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Ski Blog

Altapura Brings Five Star Luxury To Val Thorens

clock 15th August 2012 | comment1 Comments

Val Thorens' newest property, Hotel Altapura, is not only the resort's first five star hotel, but it is also the sister hotel to one of the most sought after properties in the Alps — Les Fermes de Marie in Megeve.

Les Fermes de Marie is the premier hotel in the exclusive resort of Megeve, and finding a room here can often be near on impossible. To put this into context, it's easier to find a hotel that will take a booking in Lech over Christmas, then Les Fermes des Marie for the whole season — and you pretty much only get a room in Lech over Christmas if your family have been staying there for 20 years, or if you own a Formula 1 team!

Though Val Thorens may lack the exclusivity of Megeve, it does boast the world's largest ski area and one of, if not the, best ski areas around. Generally a luxury trip to the Three Valleys would mean a trip to Courchevel 1850, and with the hotel chain cutting their mustard in Megeve and St. Tropez, that's where you would have expected them to go. So, why Val Thorens?

Val Thorens may not be the prettiest or most exclusive resort in Europe, but it is the highest and offers door step skiing. Also being the five star hotel in resort gives added exclusivity. There is also another unspoken advantage of Val Thorens, it lacks the recent Russian influx of Courchevel and the Surrey-on-Ski feel of Meribel — which can't be a bad a thing!

So, back to the hotel. Hotel Altapura will be a five star property from this coming winter, described as "the highest Skipalace" by the hoteliers themselves. The Nordic-influenced property may lack the picturesque, Alpine charm of Les Fermes des Marie, but the '50s Scandinavian-influenced building is more fitting with the stark, rocky backdrop that is Val Thorens.

The five star hotel boasts the renowned Les Enfants Terrible restaurant — which features in Megeve as well as a stand alone restaurant in Paris — and a 10,000 ft spa, to ensure every need of the luxury-seeking guests will be pampered for. The hotel's interior is filled with a wonderful combination of wood, stone and marble throughout, with the sun terrace enjoying wonderful views of the Caron peak. The hotel is based at the bottom of the resort opposite the Plain Sud chairlift in a ski in/out location, with the main village a short walk away — not that anyone staying on the Altapura will take any notice of the rest of the resort.

The Altapura boasts a great choice of dining options, with the hotel's half-board option including a sumptuous six course evening meal. The aforementioned Les Enfants Terrible is a highlight of Les Fermes des Marie. In the hotel's glamorous restaurant you expect cuisine of the highest order, with six a la carte courses as standard, and signature dishes the from Megeve and Paris venues on the menu. If that doesn't take your fancy Le 2.Mille.3 offers a traditional menu, with stunning views of the Caron from the terrace during lunch, or La Laiterie offers fine wine and cheese, and of course, a choice of raclette and fondues.

Val Thorens has slowly been dipping its toes into the VIP market over the past few years. The lifts are being upgraded left, right and centre, the family-run four star hotels are impossible to book in peak season, and the arrival of the of Val d'Isere's most renowned après ski bar, the Folie Douce — with its champagne flowing VIP section — have all been welcome additions.

Les Fermes des Marie may be the epitome of luxury and exclusivity, and hopefully the Altapura can offer the impeccable standards, incredible cuisine, but in a more accessible hotel and, of course, in the world's number one ski area. In summary, it's hoorays all round for this stunning hotel.

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Childcare in the Alps — On The Slopes (Part 2)

clock 8th August 2012 | comment0 Comments

In part two of Tessera Swallow's guest blog, she shares her advice on skiing with children. Tess is the Director of t4 Nanny and is also an instructor for Ski New Generation.


In my opinion the earliest a child should start skiing is five years old. This means the child is old enough to listen and take instruction. Because the child will have started school at home they understand the concept of listening to a teacher. The child will also be physically strong enough and have the co ordination to make the movements for skiing.

Another factor is vocabulary, I was once teaching a three year old and was telling her to open her heels to make a pizza shape. After a while of no success I asked her to point to her heel, she thought about it and then with conviction pointed to her head!

A winter ski resort is a very alien place for children and the little ones can easily get scared if you add in the fact that their parents have left them and they don’t know when they are coming back. The last thing you want to do is put your child off skiing for life!

If you really want your child to start as young as possible then you will have to pay for private lessons as teaching your own children is a bad idea. You should never ski with your children in between your legs! If they cannot ski the slope they should not be there. I have seen too many children have broken bones from their parents falling on them. Leave the ski lessons to the experts.

I recommend a child under five years old should do not longer than a one hour lesson. It can be very cold, and a private lesson is pretty intense.

Obviously all children are different and it is personal choice when you start your child skiing but I would just like to leave you with one thing. Take two five year olds. Child ‘A’ has been skiing since aged 2.5 years old, every year for a week and can make therefore make snowplough turns. Child ‘B’ has never skied before. Within one to two mornings of group lessons they will almost certainly be exactly the same level.

Ski Schools

Most ski schools will accept children in group lessons from five years old. You can get private lessons for younger children but this is obviously more expensive and a school will normally do a minimum of two hours for a private lesson.

Generally group lessons run either in the morning 9 – 12 or afternoons 2 – 5. Some ski schools offer a lunch club, which is a great service meaning you can drop the children off at 9am and have a good long morning skiing before collecting them at 2pm after they have eaten.

I would recommend you try to keep your children in ski school for as long as possible. Once they get older there are some great products for teenagers, which will teach them off piste, snow park tricks and racing all in a safe environment.

First Time Skiing for Parents and Children

You get loads of fresh air, learn something new in an incredible environment and there's a range of activities to do in the village beyond skiing .

If your whole family are beginners book morning group lessons for everyone (with the same school, so the timings all work), then meet up again for lunch. Depending on how you all feel you could either carry on or you could spend the afternoons doing something else – ice skating, looking round the village, snow mobiling, husky sledging or bum boarding! Alternatively you could spend your afternoons in front of a roaring fire reading your book. You really can do as much or as little as you like.

If you are a housewife or househusband, a holiday can often feel like you are doing the same job just in a more challenging environment! To ensure this doesn’t happen a catered chalet holiday will make sure everyone feels pampered. As standard you will have breakfast prepared for you, afternoon tea for when you come off the slopes and a 3-course meal including wine! Perfect.

If possible it is always more relaxing if you can book out the whole chalet, it can often be stressful sharing with people you don’t know. Remember you have to eat dinner with these people every night of your holiday!

Skiing Advice

The recommended amount you should drink at sea level is two litres per day — at altitude (2000m) it is double at four litres per day. Make sure you and your children drink plenty of water.

The sun is extremely powerful — even when cloudy in January you must apply sun cream to the whole family.

Your heart works 30% harder at altitude than at sea level, this means everything is more effort and therefore more tiring, try and include some quiet time each day to avoid getting over tired.

Enjoy the environment, but remember, the weather can change extremely quickly; it is no fun being caught in the clouds not knowing where you are. Always stick to the pistes unless you are with a ski instructor or mountain guide.

Learn and teach your children the ski way code. This is printed on all piste maps in every resort so there is no excuse not knowing it.

Check out our ski schools guide or the ski school Tess taught at, Ski New Gen, to make sure you book the right lessons for your family ski holiday.

Childcare In The Alps — In Resort (Part 1)

clock 3rd August 2012 | comment0 Comments

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.

Childcare Options

Private Nanny

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.

Questions to ask when booking a chalet holiday

  • Where is the chalet? Location is key; the last thing you want with children is a long walk in ski boots!
  • Is there a driver service? Lots of chalet companies offer a driver service to the slopes in the morning and back in the afternoon. This can be a lifesaver.
  • When is the chalet staff's night off?
  • Is it ski in ski out? This can be great as it means the children will probably be able to sledge in the afternoons outside the chalet. If so, what colour run is it to the chalet? This is a very important question if the run back to the chalet is a red run and you can only ski greens this can be a problem.
  • Can the nanny prepare lunch for the children? Normally the chalet staff are quite relaxed about this, as long as the kitchen is left how it was found.
  • Will the chalet provide lunch for the children? Some will do this, some won’t.
  • Will the tour operator allow private nannies in the chalet? Some chalet companies are fine with this, others — usually for insurance reasons — will not allow this. The ski specialists on the Iglu sales team will be able to check these details for you.

Next week in part two, Tess shares her advice of skiing with children.

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