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Long time skier but chalet holiday virgin, Bernard Goyder, stayed in Chalet Rive Gauche, Val d'Isere, before Christmas. Here are his thoughts on what the chalet holiday experience is really like.
So, what is it actually like to stay in a catered ski chalet?
I love skiing, but had never stayed in a chalet before. Coming from a big family, my parents always took us on self-catering holidays, because they felt it was cheaper. We had great trips in resorts like Meribel and Les Arcs. These holidays were followed by the university ski trip, a day on the coach from Victoria on the way, and the panicked cleaning of our tiny Tignes apartment on the way back.
Compared to self-catering, my first chalet holiday has been an incredible experience. Having tasted the food, the service and the atmosphere, it is going to be hard to go back to self-catering. Having yet to turn the heating on tonight in my London terraced house, I'm already missing the warmth and dryness of the chalet, with its under-floor heating and climate controlled rooms.
The Rive Gauche is beautiful. Spacious and cosy, it is ideal for a party of eight. The chalet sits underneath the Fornet cable car, by the ravine that passes through Val D'Isere.
The first impression of the chalet is the warmth of the architecture. Open beams of untreated wood salvaged from Savoie farms give a traditional feel to the interior. But the steam room and plunge pool add a modern touch of luxury.
It is the attention to detail that makes this a 5 snowflake rated property. The mirrors so clean they are mistaken for doors and the wood covered fittings add to a feeling of cosy luxury.
If you haven’t been on a chalet holiday before, it is difficult to estimate quite how well looked after you are with a premium operator.
The tea and homemade cake, the four course meals with canapès, delicious main courses and wine all blow self-catering out of the water as a ski holiday experience. Considering you can pack your breakfast bread and croissants as a packed lunch — the full English cooked breakfast was good enough for me - leaving more money for après-ski.
Val d'Isere has a brilliant apres scene, from the Moris Pub and Saloon via Dicks Tea Bar to Doudoune, a night club over the piste that hosts DJs from across Europe. But a new addition to the after hours festivities that I would recommend is Fall Line — a bar which had a great cover band on, when we went for a pint.
All in all, a great holiday made memorable by the high standard of accommodation and catering. I'd recommend a chalet holiday to a party of keen skiers looking to splash out on something special.
Our friends at SnowAngel have put together a great blog looking at the top aprés ski bars for a 3pm beer. As a site dedicated to visiting, reviewing and sharing the best venues in the Alps and North America, they boast a pedigree of knowledge that even AJ, our Sales Director, would approve of. So, here are SnowAngel's best bars for a sunny 3pm beer...
We stumbled upon Pano Bar in Les Deux Alps accidentally about two years ago, just before we took the last run of the day, and believe us when we say there's no way you'll miss it. You might have to weave your way through a sea of boards and skis to get to it, but it's totally worth it. This is Ibiza-style après, expect two for one beers, a DJ, some serious raving and even the odd topless dancer. By 5pm you'll be locked and loaded and ready for your last run of the day — a black run — back down into resort! Our tip — get there for 3pm to get a table — you'll be dancing on top of it by 5! If you're feeling a bit shaky you can always slide your way back down to the resort.
Now, Austria has a firm place in our hearts for its après scene, and if you happen to be in Lech this season, then you should definitely head to the Balmalp. This place has panoramic views of the mountains, which you can enjoy from the huge sun terrace. Enjoy a Bombardier while you listen to the resident DJ spin the tunes until way after 7pm most days. If you don't mind a bit of night skiing then you can ski back to resort once you're all après-ed out. Leave late enough and the steady blue back into resort will have already been bashed, so it's as good as the first early bird run of the day — what's not to like about that! If you've indulged in a little too much glühwein, the owner will take you home on his skidoo — if you ask nicely!
A few of the Iglu team enjoying the Pano Bar in Les Deux Alps.
Now, if we think about Jack Wills, onesies and Jägerbombs, then the Mooserwirt in St Anton is never far from our minds. Attracting a mixed crowd, but definitely a firm favourite with the uni crowds, this place really needs no introduction. The music gets pumped through the speakers on to the sun terrace and it's as lively inside as it is out, on a blue sky day. The waiters carry impossible numbers of pints on trays around with them, so you can just grab one and pay, no queuing at the bar here — genius! And they'll bring you Jägerbombs if you ask nicely too. It's heaving here by three so, if you're in a group and want a table we recommend settling in from lunch time.
Meribel's has been firmly on the après map for as long as we can remember, with more and more Brits flocking here year on year. If you're heading here, do not leave without paying Le Rond Point a visit. The sun terrace is always jam packed and there's live music most days and the obligatory happy hour of course!
Tucked away on the main street in Morzine, Bar Robinson serves one beer, and one beer only. And it's no ordinary lager, this bad boy is 7.3%! The owners of the bar, two ladies and a gent all over 70, recommend you drink by the half pint. And you really should take heed, because this stuff is rocket fuel. Not that you'll have time to settle in until last orders, as the bar closes at 8pm.
If posh is your thing, then where else would you be heading this season but Verbier. It's refined here, but don't expect the après to be any less raucous. We'd recommend heading to Le Carrefour and the Wax bar, they're next to each other and you can ski back down into resort. It gets busy though, so get there early if you're looking for a table. If you're feeling flush order champagne on ice and a kangaroo steak.
The Folie Douce in Val d'Isere is a regular haunt of ours.
When angels ski, we are always in the market for a bit of sunshine, and with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, it's safe to say Serre Chevalier is pretty sun-sure. And if it's sunny then a huge terrace is always the order of the day. La Grotte in Villeneuve is the place to head straight from the slopes. You'll get the last rays of sunshine and there's a different happy hour every day. If you get a little bit too comfortable, then don't worry its just as busy later in the evening with theme nights, DJs, live music and games.
Pas de la Casa is probably more famed for its nightlife than it is for its skiing — they really know how to party here. At the hub of the action, the Milwaukee is the resort's largest bar with a two-for-one happy hour which kicks off when the slopes close. If you're a sports fan then there's a big screen and Sky Sports here too, as well as live music and pretty good food to boot.
Last, but by no means least, we couldn't talk about straight from the slopes après ski without mentioning La Folie Douce in Val d'Isere. This is possibly our favourite place in the world to après, DJs, a live sax player and champagne galore. There's nothing understated about this ski hut. Head here at about 3pm if you want to grab a table as by 4pm you won't get a look in. It really is the Rolls Royce of après ski!
We have a two part guest blog from Tessera Swallow. Tess is the Director of t4 Nanny and is also an instructor for Ski New Generation. Part one is her advice on childcare options in resort.
Option 1: Bring your own nanny with you. This can be great however you will have to share your lovely chalet or hotel with your nanny 24/7. This can be very expensive and intrusive.
Option 2: There are a few tour operators who offer a private nanny service. This means a nanny will come to your chalet for normally eight hours per day to look after the children. The only way you can get one of these nannies is if you book your holiday through one of these tour operators (including through an agent), so it can be slightly limiting.
Option 3: Use an independent private nanny service. This gives you the most choice as you can book any hotel or chalet you like. This option will give you the most flexibility as evening babysitting can be arranged as well as daytime care. Things to ask are: Where do the nannies come from and is the company an agency, or do they employ the nannies for the whole season?
t4 Private Nanny Service — opened fours years ago in Val d’Isere and has been growing each year. They now also have private nannies in Tignes and Meribel as well. As experts in our field, we recruit native English speaking nannies and mannies (male nannies) to take care and entertain your children in the magical mountains. The nannies know the best places to take the children and also all the safety issues of looking after children in the Alps.
This service is very popular and gets booked up extremely quickly; the reservations line is friendly and happy to chat through any questions you might have. We have a wealth of knowledge helping you choose the right childcare solution for your family.
For alternative nanny services and other resorts, check out the list on our childcare and nannies page.
There are a few tour operators who offer crèche services. These offer good value for money. Things to be aware of are obviously your child is not going to get as much attention when there are four children to one nanny and make sure you ask how often the children go outside to play.
Next week in part two, Tess shares her advice of skiing with children.
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