodation also caters for top end, medium and low budgets. The two-star Hotel Courchevel Olympic is a stone’s throw from the town centre of Courchevel 1850 and practically on the same avenue as designer shops. You can live the high life giving you a Rolls Royce lifestyle in the heart of Courchevel 1850 on a push bike income. Ski France, unlike many other companies, offers flexible arrival dates and days in all their resorts and are flexible also on the number of nights that you wish to stay. To facilitate your journey they offer you airport and train transfers at reasonable rates. The Hotel Courcheval Olympic gives a half-board option with local restaurants and the superb AquaMotion centre is nearby.
AquaMotion is Courchevel’s aqua-fun centre, it opened a year ago and has since received over 75,000 visitors. It is family-friendly and perfect for big kids too that like indoor water chutes, slides, climbing and indoor surfing. It has steamy outdoor pools and six indoor pools as well as 19 cutting edge steam rooms and saunas so you can enjoy the best relaxing and energising rituals.
There are no rules! Pack good quality warm clothing from someone like Helly Hansen and the stunning Three Valley’s are waiting for you however you choose to spend your time.
Enquiries: Ski France: 0203 475 4756 / www.skifrance.co.uk
Chateau de Candie, Chambéry: One night stay in a classic room on a B&B basis on the 18/02 – £87
Hotel Le Mottaret***: A seven-night stay in a superior room on the 18/02 – £1,068 pp per week on a half-board basis and £1,242 per person per week on an all-inclusive basis.
A two-night stay in a superior room on the 25/03 – £169 per person per day on a half-board basis and £205 per person per day on an all-inclusive basis.
A seven-night stay in a superior room on the 25/03 – £937 pp per week on a half-board basis and £1,148 per person per week on an all-inclusive basis.
Hotel Courchevel Olympic** – Courchevel 1850: Two-night stay in a standard room on a B&B basis on the 18/02 – £108 pp per night.
Seven-night stay in a standard room on a B&B basis on the 18/02 – £616 pp per week.
Two-night stay in a standard room on a B&B basis on the 25/03 – £96 pp per night.
Seven-night stay in a standard room on a B&B basis on the 25/03 – £577 pp per week.