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Calling All Half Term Skiers

clock 4th May 2011 | comment0 Comments

As we all know, skiing over February half term is one of the most costly weeks of the season. Along with New Year, half term is the most popular week for people to hit the slopes.

With the early deals for next winter hitting the shelves we were surprised to see the incredible offers available for Club Med's all-inclusive hotels in the Alps. Having done a quick comparison with some popular chalet/club hotels in the same resorts I felt the need to spread the word. With prices from £4300 for a family of four — including all your food, drink (except super-premium brands and champers), flights, transfers, lift passes, tuition, kids club and twin rooms — during half term, you'll be hard pressed to find anything comparable.

All-inclusive ski holidays have become increasingly popular with the Brits thanks to Club Med's great value and service. Okay, so they are very French, from the food to the entertainment, but people are realising the great value they offer and are going back. Plus, some dodgy French entertainment always goes down well after a day on the slopes and having enjoyed the complimentary drinks at the bar.

Though the staff and instructors are all French speaking there are plenty of English speakers on hand. The lessons are often bilingual, though on busy weeks, English speaking lessons are often offered. The food is always buffet-style, but is of a great standard and local specialties such as Tartiflette, Fondue and Raclette can be found during a week's stay — you can't beat some melted cheese with a glass of wine over lunch.

I've picked three family Club Meds and two chalet hotels as comparisons, and on the off chance you are a half term skier looking to escape small children, an adult only hotel.

All the price comparisons are based on Gatwick flights, transfers, twin rooms and two adults travelling with two 11 year old children. I have factored in the standard prices of the chalet/club hotels and all the extras that Club Med offer, to give a real comparison.

Val d'Isere

The first thing that caught my eye was the Club Med Val d'Isere, one of the most famous resorts in the world and definitely among the elite in terms of mountain, snow and resort. The Club Med hotel here has enjoyed a recent overhaul and sits in a great location, you can ski the whole of the Espace Killy, and should you not want to ski back into Val for lunch you can stop off at the Club Med in Tignes for lunch or even just a drink in their sun terrace.

The Club Med Val d'Isere is a 4* property so I am comparing it with the 4* Chalethotel Le Val d'Isere, operated with one of our top family specialists. Club Med are coming in at £5,484 for a family of four for their full, all-inclusive package. The Chalethotel Le Val d'Isere on chalet board, with flights and transfers is £6,960, and by the time you add in lift passes for the family you are looking at £7,440. That's up to £1,960 more, and you don't get an all-inclusive bar or lunch! The one problem with Club Med Val d'Isere is the lack of mini-club and kids' ski lessons, though it still represents better value than the chalthotel.

Cervinia

Another great, snow sure resort offering a great deal for Feb half term is Club Med Cervinia. Though this comparison is a little off that is because there wasn't a direct comparison. The Club Med Cervinia is a 4* hotel and has a mountain restaurant, where you can enjoy your all-inclusive lunches and regular drink intake — obviously we are referring to responsible drinking rather than for fun.

The Clubhotel Petit Palais is a 3* hotel, offering clubhotel board and twin rooms. Both properties enjoy a similar location, as you can ski back to the Club Med and within 50m of the Petit Palais. Though the Club Med offer a shuttle service to the slopes, whereas it is a ten minute walk for the Petit Palais. The all-inclusive price, this time with much sought after interconnecting twins (standard twins are a little bit less), the price for a family of 4 is £6,398. Whereas the Petit Palais price is, this time less, at £4,248 and with lift passes & tuition for £5,652. This time the price is £746 less (£180 pp), though this doesn't include, childcare your lunches, all your drinks and a free shuttle bus, so the price once you are in resort will be similar, without needing to carry your wallet.

Les Arcs

Les Arcs has a great selection of chalets, hotels and apartments, but the main comparisons here would be the other Club Med hotels, so this is just a quick snippet of the best deal out there. Les Arcs has superb skiing and the Club Med Arc Extreme is at 2000m — plus you get all the usual trimmings (again ski school for under 12s is not included). The 3* hotel here is amazing value at £4,340, which is only £1,085 per person for the most popular week of the season. A 3* with lift pass here will cost you more!

Child Free Half Term Haven

Not everyone who has to, or chooses, to ski during half term wants or needs family hotels or chalets. Some people like to escape to more grown-up environments, yet still want great value and great skiing. Well, thanks again to Club Med Val Thorens, you can. Twin rooms here, with a Three Valley lift pass, all the beer, wine and great food you need and the added bonus of no children is only £2,282, which is a measly £1,141 pp.

Club Med isn't for everyone, some people like to fill a chalet with friends and family — which I agree is great fun — others love grand hotels, or cheap and cheerful apartments. For great value family holidays, escaping with the other half and with friends, Club Med is fantastic and I've always had a great experience. So if you can handle the French, the great food and the world class skiing, I would book a Club Med before they sell out — and probably the Val d'Isere offer!

 



Club 2012

clock 15th March 2011 | comment0 Comments

Okay so it might only be mid-March but the big tour operators are already preparing for next winter. For those who know exactly what they want there's never been a better time to book early.

Last winter my friends and I realised that after three trips in a row to Morzine it was time for a change of scenery. We knew that we wanted to go to Meribel and that we would go early March 2011, so we booked our holiday by the end of May 2010. On arriving to the chalet three weeks ago we discovered the late bookers had paid the same price as us, but we had our lift passes (including a 3 Valley upgrade) and ski carriage included in the deal.

If you are happy to follow the deals and take the lowest prices around, then last minute bookings have their place, but by booking an early deal we proved to get much better value than the guests who left it until the last minute. With this is mind I've started having a look into my New Year and March 2012 holidays and I've already to discovered that the offers are as good, if not better than last winter.

I must admit we usually go for the chalet holidays, but having had a couple of fantastic summer Club Med holidays, the French all-inclusive hotel chain are looking very appealing for next winter. For those unfamiliar with Club Med they offer all-inclusive ski holidays, mostly in Europe, where the price includes your transport, lift passes (3* local, 4* and above full area), group ski lessons and all the great food you can eat. Plus the bar is free as long as you stay away from the Champagne and luxury brandies and single malts.

Now, we bagged a cracking deal this winter with our lift passes and ski carriage included, but after a week of lunches on the mountain, chalet staff night off and a few après ski drinks, we ended up spending the same as we would in a 4* Club Med. Whereas the initial outlay of around £1000+ may seem a lot, if you are on a catered holiday to the big French resorts you can easily eclipse that by time you come home.

Our French friends are also offering us up to £180 per person discount based on the early booking prices, plus the brochure prices are as low as they will go for the whole season. Throw in the fact that resorts such as Val d'Isere and Tignes have enjoyed a bit of a facelift over recent years and the addition of a new property in a stunning, yet unobvious resort, Club Med Valmorel and the choice is incredible — there's even a Club Med in China these days.

Having taken a cheeky look at Val d'Isere for my 30th during Easter — the prices are still great value. £1149 per person for a 4* Club Med in one of the world's top resorts during a peak week (now tell me that's not great value). With ski carriage, lift pass, all your food and drink included and the option of lunching in Club Med in Tignes, it's the perfect holiday for a romantic week on the slopes.

For the same week a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) can book to go to the 3* Club Med Les Deux Alpes, with everything minus ski hire, staying in interconnecting rooms for only £3080. They could even head to the 4* resort of Club Med Tignes Val Claret for only £4548, again in interconnecting rooms. For all-inclusive, glacier resorts during the Easter holidays that is fantastic value.

With the prices due to go up in July and again in October, these great properties are worth a look. Whether you are looking for a family, group or romantic holiday there is a Club Med for everyone, from the luxurious Club Med Peisey-Vallandry and Club Med Meribel Le Chalet, to the great value of Club Med Arcs Extreme and Club Med Aime La Plagne.

 



The best Aprés Ski bar in the World? Part 2

clock 25th May 2010 | comment0 Comments

First of all to follow on from The best Aprés Ski bar in the World? Part 1 I have to make a decision about my own preference and it's far tougher than I thought it would be. I keep remembering great times at so many bars. In Austria, the Ice Bar in Mayrhofen and the Krazy Kanguruh in St Anton are standouts. In Canada, Merlins on Blackcomb (Whistler) with Guitar Doug rocks. In France, the Rond Pointe of Méribel and in Switzerland the Aprés Ski bar in the Farinet in Verbier are greatly enhanced by the proliferation of uninhibited British customers 'on the lash'.

The number one aprés ski bar in the World is:

For the quality of music, the smoke flares, the flame throwing, the champagne splashing, the waffles, the DJ - David Dupenloup, and the incredible energy of Kely Starlight, the singing and dancing bar top host, it has to be La Folie Douce. This Val d'Isére bar, that is literally the French for sweet madness, just edges out the Krazy Kanguruh.

Secondly, after much deliberation and discussion here's what the Iglu team of experts came up with:

Bauer’s Skialm - Saalbach.

Indoor and outdoor bar areas, but inside is the place to be for the weirdest and wildest music and dancing. A real international crowd making the most of well-priced beers and shots for a torrid three hours: 4-7pm. - Boyd

Umbrella Bar - Santa Christina, Val Gardena

Euro pop, free shots, a fire-breathing bar tender and semi-naked dancing on the tables in ski boots combine to make some of the wildest après ski parties I've seen. It's only open from 4-8 but there aren't many people still able to stand up after that anyway... - James

Le Jump Bar - Courchevel 1850

If you feel that the combination of toffee and vodka is the best thing since sliced bread then this is where you need to be. If it wasn't for a slight uphill and small road you could ski into the front door. - Wade

Le Grotte du Yeti - Tignes

This is a great place to stop for a beer at the end of a hard day on the slopes. They have great drinks offers and a range of music that starts later on in the night as the drinking continues. It has a good upstairs bar and then the bands/DJs raise the roof later on in the night downstairs (definitely the place to be in Tignes when Doctor Bruce are playing). It is also right at the foot of the infamous Palafour, the best skiing in Tignes as any seasonaire will tell you. To top that off the more adventurous skiers can practically ski right to the back door. You can also sit outside and soak up the afternoon rays. What more could you want! - Ade

The Mooserwirt, St Anton

It's for those who want to express themselves by showing off their moves, grooving on the table with a drink in one hand, and an audience that appreciates the extrovert (Without the threat of a burly bouncer taking you out). - Nigel

Scotty's Bar - Tignes

Roaring fire and live music overlooking the heated pool outside. With some tasty bar snacks served if you get peckish. Low ceilings and wooden decor make this a traditional après experience! - Tom

MBC - Chamonix

Perfect place for massive portions of food after a day of skiing or whatever activity you are in Chamonix for. Well worth the walk out of town for one of their big tasty burgers and the fantastic beers brewed on the premises. Perfect for a good night out with a group of friends. - Jay (Cham Fanatic)

Smithy's Tavern - Les Deux Alpes

It's great fun, and serves the best hangover breakfast! - Esther

The infamous Dusty's in Whistler

It has everything you can ask for in an aprés ski bar. Ski to the door location, massive sun deck with BBQ's going in the afternoon. Pool tables inside and the whole bar is so spacious it can take a big crowd. The music, the food and the atmosphere are second to none. - Linda

Bar Le Monde in Val Thorens

Because... 'I love the barmaid'! - Nick J

Red Lion, Vail.

A perfect place to give it large in front of the soft Americans with their Miller Lights. The high altitude boozing promotes a real sense of euphoria. - Adam Calway

Seppi's bar - Kitzbuhel

Great music, icy cold lager, Jagermeisters and the chance you might run into the legendary party primate; 'Spank' the monkey... - Steve

The 'Après Ski Bar' part of the Farinet - Verbier

Total Carnage! Live bands about sixish every day, a roof that opens up occasionally to get rid of the steam, cheap lager and a raging mosh pit. Not a place for the faint hearted. It's starts early and goes very hard for just a few hours so get in straight off the slopes. - Scotty

Rond Point - Méribel

A great place after a day on the mountain. Whether you finish off when the crowds have gone home with a schuss from the top of the Saulire or emerge from the steeper and bumpier Meribel Couloir, where better than this. The talk is all about the day's exploits, everybody coming off the slopes can find it easily and the Live music means the hills really do come alive. - Thomas

The legendary Après Skihut in Rotterdam - Cynthia (you'd never guess she was Dutch)

Mooserwirt - St Anton

Exactly the same kind of atmosphere as the Folie Douce in Val D'Isere. Rather than playing funky house though, it ramps up at the start of the day with Europe 'the final countdown' and then rolls into a mix of euro pop and disco. Absolutely no posers here and with beautiful Austrian girls behind the bar & a seemingly endless supply of Jager Bombs, you can't go wrong! - Adam Clark (Iglu blading and monoboard specialist)

Bar Alexandra - Val d'Isére

One of the few places in Val that isn't rammed full of Henrys and Tarquins. This bar is underrated and away from the melee. Run by Val legend Kiwi Phil, the Alex is frequented mainly by French locals or those in the know. Rack up some pool, enjoy a Desperado, and listen to whatever hip hop or drum n bass cut of choice is playing that day. You can also grab some food in the adjoining 4 seasons, home to a tasty Thai curry. Done. - Dave

 

Pub Le Skilodge - La Tania

Après ski in the Skilodge is a pretty raucous affair. With a packed pub fuelled on toffee vodka, chartreuse and Mutzig, mixed with some of the best après ski bands in the alps and entertaining locals, anything can happen. Plus, where else in the 3 Valleys can you get a pint for under €5! - Stephen

 

Ice Bar - Mayrhofen

For those of you who cant get enough of your Dutch Hard House Umpa Lumpa anthems, start your night with ski boot stomping to those funny little dance routines, then the Ice Bar in Mayrhofen is the place for you. At the bottom of the main Penkenbahn gondola in the heart of the resort, this bar is said to have the largest turn over of Grolsch beer per night than any other place in Europe, and it shows as it gets pretty packed. Cool down by the beer spray....this place goes off! Damian

Krazy Kanguruh aka KK's - St Anton.

From the cute girls dressed in fluffy kangaroo outfits showing off their pouches, to the dirty dancing on the tables, I love it all! It can get quite cramped for space by 3pm but there is an awesome atmosphere in and outside, and whatever the time, it's always Jager bomb o'clock. - Nick HH

Darbelos - Courchevel Le Praz

The combination of 8% mutzig, open fires, savoyarde cheeses and weird local music acts is hard to resist. - Dave Mills

Feel free to send us your suggestions on the best apres ski bars on our twitter page.

Written by Adam Johnson

 



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