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This week a French court in the Alpine town of Albertville ruled that ski hosting offered by British tour operators is illegal and has therefore been banned. Following the news several tour operators we work with have come out and stated they are no longer offering the service.
The court ruled that under French law you have to be a qualified ski or snowboard instructor to lead groups on the mountain and under the scrutiny of safety, the staff offering ski hosting were not qualified to do so. Therefore, under French law the ski hosting that has been offered is both illegal and dangerous.
What Is Ski Hosting?
Ski hosting is where either your resort rep or chalet host take you out for a day on the mountain. The tradition behind hosting has always been to get like-minded, intermediate skiers together, show them the best blue and red runs and to point out interesting runs, sights and good lunches. The good old British etiquette has then been for the group, as a whole, to buy lunch for the host/hosts.
Having offered the hosting as a chalet host myself and also having been on a morning's hosted skiing with a reputable tour operator, it's easy to see what people love about ski hosting, or social skiing as Crystal call it.
Why Do We Love It?
Ski hosting offers three main positives. The first is being shown around the resort and being given a local's opinion on good areas to ski and great places for lunch — more often than not with good food, service and prices.
The second aspect is the chance to meet other skiers of a similar level. Imagine you are away and your other half is in ski school all week, it means on a couple of mornings there are like-minded people to ski with, which is both sociable and fun. Thirdly, it's a good way to get to know your rep or chalet host a little better, and as they are looking after you all week, it has the potential to make for a more fun holiday all round.
The big thing here is the social aspect of skiing — people to ski with, to chat to and to lunch with, regaling the morning's fun with each day. Having hosted guests, it's great fun and you can't beat a week in a chalet when you have a good rapport with your guests or hosts.
What Went Wrong?
There is much debate about why ski hosting has been banned, but with the courts citing safety, let's stick to that.
One problem with hosting is people who turn up, get on the lifts and then are unable to ski the slopes they are being taken down, due to over exaggerating their ability — and believe me it happens. The other is sometimes down to a few bad eggs in resort. The resort rep may know of some irresistible powder, and decide it's safe to take the guests there, even though they are not qualified or insured to do so.
As is often the case, the minority can sometimes ruin it for the many.
Who Loses Out?
So, who loses out? Well, to be honest, everyone. Holidaymakers miss out on the fun of skiing with new people, finding out the best spots to ski & have lunch and the social aspect of skiing within a group. The hosts miss out, whether a chalet host or resort rep, as building up a rapport with guests is both fun and vital to ensuring everyone is having a good time. And finally, many local businesses miss out — restaurants off the beaten track or that may look unappealing, but offer great food, will lose this stream of customers.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I'd like to see a sensible solution to this being put in place. Tour operators don't have the finances to pay ski instructors to offer the hosting and the same guests are never going to book a day's guiding with a ski school. So where do we go from here?
I'd like the ESF, as the national ski school, to work with the operators in resort and to run a two day course with all the reps working in each resort — but based in the resort they will host, as opposed a generic course hub. The course would ensure the ski hosts were safe enough skiers and understood how to safely guide a group of people around the resort's intermediate runs. I would then like the tour operators and the ESF to police this together. Anyone who is deemed to be skiing dangerously, off piste or attempting to teach guests would lose their lift pass along with their job.
This way the ESF will know who the individual ski hosts are in each resort and can be confident they are skiing within pre-arranged guidelines and sensibly. Holidaymakers could continue to enjoy the ski hosting and everything that goes with it, in the knowledge that those hosting them have been approved by the local ski school. Whether this ever happens is another story.
I enjoy going on a morning of ski hosting and used to enjoy hosting my chalet guests on the mountain. Though it won't put me off skiing in France completely, it will mean that Switzerland and Austria are going to be more prominent in my searches from now on.
By Stephen Adam
More and more people these days are booking ski holidays and have dietary requirements. As a former chalet host and chef for a high quality chalet, a regular taker of chalet holidays and having a partner with some food intolerances, I have a fair grounding of what you require, what you can expect and how you can ensure the best possible holiday.
1. When to let us know?
This is the most important one, ensure you let us know as soon as possible so we can alert the operator. Once you have booked, ask for the operator’s resort manager or chalet manager to contact you. That way you can directly discuss exactly what the staff in that resort can provide. You may find that if you have wheat-free and dairy-free products you can bring — that the chalet staff can’t obtain — that can be worked into the menu. I had many guests that would bring bread, flour and even rice and pasta alternatives, which would mean when time was available I would knock up a wheat-free brownie.
Don't turn up with no prior warning and expect gastronomic feats — the hosts won't be prepared or have the ingredients. Don't hide your needs, chalet hosts are there to ensure you have a great time.
If you are a vegan, getting in touch is also very important as people have different approaches to what they will and won't eat. Sending a list of dos and don'ts won’t help, but healthy discussion — either over the phone or email — with resort staff will ensure you are looked after.
Partridge from Chalet Chartreuse in Les Deux Alpes.
2. What alternatives are offered?
There is a limit to what is possible. Many alternative ingredients for those with dairy, wheat and other intolerances are not readily available in resort, so you need to ensure you let us know as soon as possible so we can alert the operator.
Where possible wheat-free bread, flour and pasta will be sourced, as will soy milk, cheese and other products, and chalet hosts will do their utmost to ensure you meal is as similar to the rest of the guests as possible. You may find on some evenings you eat the meat or fish courses and on others the vegetarian options are more forgiving for your dietary needs. Don't be a fussy eater; remember the chalet experience is akin to a hosted dinner party, not an a la carte menu.
3. Are there any fees?
Some operators do charge a small fee to cover for dietary needs other than being vegetarian, due to the difficulty of sourcing ingredients. Other operators will get in touch before hand to discuss menu options and what your exact needs are. In short — it depends.
4. What kind of meals will I get?
You won't get is a completely different menu to the rest of the guests. What you will get is hosts that will try and offer you the best alternatives along the lines of their tried and tested menus.
5. What should I do when I arrive?
On arrival, make sure you mention again to your chef about what you can and can't eat (not what you do and don't like) and they can talk through their menu for the week in person, making any last minute changes. Just remember, due to the logistics of a ski resort they may have to shop the day before you arrive and will have to plan accordingly. Patience, openness and talking through menus will make for a better week all round.
(Bonus) 6. One last thing…
If you've spent five days saying you can't eat dairy, don't turn round and ask your chalet host for the butter-filled, cream covered, self-saucing chocolate brownie on the last night of your holiday. I may have eaten said brownie having served the non-diary desert to said guest.
So, once you've booked, drop an email to CustomerCare@iglu.com and ask the team to put you in touch with the resort staff, then sit back and have a great holiday.
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.
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