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With more chalet hotels to choose from in the Alps then ever before, a few properties have re-branded in an attempt to stand out from the crowds. Here are a couple of my favourites, offering a similar name, but a very different experience. So, let's check out the lodges.
The Ski Lodges
The Ski Lodges to me are a great idea, the only problem being that when I hear the name Ski Lodge I think of a lively, British-run pub in the Three Valleys' resort of La Tania. These Ski Lodges however, offer a very different, and more relaxed experience.
The three ski lodges on offer are one new property, where the name has been taken from — The Lodge in Val d'Isere, and two very popular, former chalets hotels, the Aigle in Tignes and the Stoanerhof in Mayrhofen. The experience in many ways will resemble that of a chalet hotel — along the lines of chalet-style food and friendly service, but on a larger scale — with some subtle and major differences.
The Ski Lodge concept is to offer a more elegant, almost exclusive experience, but in a large chalet environment. The three Ski Lodges will all feature a dedicated Snow Concierge, to help with all things snow and a wellness area with hot tub, sauna or swimming pool (in the Aigle). The properties will also boast free Wi-Fi, heated boot racks, occasional English papers and a selection of ski magazines and DVDs in the lounge or bar area.
To me, this makes the whole chalet hotel thing more appealing. I love chalet food and hotel-style facilities, but I usually prefer accommodation for sole occupancy when skiing. With these properties you get the feeling that you can escape to your room or the wellness area, as you would in a hotel, for peace and quiet, but could also mingle with friends or new found acquaintances in the bar or lounge. The free Wi-Fi is a nice touch as are the English papers and magazines.
Another thing I like about these properties is the food, as I mentioned I love chalet food and as with a few properties of this ilk, you can enjoy a later breakfast until 10am and a choice menu each evening. The choice menu in this style of property is increasingly popular, with the menu usually put out at breakfast a choice of start, main and dessert — with fish and vegetarian options available.
The Riders' Lodge
The Riders' Lodge, as it sounds, is aimed at a younger crowd, with a real emphasis put on freestyle skiing and snowboarding. With similar names you wouldn't want to mix them up as relaxed conversations over a cheese board are replaced with tales of shredding the park and riding knarly lines, before hitting the resort bars until the early hours.
The Riders' Lodge is a great concept though. There is a whole crowd of skiers and snowboarders in their more youthful years looking for a less 'stuffy' environment, where they can hang out with their mates and meet new people to hit the hill and bars with. The two properties are based in high altitude and high octane resorts with the Riders' Lodge Tignes and Riders' Lodge Val Thorens and offer ski-themed artwork, big TV with Xbox 360 and in Tignes a table football and pool table.
The Riders' Lodge have their own answer to the Snow Concierge with their Snow Guru — an expert in all things snow and social in the resort. The Snow Guru will organise freestyle lessons, take you guiding on the mountain and show you how to party seasonaire-style.
These two very different concepts, targetting very different audiences, in my opinion are just what we needed. I love the idea of heading to The Lodge in Val d'Isere with my misses and the family, having a relaxed holiday, enjoying great food and elegant surroundings. I also love the idea of heading to the the Riders' Lodge in Val Thorens or Tignes with a few of the boys and enjoying long days on the hill, chilling with a few games on the Xbox before dinner, then heading out on one of the bar crawls or recharging ready for a freeride lesson the next day.
Every year the ski industry broadens its appeal, and to me this is part of the charm of working in it. There is something for everyone these days, no matter what your needs — you just need someone to point you in the right direction.
Christmas isn’t coming and the goose isn’t getting fat but if you are planning a festive season ski holiday you really shouldn’t look away now.
With Christmas Day and New Year’s Day again falling at a weekend, all the leading ski companies have changed their programmes. So it’s worth knowing some of the key changes affecting the weeks taking in Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Christmas Day is a Sunday so none of the ski companies will flying that day. Instead most holidays will start on Christmas Eve or Friday 23rd December although some companies have switched to Monday 19th December or Wednesday 21st December.
Also, while most holidays are for the standard seven days, some operators are offering the bonus of eight days on the slopes over Christmas.
So there's plenty to choose from. For example, you could set off as early as 18th December and return on Boxing Day, or depart as late as Christmas Eve and return on New Year's Eve.
New Year’s Day is also a Sunday and, again, there will be no flights that day. Instead, there will be departures on four different days for holidays lasting 7, 8 or 9 days. You could set out on Boxing Day for a week with the return on 2nd January or you could wait until 30th or 31st December and return on 8th or 9th January.
Parents who want to take school age children skiing over New Year will have to especially careful for not every operator’s revised schedule will get them back in time for school.
Here is a breakdown of the date combinations available, though be sure to check with one of our ski experts for the exact details of the holidays that interest you, as you will notice some countries offer a variety of dates to chose from.
Cheap ski deals are a bit of a misdemeanour as skiing is never cheap. By the time you have added your travel, accommodation, lift pass, ski hire/carriage, lessons (if needed) and food & drinks in resort, you are often lucky to get away with spending less than £1000. That's not to say that with good planning, realistic expectations and a bit of luck you can of course get a great deal, saving a small fortune.
People often flock toward the likes of Bulgaria and Andorra for a cheap ski break, but the realism is they are catching up with the rest of Europe year-on-year for price, yet the ski areas are not always as snow-sure or as challenging as the more renowned resorts. Andorra's lift pass prices are catching those of France, at £180, and the airfares to Bulgaria mean it often costs more than a cheeky week to a more renowned resort with a shorter flight.
Having taken into consideration the resort costs, including lift pass & ski hire, the holiday costs and the ski areas, I have put together an indication of where the best value cheap ski deals currently lie. There are a couple of self catered apartments, some value chalets and an all inclusive package, to give you a good indication of what to expect and where to look. Bargain hunting for cheap ski holidays starts as soon as the winter is over, so you now don't need to hold on in hope of getting a last minute deal.
To keep things fair and comparable I have looked at mid January, traditionally the cheapest time of the season where the resorts are fully open and for arguments sake have kept to London(ish) airports.
Self catered holidays can be a false economy due to the cost of food in resort, though sneaking some dry foods and packet mixes into your suitcase can help with this — student-style skiing! But if you are there for the skiing and/or the nightlife, accommodation is often at the bottom of the list, therefore squeezing into a 20m2 apartment with three friends won't bother you in the slightest.
Having kept to the dates mentioned before, you might be surprised to hear that the resorts of Avoriaz and Alpe d'Huez topped the list for accommodation costs and reasonable lift pass prices. Okay so €5 or so a pint may be the main downfall here, but there are some great value places to eat in both these ski areas. Pizza Roll in Alpe d'Huez is well used buy the underpaid resort staff and at €3 a pizza who can blame them. In Avoriaz ski down the Les Marmottes restaurant in the Lindarets valley for some great value mountain food — which will be much appreciated if a diet of pasta and sauce is on the menu in the evenings!
The Balcons du Soleil apartments in Avoriaz often offer great value, whether getting an early summer deal or a last minute cheap trip you can find prices here for sub £300 per person. The lift pass is around £196 (for 650km of piste!) and ski hire is around £90 for skis & boots and ski carriage is £51. The best price at the moment is from Luton airport on the 7th January for as little as £282 per person, based on four sharing a four person studio apartment — offering cosy but low cost accommodation.
Alpe d'Huez offers 260km of great skiing, a glacier, Europe's longest black run — the 16km La Sarenne — the infamous Le Tunnel's moguls and the great value Les Horizons d'Huez apartments. The lift pass is little more expensive here at £204, but includes use of the both the heated outdoor pool (budgie smugglers required), the indoor pool & sports centre and the resort bus, the ski & boot hire is again £90, ski carriage is £51. The cheapest ski deal here is again on the 7th January on a flight from Luton airport at £236 per person, based on four people sharing — the cheapest deal, but slightly higher resort costs.
Chalet holidays can actually offer better value than staying in an apartment, due to the fact most of your catering is covered (the staff have one night off during your stay). You are usually given a hearty breakfast, afternoon tea and a three course evening meal with wine. If you have good chalet hosts you can usually have a large breakfast with cereals, a cooked option and some fruit, then make yourself a cheese, ham or jam sandwich for lunch (though do this quietly as you are not supposed to) and ski back for tea, coffee and cake at 4pm and still have time for an aprés ski beer.
Based on out-and-out price, the Chalet Anemones in Les Deux Alpes offers fantastic value. Again using a Luton flight the price for two people in a twin room is only £416 per person on either the 7th or 14th January. So the difference in cost to have two full meals and afternoon tea, with only one evening not catered, offers great value. Les Deux Alpes is a student favourite, offering good nightlife, glacier skiing and reasonable resort prices — the lift pass is only £184 and ski & hire is again around £90 and ski carriage is £51.
For a great overall deal, great value on the mountain and the chance to ski two countries in one holiday, then the Chalet Choucas in La Rosiere offers fantastic value. At the moment, though subject to change, the chalet is offering buy-one-get-one-free lift passes for the area, and at £155 for two people that is a bargain. The ski area sits toward the end of the Tarantaise Valley, opposite Les Arcs and bordering Italy. Skiing down to La Thuile you can enjoy fantastic mountain food at great, Italian prices, giving great savings throughout the week. This time based on a flight into Gatwick and with two people sharing a twin room the price stands at £541 per person — at only £77.50 for your lift pass with ski hire from as little as £72 (or ski carriage for £30) you are looking at £690 for a week with everything bar lunch and one evening meal paid for!
Again sticking with Les Deux Alpes, there are some ridiculously good value all inclusive deals with the Club Med Les Deux Alpes, though if you fancy a different resort the Club Med Arcs Extreme and Club Med Aime La Plagne are often comparable in price. Club Med offer something different to the typical British ski holiday, first of all they are French run, owned and styled hotels, though they have english speaking staff. If you are here for the skiing and not the resort nightlife the hotels have everything you need. The price include accommodation, transport, all inclusive meals and drinks (apart from champagne etc), lift pass, ski school and on charter flights ski carriage. You can ski back to the hotel for lunch, a beer or a snack, the bar is open until early until the early hours and there is entertainment for all ages. If you head out on the 15th or 22nd January you are only paying £843 per person, based on two sharing — this means if you have your own skis you don't have to spend another penny (apart from travel insurance) and if you don't ski hire starts at only £99 pp. If five days skiing is enough for you, you can get all this for only £763 on the 9th January for six nights!
In a quick and almost lazy round-up here are the overall price comparisons for the best value self catered, chalet and all inclusive for seven nights:
So depending on how much you expect to spend on meals both in your accommodation and on the mountain, whether you are heading out into resort to party, fancy a glass of wine over dinner, or want the freedom to enjoy a drink whenever you fancy, depends on what works out best for you. Self catered are cosy, but low cost, chalets are comfortable, yet good value and Club Med include everything you need for a great price. All-in-all it's your choice and before you add in ski lessons and lunches Club Med is only £200 more than a chalet (lessons can cost up to £150 these days), and before you add in meals, tea and wine chalets are only £150 more than self catered. Do the maths and choose the best ski deal for you — I know what I'd go for!
* The prices in this article were correct at time of publish, though are subject to change at anytime.
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