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Can you Ski the 10 Main Resorts of Les Trois Vallées in just one day?

clock 25th October 2013 | comment0 Comments

In March of last year Igluski's Sales Director, Adam Johnson took 3 Iglu team mates on a mission to conquer the largest linked ski area in the world, Les Trois Vallées, in France. AJ takes us through their epic day...

Can you Ski the 10 Main Resorts of Les Trois Vallées in just one day?

The answer is yes, and it’s an excellent day out that gets you to all the corners of this massive ski area. We started our ambitious mission in the most central resort of the largest ski area in the world, Méribel {1}, in the middle Les Allues Vallée. We were staying with Total Ski in the lovely Chalet Cedre Blanc in the Mussillon area above Dick’s Tea Bar. Around the dinner table in the Chalet, my team and I had planned our whole day travelling anti-clockwise on the map around the 3 Valleys the night before. However, there was a hitch from the moment we opened the curtains in the morning. It was a Powder day above 1600m! And as everyone knows, the 1st casualty on any Powder day, is the plan! On a day like this you need to be up with the sparrows and queuing for the 1st lift. My IGLU veterans crew of Scotty on K2’s with Telemark bindings, Boyd on Volkl Grizzlies, Damian on some heavy rubbish he hired, and myself on Stöckli Coral Snakes, were more excited than 6 year olds on Xmas morning.

Kick off at 8.30am at the Chaudanne

The plan called for us to head for St Martin de Belleville {2} at the bottom in the next Vallée that leads up to Val Thorens. The quickest way up was to take the Tougnete 1 Gondola and then the Express 6 seater, Tougnete 2, which would very swiftly take us from 14520m to 2434m. At the top we skated off right looking for the Seasonaire’s favourite Red run, Jerusalem. This is a long fast banking red that never gets too steep but has oodles of tempting powder stashes left and right. And here in lies our 1st error. Scotty got so excited by the depth of the Pow that he stayed on the right hand side of the piste for too long and ended up on the Blaireau Red piste taking us back to the Tougnete 2 express chair. OK, not much of a detour except that the crowds had caught up to us so we had an annoying 15 min wait. Back at the top we were away again and this time we frolicked in the pow on the left of the piste heading to Jerusalem and had a ball. Freshies all the way to St MdV. It’s a Village that most visitors to the 3V never get to and that’s a shame. It’s a sweet little Savoie village with more character than its neighbouring purpose built resorts and it hosts some lovely restaurants like Le Montagnard owned by Eric Suchet a local cheese maker, and just down the road at St Marcel is Chef Rene Meilleur’s Michelin starred La Bouitte. You can ski there off-piste or call for a lift from St Martin.

The main street of St Martin de Belleville

Already, at only 10am, we were late and behind plan. We quickly got on the St Martin #1 Gondola and then the St Martin #2 (painfully slow) quad chair. Once back up at the Tougnete peak we jumped on the long flattish blue piste Gros Tougne down to Les Menuires {3} at 1850m. Not a lot to look at in Les Menuires but it is incredibly popular with families who like the convenient village, slopes and cheapest prices in the whole ski area.

Les Menuires looks better at night ;)

We skied through the crowds in central Les Menuires to the short Doron Chairlift which gave us enough elevation to ski to the fast Bruyéres Gondola. You can stay on this from 1850m all the way up to the Col de la Chambre at 2850m. We peeled off to the right and skied down the skiers left* of the 4 Vents red piste and joined onto the Mont de la Chambre blue for a speed tuck straight through Val Thorens{4} the highest ski resort in Europe at 2300m, for the 3 Valleys #1 chairlift. We had planned to have a break in VT and the drinking terraces did look inviting but time was getting away from us. It was past 12 midday already and we had a long, long way to go. The 3 Valleys # 1 chairlift is quite fun. You travel through town at around the 3rd floor level looking straight into the apartments on either side (not that we peaked through the curtains) and at the top of the chairlift you can see one of the great on-piste parties of the skier’s world. The new for last season La Folie Douce, the same crew as the original Val d’Isére Folie, passes right by within touching distance of the table top dancing girls and was ever so tempting. But we were on a mission, so we jumped straight onto the Bouquetin Gondola for a fast ride back to the Col de la Chambre.

*For the uninitiated, skiers left or right is always the view looking down from the top. Not the tourists view from the bottom which is the opposite.

The 3 Valleys #1 lift and VT Folie Douce

Now we were heading back into the middle Les Allues Vallée and the next stop was Mottaret {5} at 1600m, the slightly cheaper, slightly uglier and quieter, but far more convenient resort for ski in/out than it’s close neighbour Méribel. Our plan had been to hit the Famous (Seasonaire’s secret) Mottaret Montagne Burgers. I was sure I was smelling a Montagne burger as we came shooting down the skiers right of the Venturon red piste under the Cote Brune chairlift. FYI: As we splashed around in the piste side pow, we noticed a few guys hiking up the slope to our skier’s right. We took note of this and did the same hike, scrambling over the little terrain park entrance 6 times the next day. An awesome little painless hike for the deep untracked. By this time of the day we were famished but to our great despair the Montagne Burger café had a queue of scruffy, woolly hatted chalet staff about 20m long.

Damn I wanted that burger!

I sought consolation in Boyd’s hip flask of mighty fine skiing single malt and headed for the Pas du Lac Gondola to the famous Saulire peak at 2738m and entry to the 3rd Vallée called St Bon. We still had 5 more resorts to visit in the Courchevel area. At least we knew Courchevel has a plethora of awesome mountain eateries. We were just slightly wary of the usual wallet melting bills that go with it. From the top of the Saulire we had to forgo the usual skiers left dip into the thrill and spills that are the Courchevel Couloirs. On a day like this they would've been awesome. Instead we decided to go as far out to the boundaries of the area as possible so the rest of the trip would be coming back towards home. So we zoomed down the Marmottes red run and jumped on the Chanrossa chairlift. It was about now that I had an inspiration, perhaps brought on the Boyd’s medicinal administrations. I remembered the Ski Instructor’s favourite restaurant in Courchevel, The Bel Air. Still not cheap, but within our budgets and a cracking south facing terrace. The food is great and the service somewhat mindboggling. How do those waiters move so much food and drink through the crowds at such speed and accuracy?

Luckily for us the service at the Bel Air is famously fast and we appreciated getting in and out in under 45 mins. Now it was 2 pm and we still had 5 resorts to go. 1st on the list was 1650, now known as Courchevel Moriond {6}. We had a nice little romp down through fluffy white stuff under the Ariondaz Gondola all the way to town. We couldn’t stay so we were straight onto the Ariondaz and zipped up to high enough to get over to the Aiguille du Fruit chairlift. We could’ve jumped on the Gravelles and skied across the Altiport, but why would we waste an opportunity to bomb the Suisses Black run on a powder day. The lads larked about and jumped off anything they could find and this got me worried for time. I cracked the proverbial whip and chased the crazy fools all the way down past the Altiport, down the Bellecote, and through Courchevel 1850 {7} only stopping for a photo.

Next stop was after a thrilling but icy Brigues Red piste down to Courchevel La Praz at 1300m {8} the lowest point of our circuit. La Praz is another little gem of a resort. The Ski Jump from the Albertville Olympics stands proudly over the entrance to the village. This village is more like a Savoie town than a ski resort and although it’s pretty quiet it has some really nice Restaurants like the Michelin starred Le Bistrot du Praz. But no time to waste here. Another photo and away we go on the Praz Gondola. We really should've gone to 1550, Courchevel Village 1st but we missed the turn off. Now we were running it damned close for getting all resorts done.

Courchevel Village at 1550m {9} is the workers village of the St Bon Valley. Lots of staff from the Hotels, chalets and ski schools live down here. This makes the town a lot of fun and very functional. The bars and restaurants cheaper and well suited to looking after the young people that really make the Valley work. There is a selection of well-priced accommodation down here for the British market and it’s ideal for being able to have a drink in Courchevel 1850 before either sledging or skiing straight down the Tovets blue piste to get home in the dark. You’ll see lots of workers doing exactly that all night long. By now it approaching 3.30pm and we still had to do 4 long lifts to get back to the Col de la Loze peak that would enable us to ski all the way back to Méribel. We jumped on the Grangettes Gondola and nervously watched the minutes tick by. At the top we ran onto the Chenus lift as the clocked seemingly flew past 4pm and then 4.15pm.

The Grangettes Gondola up to Courchevel 1850 from 1550

At the top of the Chenus Gondola we jumped in our skis in record time and just tucked it for La Tania {10}. We weren't popular as we raced past (or through) groups and families having a lazy last run on the red pistes Bouc Blanc and then Moretta Blanche, but we were on a mission that could go very wrong, very soon. If you miss the last lift back to your own Valley the Taxi drivers rub their hands together with glee and start assessing you for how cash all of you can get out of the nearest cash machine in one go before setting the fare. There’s not a lot you can do as the public transport doesn't go from Valley to Valley and 4 wild eyed and desperate men with big skis hitching is almost impossible. After scaring a few dozen La Tania guests and ourselves at around 100kph we hit La Tania just after 4.30 and we still had 2 long lifts. Would the Dou des Lanches Chairlift still be open when we got to the top of the La Tania Gondola? They were closing the Gondola as we arrived but the Lifty knew from our sweaty and desperate faces that there was no way weren't getting on that Gondola. We were the last on.

We hoped that they would always take the last skiers on the Gondola onto the Dou des Lanches chair to make sure Méribel guests got home but we weren’t sure of it. As we approached to the top we prepared to argue for all our worth to get on that chair but there was no need. I think the Lifty was expecting us and he hurried us on and off we shot for the Col de la Loze and enough elevation to get us all the way back home. We broke out the celebratory hip flasks and toasted our achievement. Now that the pressure was off it was time to decide which of the 2 main sunny south-facing on-piste après ski bars of Méribel to go for, the new upstart, La Folie Douce or the long standing favourite, The Rond Point. I’ll spare the blushes and not mention the ages of my IGLU crew but when we pulled up to La Folie Douce and looked across the vast sea of table dancing and champagne fueled smiling faces, and noticed that very few of them were born before 1990 we realised that this might not be the scene for us. Off we went to the Ronny for a few Jugs of Mutzig and to relive a most excellent Trois Vallées adventure.

Top tips for making the circuit

1.Take a packed lunch
2. Don’t do it on a powder day
3. Don’t take someone trying on Telemark bindings for the day (thanks Scotty) or any boarders, bladers or monoskiers
4. Try and get as much done before lunch as possible. Afternoons seem to slip away
5. Do your talking in the Gondolas or on Chairlifts. Leave the piste-side chats to the instructors and awed bystanders

Apologies to the resorts that some would consider to be part of the 3 Valleys like Brides Les Bains and Orelle which have gondola access to the ski area but aren't possible to ski to in late March.



Chalet Hotels To Get The Affordable Luxury Treatment

clock 22nd June 2012 | comment2 Comments

Chalet hotels have once again grown in popularity in the past couple of years, the idea of chalet-style board, with food & wine provided, but on a larger — often more socialable — scale.

Last season we saw a twist on the chalet hotel, with the introduction of two new ski lodge concepts. One concept offering an exclusive feel, including concierge services and elegant, but large properties, the other concept aiming at the boisterous, low-budget freestyle scene.

This summer's addition to the chalet hotel scene sees a couple of our favourite affordable-luxury suppliers bringing us a more traditional chalet hotel experience.

Chalet Hotel Les Chardons

Les Chardons is a interesting addition to our website, the chalet is run by a Val d'Isere specialist who prefer to offer traditional mountain charm, great food and blond chalet girls, as opposed to flat-screen TVs and high-end, modern furnishings. They are running a hotel sized property for the first time in a decade, though there's nothing these guys don't know about Val d'Isere and good quality chalet food.

Chalet hotel Les Chardons is based right in the middle of Val d'Isere, a mere stone's throw from the church, in one of the quieter corners of the resort centre. The slopes are closer to walk to than it takes a snowboarder to strap in, and the nightlife is a simple stumble away. The new owners had expected to need to renovate the place when they took it over earlier this month, but have discovered its charm and quality have meant the only work needing doing, is to add their own personal touches, such as creating a self serving bar and bringing in their simple, but cosy bedding.

The description of the place gives the impression of a family run hotel that has been converted into a chalet hotel and given a new lease of life. The brochure description is fab and shows why we love them so much: "actually, some of them are baths, but those wonderfully short baths only an Oompaloompa could stretch out in, so most people treat them as showers"

Chalet Hotel Montjola

Chalet Hotel Montjola is altogether another beast. Run by another top quality chalet company who specialise in the top, top resorts, the Chalet Hotel Montjola is their largest property — by some margin — and their first in St. Anton.

The chalet hotel Montjola, was formally a family run favourite in St. Anton, but over the summer will be given a complete makeover which will no doubt make the property one on the top chalet hotels in the Alps. The property will be filled with plush furnishings, and will boast flat-screen TVs in each room, plus the usual such as Wi-Fi, outdoor hot tubs, sauna, steam room and a massage room. The Montjola will keep its bar, though it will only be open to guests and will most likely run from late afternoon until around midnight, offering beers, wine and coffee for a small charge.

Though the property isn't being run by one of the typically large family specialists, the Montjola will have two on-site nannies and allow children on all dates, whether the property is filled or not. There will also be a chauffeur shuttle service from 8am-8pm from the ski lifts and resort centre. The Montjola is a good ten minute walk from St. Anton's slopes and nightlife — so the chauffeur service is a touch — but offers stunning views across the valley taking in the Tyrolean region from the sun terrace, as well as several of the rooms.

So, when you start to put plans into place for next winter, if looking for lively, charming properties with great staff, even better food and fantastic wine, make sure you give the Les Chardons and Montjola a look, as neither will let you down. The chalet hotels will be perfect for families, groups and couples alike and I have no doubt they will be among our most popular properties. My biggest problem is deciding whether I want to head to St. Anton or Val d'Isere and convincing the boss to give me a week off!



Best Chalets & Hotels For Apres Ski Revelry

clock 18th June 2012 | comment0 Comments

Today's blog is bought to you by AJ, Iglu's Head of Sales and keenest après ski participant.

We’re pretty keen on après ski action here at Iglu. So much so that it is one of the main factors that decides where we ski each season. We’ve even rated the best chalets for access to après ski. Some have great locations just a few stumbling steps from the best bars and some offer their own in-house bars that everyone else has to come to.

So, let’s start with the best located chalet in everyone’s favourite French resort, Val d’Isére.

The 5* Chalet Cherrier is slap bang in the middle of the action. I’ve stayed here and counted that it was only 16 paces from the front door to the Petit Danois bar. This is one of our early evening favourite bars with two pool tables and consistently hot Danish and Swedish bar staff. The rooms in the Cherrier are big and don’t suffer from noise after 9 pm.

If your budget is more Carlsberg and KP nuts than Krug Champagne and Beluga caviar then you might want to be above one of the most iconic bars in Val d’Isére, by staying at the Chalet Hotel Morris. This chalet hotel couldn't be more convenient, but if you choose one of the rooms at the front with the sunny balconies, you will hear some noise. At least no one will complain if you're a little noisy yourself.

The most famous après ski resort of them all is St Anton and this next chalet is right amongst the fun.

You can ski directly to this chalet from your après session in the Mooserwirt or the Krazy Kangaruh and you are only a few minutes from the main pedestrian area of central St Anton. The Chalet Alpenheim has a few convenient single rooms and if you have a group of four, than make sure you book the junior suite with two rooms and a kitchenette on the top floor! Here it is really worth paying the extra for a sunny balcony with lovely views.

Italian resorts are usually fairly laid back about après ski but there are exceptions. Cervinia, which links over to Zermatt, has a few lively bars and the liveliest of them all is in the Chalet Dragon right on the slopes as you come down at the end of the day. This place gives Cervinia its aprèsphere.

The rooms in the Chalet Dragon are sectioned off in a separate wing so you don’t get the noise of the bar. The chalet is also very well placed to appreciate all the other bars of Cervinia, being about 100m from the centre. The rooms in this chalet are large and this property was one of our biggest sellers last season, so get in early if you have a group.

The best party in Switzerland is undoubtedly in Verbier, and the Place Central is where it all happens.

Chalet Hotel De Verbier is so popular it’s usually sold out for peak dates long before the season starts. It is directly opposite the best that Verbier has to offer and one the all-time classic après ski bars, the Farinet. Live music, potent shakers, a buzzing dance floor and a sliding roof that opens to let the steam out every couple of hours, come together to provide the ultimate Swiss après ski experience.

Courchevel is the famous name in the world’s biggest ski area, but most people are put off by the prices of the extortionately flashy resort at 1850. To avoid the Ruskies and the €40 fondues, the UK market prefers to head to it's little brother just down the road in Courchevel 1650. The prices are better and the après is more convivial. This part of Les Trois Vallées is the most sun-facing and has the prettiest tree runs. Several of our most popular properties are in this resort like the Chalet Cascades and the Chalet Hotel Les Avals.

The Chalet Hotel Les Avals sleeps 70, so it’s already got a ready-made party on most weeks. The chalet hotel also hosts the best après ski bar in resort, Rocky’s. There is a live band on during après a couple of nights a week and it is well setup with TVs for any UK sport you may want to catch. Handy in February and March for the Six Nations rugby. It also does well priced snacks and lots of daily deals on shooters, shots, bombs and beers — as well as serving the legendary après ski beer, Mützig.

If you are looking for a bargain — with all the ingredients for a riotous week of partying — then look no further than the Club Hotel Les Airelles in Les Deux Alpes.

This property is cheap and cheerful so don’t expect The Ritz. This club hotel has hosted the Iglu April ski trip for the last three years and has never failed to deliver a good time. Our crew are mostly mid-twenties ex-seasonaires that like a party almost as much as deep powder.

Les Deux Alpes attracts a young crowd and is heavily favoured by boarders who appreciate the excellent terrain park. We love the super short transfer from Grenoble, the access to La Grave over the top of the glacier, the cheap bars, the €60 helicopter day trip to Alpe d’Huez, and the reliable snow above 2500m.

And finally, here’s a property that is the best placed in the Ibiza of the Pyrenees, Pas de la Casa.

Llac Negre is right in the centre of the main drag of Pas de la Casa. The town rocks all night and has plenty of great bars including the one in this hotel. The prices are great due to Andorra being a tax free principality. The resort is also at 2000m making it one of the highest in Europe. There has been lots of investment in the lift system of the Granvalira ski area and it now compares favourably with the big French resorts of the Tarantaise Vallée.

This is only a short list of some of our favourites but we have loads more to recommend for après ski action.



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