With winter just around the corner and some ski resorts already open for the 2014 season it is time to get planning this year’ winter fun. What better than a break in the mountains surrounded by lots of fluffy white snow. Whether your passion is skiing or snowboarding we can all agree that not much beats the draw of a ski holiday and the excitement of gliding down the slopes.
Ok, I have been on a few ski holidays so I know what I’m talking about. Skiing is a great way to get all the family involved in an activity together and the camaraderie after a day on the slopes is always great for bonding. The makeup of your group should guide your choice of ski resort. Picking a tricky off piste resort when most of the group can barely stand upright on skis is not a good plan. There are plenty of mixed ability resorts so you won’t be short of somewhere to go.
I have done most of my skiing in Europe where there are hundreds of quality resorts. The Alps is the perennial favourite but I actually started my skiing career in Andorra in the small resort of Arinsal. Andorra is in the Pyrenees and sometimes gets overlooking for the bigger Alpine resort but at the time it was the perfect ski holiday for us. We went as a group of friends, all beginners, and had so many laughs that my ribs hurt. We stayed in a rustic style ski chalet just at the bottom of the slopes which was the perfect accommodation for our group as we could relax around the fire in the evening . There are also plenty of ski apartments close to the main lift so you won’t be short of places to stay. Arinsal at the time was a small resort of about 60km but it was more than enough to get started with. The resort has since linked up with Pal and Ordino to make the Vallnord ski area. If you are starting out on your skiing career then this is a good place to start.
Once you have mastered your first few ski holidays then it is time to move on to bigger and better things. For families it is hard to beat the Three Valleys. With over 650km of ski runs you won’t actually be able to ski everything in one weeks. The best known resorts are of course Meribel and Courchevel but these can be busy and quite expensive. My tip if you are planning a family ski holiday and looking for a ski chalet rental, is to try La Tania. It is a smaller village but with excellent links to all of the Three Valleys areas it is the perfect option for families. Depending on your budget there are centrally located ski apartments or for a little more luxury you can book a ski chalet in La Tania.
I spent one New Years in La Tania with my wife and family and we had a super time. There are lots of cruisy blues for the kids and the ski instructors were just great with teaching the kids. Ski school was for 4 hours in the morning so it gave Claire and I time to enjoy our own fun in the snow and then in the afternoons we skiing with the kids. For our stay in La Tania we choose a catered ski chalet and all I can say is wow! The catering and service was second to none and the chalet staff were at our beck and call throughout the holiday. I have to say that if you are looking for a relaxing ski holiday were you can enjoy your skiing by day and at night just seat back and put your feet up then I 100% recommend booking catered ski chalets.
Now for the extreme ski holiday option. For extreme skiing in the Alps it has to be Chamonix. Often considered the birthplace of extreme skiing and extreme sports in general there is nowhere better if you are looking for an adrenaline filled ski holiday. I have been to Chamonix a few times but one of the best was in 2006 with a bunch of work mates. We were all experienced skiers or snowboarders so it was an ideal resort for us. One of my abiding memories is whizzing down some fantastically steep black run in the Brevent area and just looking up to see the Mont Blanc directly in front of me and the peaks of the Alps stretching out behind it. It just took my breath away.
A close second was the day we spent off piste skiing in the Valle Blanche area. The day started with a ride in the cable car to the top of Aiguille du Midi, then a hair-raising walk along an ice ridge to get to the ski area, followed by 4 hours of majestic off piste skiing in an untouched glacial valley. A tough days skiing but well worth it. Always bring a guide as the area has some very dangerous ice crevices. For our ski holiday in Chamonix we again opted for a catered chalet. With a group of friends it just seemed easier to have the catering done for us and with the skiing so extreme it was good to get back to the chalet, kick of your boots and just relax in the Jacuzzi while the catering staff prepared the delicious meals.
When you are booking ski accommodation it is always a choice between self-catered or catered chalets. If you like your ski holiday to be a hectic one with lots of action on the slopes and plenty of après ski then catered ski chalets are definitely the way to go. You can enjoy the luxury of a ski chalet, make the most of your day on the slopes but not have to worry about preparing food. All in it is the perfect ski chalet holiday.