Beau Tra vel Ma ga zi n e
Let it snow, let it snow The season proved to be an extraordinary one, bucking trends, if such a thing exists in the world of mountain weather.Deep, deep snowfall kicked it all off… and it just kept falling. more critically, Where Not To in Morzine: I meet the Queen of the Streif, Kitzbühel’s fearsome Hahnenkamm course; spend the evening in a hot tub nibbling kebabs and quaffing champagne in Serre Chevalier: and, by chance, find one of the most beautiful runs I’ve ever skied in Montgenevre.
This year’s Ski Special tells some tales – all true – of the lodgings of the super-rich and powerful, and how I didn’t get targeted by Trump’s Special Protection Forces: of how to ski in one of the world’s Top Resorts without paying Top Prices: Where To Eat and Drink, but,
Quite a season. There’s some Top Tips on how to save money on equipment hire and offers to suit all pockets. Bon Ski! Michael Cranmer
Alpe d’Huez Ski Supplement
by Michael Cranmer
Satellite Living You don’t have to spend a small fortune to ski one of the world’s top resorts. Alpe d’Huez is unquestionably in the big league both in summer and winter. Host to many epic Tour De France stage battles, and home to two legendary ski runs, it’s also the perfect place for all abilities. But prices in the town are on the high side which is reflected in the buzz of being at the centre of the ‘lively’ nightlife, and a wide choice of eateries, shops, and other attractions. Not all of us can afford such things, neither do we necessarily want to be up until an hour before the lifts start running. Catered chalets or apartments are now the preferred way of spending your hard-earned pounds. But we do want to enjoy all that a resort like Alpe d’Huez presents. Some stats. The main town of Alpe d'Huez sits at 1869 m (more than many resort’s highest point), top spot is 3,300m on the Pic Blanc glacier, so guaranteed skiing all year round; it’s only one hour thirty minutes from Grenoble airport; its reputed to have earned its nickname ‘l'Isle du Soleil’, the Island of the Sun, for having the most sunny days on the slopes; there’s something for every ability of skier or snowboarder, including great snowparks leading to it being awarded 'Famille Plus' by the French Tourism organisation as being particularly suitable for family
holidays. You won’t run out of new pistes to discover as there are 179 kms combining in the Alpe d'Huez Grand Domaine Ski Area.
Here’s the rub (to misquote Hamlet). Set
Ski Supplement aside Alpe d’Huez proper and consider the smaller satellites in this Grande Domaine. Auris-en-Oisans, Huez-en-Oisans, Oz-enOisans, Vaujany and Villard Reculas. (That would make a good quiz question) Zooming in still further, let’s examine a couple. First, in Auris-en-Oisans over to the east is Alpine Hero’s chalet, which sleeps nineteen. You can suit your stay to your budget. B&B high season, £395pp; all inclusive high season £600pp. The chalet, run by delightful Brits, is part of the C16th commune, and is a few minutes by minibus (all part of the Hero’s service) to the lifts and restaurants –the bar restaurant le Schuss is excellent, and full of locals. Always a good sign. From Auris centre it’s two lifts to the heart of Alpe d’Huez. The second of the two, a chair, is not for the faint hearted. It swoops down, riders facing in the direction of travel, into the depths of a river gorge, and up again. It’s more dramatic on the way back. Crossing to the other, westward, side of Alpe d’Huez is the delightfully named Oz-en-Oisans…no
Wizard, and no Yellow Brick Road, more Snow White. Oz is a different character to Auris, more modern, purpose built, and all the more convenient for that. Grouped around the shops, ski school, bars and restaurants, everything on the doorstep. Perfect family territory, you’ll find children sledging down the main street, while parents take a drink in Restaurant La Potée Oz. They do super food in the evenings and live music when the fancy takes. All at prices a fraction of Alpe d’Huez.
The variety of pistes throughout the area run from confidence-building sunny open bowls on the Signal, to the ‘Longest Black Run in Europe’ listed as 16km (actually 10.5 according to the skier’s ‘bible’ Where to Ski and Snowboard) but who’s counting. Start at the summit of the Pic Blanc, first having had a look round. If the weather’s clear try and tick off a fifth of all France. Gird your loins and negotiate the first steep and intimidating funnel, then some equally trying narrow gullies. After Typical aimed-at-the-family- this, it’s red and tiring, on-a-budget especially if the snow’s accommodation located in been mushed up by sun. the heart of the resort is Down, down into the the *** ‘Holiday Village ‘Les Sarenne Gorge, absolutely Cristaux’ with double or beautiful and contrasting family rooms with a with the bleakness of the balcony, a panoramic start. The Auberge de la restaurant, relaxation and Combe Haute is a welcome wellness area with sight for the thirsty or swimming pool, sauna, hungry, then back up into steam room, and Jacuzzi. the main town. Clubs for children from 3 months to 11 years and a If you are capable, and teen club 12/17 years. don’t even think about this Great value, prices start for if you really aren’t, check a week € 394 / adult / the weather and enquire week full board, children € from the ski school or 150 p week full board. pisteurs the condition of Even better news – it’s only the Tunnel piste. It’s one lift straight into the signposted beneath the main system at 2050m. top station of the Pic Blanc. This is where things get
Beau Travel serious. Once you’ve committed to the tunnel there’s no going back. You exit to a narrow ridge, skiers often bombing down behind you causing mayhem. This is when the full extent of a true black run hits home. To the end of some orange fencing the drop-off is aweinspiring and straight into deep-cut moguls carved by
skiers trying to dump speed by zig-zagging across the piste. The moguls cut up the snow clinging to the extreme gradient and cause difficulty in holding an edge. Apart from this skiers fall and career across the run. It continues for a lifetime. To ski the Tunnel safely definitely earns you bragging rights.
Alpine Hero’s chalet, Auris-en-Oisans Le Tunn el piste, Alpe d H uez
Alpine Hero’s, Auris-enOisans www.alpineheros.com Village Vacances Ternelia Les Cristaux, Oz-en-Oisans www.espacesvacances.com For more information: www.oz-en-oisans.com/en www.auris-en-oisans.fr/en www.alpedhueznet.com
by Michael Cranmer
Discretion in Davos
Davos, is the premier place to head for if The Swiss have an you find yourself in expression for it: die need of such service. Verschwiegenheit… Perched high above secrecy, discretion, re the frankly ugly ticence, seclusion. sprawl that is And they value it in downtown Davos, it this part of the world snuggles discretely - Davos Klosters. into the British Royals have mountainside. relied on it for I, among a select decades, as have group of journos, POTUSs, PMs, CEOs, had received etc.. You get the invitations included picture. this quote: ‘During the World Economic The art of providing Forum this fabulous impeccable service chalet is home to when, where, and one of the wealthiest exactly how it is and most influential required, with no names in the world’. fuss and no batting Being true of eyelids. And newshounds we keeping schtum to waste no time in an outside world full trying to extricate of operatives, names from paparazzi, industrial manager Anna, who spies, and n’er-dosmiles an enigmatic wells anxious to smile and tells us… penetrate the inner absolutely nothing. sanctum of that Trump? Jeff Bezos? seclusion. Bill Gates? I have a theory that if the The Tivoli Lodge, WiFi is so fast I need
Davos-final run of the day
Davos.Parsenn Funicular top station,
to hang on to my laptop to avoid it being sucked into cyberspace, it will be Bill Gates. I try it. Normal. I stick my head out of the window; thickly falling snow but no tell-tale laser pinpoints trained on my heart. Probably not Trump then. Anna smiles her smile and tops up our Bolly. Die Verschwiegenheit. My room is the Master Suite, a super-duper splitlevel affair wrapped around a corner of the house, looking down on Davos. I cautiously peep from behind the heavy drapes but can see no lurking S.W.A.T. teams. It’s hard to put WEF out of
my mind, only 5 days away. Frozen Swiss Army squaddies are already patrolling, erecting barriers, and blocking roads in the centre, where the likes of Macron, May, and Merkel will wheel and deal. Undoubtedly all will change when The Donald rolls into town. I reflect that Tivoli Lodge would be an ideal roost for him with its children’s two storey soft-play area, icecastle and ball-pool. As WEF will follow my stay I investigate the economics: prices (depending on exchange rate) start at £34,000 per week, and rise to £92,138 for Christmas. WEF week is strictly P.O.A.
Assuming Bill Gates was to stay here, and based on his daily estimated income of £187,000,000, he’d have £186,907,862 left after hiring the Tivoli Lodge. Seems as if it could work. Maybe he’d have The Donald up for a pool party and canapés after a hard day at the podium. Who knows? Davos is really five resorts, inconveniently linked and dotted along both sides of a long valley, being the Parsenn, Madrisa, Jakobshorn, Rinerhorn, and Pischa. The town itself seems to drag on for miles and cannot accurately be described as of the archetypical ‘chocolatebox’ variety; more like
Beau Travel Davos-Freeride on Parsenn
Croydon-on-Snow. But raise your gaze above the blockhouse shops and squat apartments lining the main drag, and drama and loveliness confront you. Of the five ski areas that make up Davos Klosters, the Parsenn is unquestionably Top Dog. Access is from slap-bang in the centre of town. With a mix of ultra-modern and 80 year old engineering, skiers ascend to 2,600m in
twenty minutes on the two-stage Parsenn Funicular. Riding the steeply-canted train harks back to childhood visits to the Science Museum in South Ken., before it went all screens-and-interactive. As you stand clinging on at just-off-the-vertical, the bright-red carriages rocket you through a Dr Who time/space continuum tunnel at a giddy ten metres a second…almost
worth the price of the lift pass just for the ride (well, almost. At 70 CHF – approx. £53 – a day, it’s probably best to ski as well) Here Davos comes into its own. Over the back of the hill from the funicular are reds winding down, down to proper ski-through-thefarmyard finishes at the hamlets of Küblis or Serneus, and a train or taxi back. The 12 km trails, from the curving hunched
Davos- Tivoli Lodge,
shoulders of the high mountain high, to gentler contours as the treeline appears, are joyful affairs. Why the banned-by-the Beeb naughty boys of Top Gear haven’t been up here is a mystery. A new 6heated-seats weather-hooded chair opened this season linking Davos with Klosters (the correct terminology for Davos now being Davos Klosters The Tourist Office heralded the new lift thus: ‘The “Furka Zipper” describes the benefits of the chairlift in a word: …it links the Parsenn and the Gotschna ski arenas, hence it links Davos and Klosters, rather like a zipper’. No childish giggling please, just let Messrs. Clarkson, May and Hammond discover it. It should have been named so much more appropriately, particularly for people who describe themselves, in that ghastly phrase, as ‘Petrol Heads’, for the seating - F1 style black trimmed in red, immediately suggests Ferrari styling. Indeed it has now become just that among our group of UK journalists – the Ferrari Lift. Someone missed a valuable marketing trick there. In the mid-nineteenth
century Davos’s pure pipe. Of the descent, he microclimate drew those penned this delicious bit of with lung diseases to the ski writing: “…we shot new-fangled Sanatorium along over gently dipping Spengler. R.L. Stevenson curves, skimming down brought his TB together into the valley without a with a suitcase containing motion of our feet. In that the unfinished manuscript great untrodden waste, of ‘Treasure Island’. Within with snow-fields bounding months his coughing our vision on every side improved and he finished and no marks of life save his masterpiece. the tracks of chamois and Later Sir Arthur Conan of foxes, it was glorious to Doyle came with his whizz along in this easy wife, also suffering with fashion.” TB. Bored with inactivity Fast forward to 2018 he sent off to Norway for where the ultimate irony some skis – seen on a visit must be in the newly there - and set about opened Hard Rock Hotel, teaching himself with the housed in the shell of help of two local Likely Sanatorium Spengler. Lads, the Branger Brothers. Perhaps the faint ghostly Fearing ridicule among the echoes of wracking intensely conservative coughing can be heard townsfolk, they over the Rock Om Yoga practiced at night. Sir Arthur C onan Doyle Next they and wife in Davos with skis decided to attempt the hazardous journey to Arosa over a 3,000m pass. No avalanche transceiver or Gore-Tex, just a stout 2.5m pole with skis to match, and his trusty
session with DJ Drez, while surrounded by such irresistible memorabilia as a sequin sweater by Michael Jackson, a lace outfit by Taylor Swift and a silk shirt by Elvis Presley. Ends. Fact Box tivolilodge.co.uk +44 (0) 7932883254 Davos information davos.ch/en Accommodation: A seven-night stay at Tivoli Lodge includes exclusive use of the chalet and facilities including spa and swimming pool, dedicated service from the eight staff, tea or coffee in bed, breakfast and afternoon tea daily, Bollinger champagne and canapĂŠs daily, three-course dinners prepared by the chef (6 nights), children's lunch and supper every day, house wines selected by Berry Brothers in London, an open
Davos- Furka Zipper chair, .
including spa and swimming pool, dedicated service from the eight staff, tea or coffee in bed, breakfast and afternoon tea daily, Bollinger champagne and canapĂŠs daily, three-course dinners prepared by the chef (6 nights), children's lunch and supper every day, house wines selected by Berry Brothers in London, an open spirit bar and a range of soft drinks, Ortigia bath products, fresh flowers and daily newspapers, in-
spirit bar and a range of soft drinks, Ortigia bath products, fresh flowers and daily newspapers, inresort chauffeured vehicles, cinema room and games room, Apple TV, Freeview and Netflix. tivolilodge.co.uk +44 (0) 7932883254 Davos information davos.ch/en Accommodation: A seven-night stay at Tivoli Lodge includes exclusive use of the chalet and facilities
resort chauffeured vehicles, cinema room and games room, Apple TV, Freeview and Netflix.
Ski Supplement Kitzbuhel skiing
by Michael Cranmer
Meet Signe Reisch, the woman they call the Queen of the Streif
Klammer, Zurbriggen, Killy, Sailer, Maier, Cuche.
She was raised on a farm at the foot of the Hahnenkamm, Kitzbühel – scene of the most spectacular downhill ski racetrack in the world. The 3.312 m (2.05 mile) Streif course is the ultimate challenge, and the most feared for ski racers. She’s seen every competition for the past forty-odd decades and partied with all the legends…
Her greatgrandfather made the first alpine ski run in Austria down the Kitzbühler Horn. Most
sexagenarians walk the dog before breakfast. Not Signe. She’s up every day at Now in her sixth six to ride up the decade, she runs first Hannenkammba and rules the Rasmushof Hotel hn gondola at the very finish (each decorated with a photo of a of the race past winner of where, as a the race) for a young girl, she kaffee and a chat herded pigs in with the skithe summer patrollers. Then pastures and she launches took her first tentative steps on herself down the Streif. skis. Her best time? 4 minutes. The course record? 1:51.58. Take a moment to consider this.
Ski Supplement Kitzbuhel skiing
Racers accelerate to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds down a 51% gradient, then into the infamous Mausefalle (Mousetrap) with an inconceivable gradient of 85% and speeds of 74 mph. They’re in the air for 80m before hitting the boiler-plate ice with a spine-crushing force of 4G. Time elapsed thus far…22.5 seconds, only around 1.365 to go. Us mere mortals can only wonder at such feats, yet Signe skis the same piste
every morning in the same time it takes to boil an egg and in only twice the time the champs take. Before breakfast. I caught up with her for mid-morning coffee in the Rasmushof. How does she feel about her ‘royal’ title? “I’m extremely proud. I’ve worked hard for my ‘Kitz’, it’s the most important thing to me, after my family.” she says. Her sons Andreas and Nikolaus, and daughter Gesine were
raised in the hotel, and Andreas works with her day-to-day bringing a younger outlook to business. The hotel is solidly four-star and affirmably Tyrolean with a high reputation among Signe Reisch
local and international guests. Typical wood panelling and beams are offset by bright rooms and a sense of space. The surrounding landscape dominates. My room looked directly out to the famous mountain and finish area of the races, scheduled for 22-27 January. Not a snowball’s chance in hell of booking for that week though. The Rasmushof will be the epicentre of the action, with teams, sponsors, past
winners and the glitterati ensconced. I ask Signe which was the greatest race she remembers. An enigmatic smile creases her tanned face. “They are all memorable. The last one is always the greatest” she replies diplomatically. “It was lovely to welcome Jean-Claude Killy back in 2017, fifty years after I met him as a little girl.” Blond poster-boy Killy won not only the Downhill, but the
Slalom and Combined in ’67. “But, come” she beckons, looking at her watch, “there’s somebody I want you to meet.” We go through to the Barr'm-Wirtsstube backing on to another spectacular view of the Hahnenkamm. “This is my best friend Rudi Sailer. We meet every day for coffee” I immediately realise I’m in the presence of ski-royalty. Rudi’s father Toni was born
Ski Supplement and raised in Kitzbühel, a phenomenon as a teenager, nicknamed the "Blitz from Kitz", he became the first to win all three alpine skiing events, at the ’56 Olympics. Rudi followed his dad’s success racking up win after win until a bad injury ended his skiing career. Rudi laughs, “I broke most bones in my body, but most parts are intact. I take it a bit easier nowadays, hitting a ball round the Rasmushof’s golf course. Oh, and I manage the famous ‘Red Devils’ Ski School.”
through tree-lined pistes and humpback ridges. But there was really only one piste to finish with…the Streif of course! With Signe’s morning leg-stretch very much in mind I stood at the start, adrenaline flooding through my body. Until you’ve looked down from the Startschuss hut you cannot comprehend the sheer drop-off followed by the crazy right-hander below. I set my watch and prayed to a god I don’t believe in. Every little helps.
Kitzbühel Tourism: T: +43 5356 66660 E: email@example.com www.kitzbuehel.com/en
Getting there: Innsbruck - Driving Time Approx. 1 h easyJet, FlyBe, Thomsonfly and Viking Airlines all fly direct to Innsbruck from the following destinations: Birmingham, London, Exeter, Leeds-Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle. www.innsbruckairport.com Salzburg - Driving Time Well, dear reader, this was Approx. 1 h not written from a hospital Both British Airways and Ryan Air fly four times a bed. I did get down; body Signe has disappeared to week to Salzburg. For full attend to business – as well intact, very shaken and very much stirred. But I will flight schedules and the as running the twentythree bedroom hotel she’s reveal one thing: unlike the latest information, mad, crazy, legends of the www.salzburg-airport.com been the globe-trotting ambassador and president race, I turned…and turned, and turned. By heck I of Kitzbühel Tourism for turned. five years. I bid Rudi farewell and go off to meet one of his 500 instructors And somehow, when I got for a tour of the slopes. to the bottom and the Unquestionably one of the seductive lights of the prettiest and most Rasmushof, I forgot to accessible resorts in the cancel my stopwatch. world, its improved lift Honest! system is up with the best, The Rasmushof Hotel: linking seven separate deluxe suites from €264 areas with a real sense of T: +43 (0) 5356/ 65252-0 travel. We made our way over to Kirchberg and one E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.rasmushof.at of my favourite runs, the Pengelstein, swooping
Beau Travel Wieiner Schnitzel
Rasmushof Winecellar at Rasmushof
Signe and Rudi Sailer
Aksel Lund Svindal -on the Streif
Borderline skiing Words and pictures by Michael Cranmer Maybe you’ve skied the ‘Big’Uns’: The Three Valleys, Tignes/Val d’Isère, Paradiski. With eyes (and credit card) watering, you’ve paid the price for access to those endless kilometres. But - and here’s the rub - how many of the pistes you paid to use have you actually been on? My guess is only a fraction. So, time for a reality check.
Quality v Quantity. Remember the old adage, big is not always better? We all want more for our money whilst not compromising on quality. In the course of my job I get to ski a vast range of resorts and countries and here’s my TopTip for a midprice, but definitely not mid-quality, resort that has
got pretty much all you could want. Where? Where? Answer: Montgènevre. Unh? Now some of you will have heard of it, but I’m guessing most won’t. It’s way down south, technically the French Cottian Alps. Think Briançon. But there’s a twist. It’s slap-bang on the
Piste, 90 degrees below, Colla Bercia in Italy
Italian border, perched beside an ancient high pass, now an important Route National. (This is beginning to sound like estate-agent’s speak for a mansion yards away from a motorway – “easy access to transport links”). Heavy lorries do go past all hours of the day and night, but you’d never know it because they’re
underground in a tunnel built for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. That’s another bit of info to perk your ears up. Turin Airport is only 1 hour and 20 minutes away…half the time it takes to get from Geneva to the Big’Uns. So far so good. Its location on the pass means huge dumps of
snow scooped up as precipitation in the south and north give the area an enviable snow record. I had a generous helping on my first day there with a 50 cms chute de neige making any piste a voyage of discovery. What about the mountains? The village is at 1,850m, the top lift 2,630m.
Ski Supplement The skiing divides into three sectors. First off the south-facing Le Chalvet, two lifts whizzing you up from the centre of the village. Pack a camera as the views over the Ecrins National Park and Briançon are stunners. Open reds, easily ridden by competent intermediates swoop joyfully down to midpoint. Where better for my invariable 11.00 hot chocolate stop than Les Terraces? The clue is in the name, a wide sunny affair with comfy sofas dotted around… easy to sink into, not so easy to get out of. TopTip: have a Café Gourmand. A perfect Italian espresso with not one, not two, but five! yummy, tasty sides. Lie back in the sun and reflect on your excellent choice. (Perceptive readers will have spotted my cunning plan. I don’t drink coffee, but happily accompany someone who does. The conversation goes like this: Me: “That looks amazing. Almost a meal in itself”. Her: “This cake/crème brulee/chocolate mousse is scrumptious. Would you like some?”
Me: “Well, just a taste…to help you out”). Later in the morning the sun will have warmed the opposing side of the valley. Head for Les Gondrans with its very different vibe. Up past the nursery slopes through trees to wide higher runs peaking at L’Observatoire, one of a ring of old tactical military forts. There are choices from here, each guaranteed to raise a smile. Blues, reds, and endless off-piste delights. If you feel fit, try a top-tobottom non-stopper and earn yourself boasting rights in Le Graal, Montgènevre’s après ski epicentre.
meandering red Souréou linking with the black Les Rhodos further down. Both are achievable by confident intermediates…in the right conditions.
Most accommodation is on the sunny southfacing side of the valley, centred around ancient streets and alleys, with an obligatory old church and spire. It’s definitely not party-central: think more Bexhill-on-Snow. Bars and restaurants sit shoulder-to-shoulder along what could easily be the sea-front, except its snow. The last few years have seen the development of some swish family-orientated upmarket apartments, Moving on. The third each with shops, sector, L’Aigle, is swimming pool, sauna, dramatically different to and ski hire, close to the the others. A long and slopes. slow chair transports you I stayed in the Le over terrain untouched Hameau des Airelles, by humans but only 16 steps from my imprinted hither and front door to the ski lift. thither with the tracks of A few more steps down foxes and alpine hares. was Le Chalet des It’s a great ride in sunny Gourmandises, the weather, but not morning essential stop recommended if there’s for fresh, warm a wind blowing. croissants. Across the Consequently, you might road, Intersport provided find yourself the only top-of-the-range skis and occupant of the boots.
Cafe Gourm and at Les Te rraces, Montgenevre
e above Montgenevre. Last run of the day.
Ski Supplement Here’s where I reveal Montgènevre’s next door neighbour…Claviere in Italy! So close they’re practically semi-detached. Like all good neighbours they get along famously, swopping recipes, intermarrying, sharing mountains and slopes. Yes, they’ve had past disagreements, but that’s all forgotten now. And beyond little Claviere, is the Via Lattea –The Milky Way – 400km of pistes and the resorts of Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, San Sicario, and Cesana. You can choose to stay within a local sector, or buy a lift pass for all. Top Tip: find your ski legs in Montgenevre, then venture further afield. It’s entirely viable to ‘do’ the Milky Way in a day, but remember: Quality v Quantity. Time for some cross-border
action. There’s no queueing for Passport Control, but it is a bit of a slog. After a hold-yournerve schuss down a blue trying to keep some speed, the run flattens out into a walk as you realise you’re in Italy. Fantastico! Even more fantastic is the name of the sector, Monti de la Luna. It was here I had one of the most memorable runs of my life, not on a steep black, or some narrow couloir, but a simple green.
enjoyment of the moment, the place, and my senses. I don’t believe it could ever be that perfect again. To finish, back at the top lift, the rickety old hostel Baita della Luna served awful burgers, but wonderful homemade Zuppa de Ceci con bruschetta (Chickpea soup with bruscetta) It’s the simple things that stay.
Michael Cranmer was a guest of Montgènevre From the Colla Bercia Tourist Office, 2293m to Cesana 1360m, www.montgenevre.com piste #90 (numbers not names in Italy) meandered He stayed at Le Hameau des Airelles courtesy of down a farm track Zenith Holidays, overhung with branches www.zenithholidays.co.uk heavy with snow, forming Intersport ski and boot an ice-tunnel , dappled hire, www.intersportshadows contrasting with shafts of piercing sunlight. I rent.fr/en/ slowly snow-ploughed the more to prolong my
Off piste skier in Montgenevre
Montgenevre old church.
by Michael Cranmer
Morzine gives you more choice than a Cadbury’s Variety assortment. In recent years the French resort –part of the Portes du Soleil circuit – has upped its game and now stands shoulder to shoulder with the best. The lift system serving 400 kms of pistes, including a foray into neighbouring Switzerland, has been tweaked, the town itself is a buzzing centre for the area and not only in winter. I love places that exist in and of themselves and Morzine is one of them. Lots of Brits are here, but in a good way, not a Yah-Meribel scene. The après is not of the Austrian-Euro-pop variety, more a bunch of nice people winding down after a hard day at the snow-face. Nearby is a superbly equipped Intersport for all your gear requirements, with advice from folks who really know the mountains. Top Tip They give away fortnightly discount codes www.facebook.com/intersportskifrance There is accommodation to suit all budgets, from Crystal at the more modest end, to the super-luxe Consensio chalets. Lots of individual operators too…more of this later. Another bonus from our assortment choice is Geneva airport, only an hour and twenty minutes away. Or, if you’re in the helicopter transfer end-of-the-market, less time than it takes to polish off a bottle of Dom Perignon. Always good to make a bit of an entrance. Up on the hill the pluses keep adding up.
Morzine at night
Lifts from the middle of town - Le Pléney towards next-door Les Gets and thence the top-spot of Mont Chéry at 1,825m- and Avoriaz t’other way. It’s all downhill from there. Cluedup skiers will have spotted the relatively low height, a problem in snow-starved seasons, but more and more snow canons are popping up everywhere to counteract this. For me this altitude brings the extra attraction of tree skiing. A necessity when viz is poor, and a joy when it’s not. The sensation of movement and speed (even if you’re only at the cautious snowplough stage) is enhanced by a bit of forestry, and if the snow’s falling it’s soo pretty.
a super-soup too.
Let’s stay with restaurants for a moment. The sun is shining, you’ve loaded your rucksack with extras from breakfast, maybe bought a stubby beer from Carrefour in town, and all you require is a sunny pique-nique spot to enjoy it. But it’s a very different matter when the wind is blowing, and snow is snowing, and you’re freezing. On just such a day my pal and I found ourselves in Châtel, a lovely part of the circuit with fabulous empty runs, when the weather closed in and sent us scurrying in search of a warm, friendly place to eat. Peering through the flurries we spotted La Ferme des Pistes, a traditional-style mountain Our points are mounting eatery. Oh, dear; a up, and I’ve not finished reception frostier than the yet. An absolute must for icicles outside. Pleas for me in any resort is my service fell on deaf ears, eleven-o’clock chocolate our natural British reserve stop. My body cries out for finally cracked and we my daily caffeine-fix (almost demanded menus. If looks my only vice) like a junkie could kill we would both desperate to score. But I’m be six-feet under by now. fussy. The We zipped up and left, café/bar/restaurant must pausing only to take a be welcoming, warm, just photo outside. Top Tip: off the piste, and a decent give it a miss! price. Plenty to choose from here, but my Top Tip Just east of the town is Roset’Taz off the top of the Rosta chair lift. They do centre is the select enclave
of Montriond, home to some of the ‘most wealthy in France’. This is markedly not Courchevel oligarch, billionaire, celeb bling territory, and it’s here that AliKats Mountain Holidays have handpicked two beautiful new chalets increasing its portfolio of top-flight accommodation to ten. “We were looking to extend our exclusive collection of catered chalets, and were approached by the owners of Chalets Debussy and Bizet” AliKats co-owner Al Judge told me. “They’ve applied their aristocratic influence (they’re from Versailles) to the fittings and décor of the twohundred year-old building. No expense has been spared in creating great luxury. The owners have the highest possible pedigrees…all I can tell you are that they are closely connected to Macron and Mitterand” Set on a commanding hillside with a direct view of Mont Chéry, the prospect from Debussy’s terrace is utterly stunning. Bizet has an equally dropdead gorgeous balcony panorama, both, of course, with obligatory hot tubs.
Beau Travel Chalet Bizet-hot tub
Chalet Bizet-living room
Endless pistes above Morzine.
Time for a hot chocolate.
Terrible service at La Ferme des Pistes, Chatel.
AliKats is in its eighth year and thriving, Al doing front-of-house and finances, Kat, his wife, the exquisite cooking…hence AliKats. As if that wasn’t enough to keep them off the streets they have three children of six, four, and one…Oh!..and a dog called Hector. More of him later. When guests first arrive and have ‘Wowed!’ like I did, they are served vintage Bollinger. What else. Debussy sleeps eight adults and seven children, everything is designed for comfort and relaxation after a day on the slopes or hiking (its open summer and winter).
company was her desire to ‘cook for a living’. She’s untrained in the classic sense but this hasn’t stopped her winning ‘The Best Food in Morzine’ award for three straight years. She’s banned now… to give someone else a chance…so a Judge has become one of the judges.
To be fed by Kat and her Michelin*-trained head chef John is an experience not to be missed. “Everything is local and seasonal whenever feasible” she said. Wines are carefully paired with menus by AliKats wine consultant, Rob Wade, holder of the Champagne There’s a private chauffeur Academy’s Magnum d’Or. service in-and-around All this forms part of their Morzine, with the Ardent Indulgence Package’; the ski lift only six minutes menu, the Bolly, the wines, away. Guests are given a a-la-carte breakfast in bed branded hip-flask with a and pre-dinner cocktails choice of Al’s special toffee- and digestifs every vodka or plum gin to see day.(Not sure about the them through the day. Bizet (the chalet, not the Horizontal Kat and Ali Judge composer, he’s been gone (AliKats) with Hector since 1875) has an equally fab view, snug corners in the huge living space, a bar that’s open 24 hours (‘honesty’ after the staff have gone to bed), and age-old wood everywhere. It sleeps from six to nine in complete luxury. Kat’s decision to start their
breakfast-in-bed. Crumbs alert!) But the true star among stars of this show is Hector, their Australian Shepherd puppy. Even my stone-cold dog-unfriendly heart was melted. I refuse to use words like cute, adorable, fluffy, loveable, and “aww”, so please delete. But he is. Al is training him not to intrude into guest’s space, but the simple fact is that they want him to. Maybe they should rename the company AliKats&dog? Morzine Tourism www.en.morzineavoriaz.com AliKats Mountain Holidays 0203 514 6012 alikats.eu Consensio www.consensiochalets. co.uk/morzine/ Intersport www.intersportmorzine.com/en/
Serre Chevalier-tree skiing
Serre Chevalier by Michael Cranmer
Serre Chevalier is the perfect place to head for if you like sunshine, tree skiing, and loads to do après. The resort’s title is a convenient catch-all for a bunch of villages strung out along the Grenoble road, between the high mountain pass of the Col du Lautaret, and the ancient garrison town of Briançon. It’s easier to tell your chums you’re going to Serre Chevalier, than Saint Chaffrey, Chantemerle, Villard Laté, Le Poncet, La Salle, Le Bez, Villeneuve, Les Pananches, Moulin Baron, La Chirouze, Monêtier Les Bains, Le Casset, Le Lauzet, Les Boussardes, Les Guibertes, Le Serre Barbin, and, Le Freyssinet. I’ve probably missed some but who’s counting? This bit of fun illustrates the point that there is no real centre, but restaurants, bars and shops clustered around the above mentioned hamlets (don’t worry, I won’t test you). In itself this is no drawback but if hard-core nightlife is your penchant don’t go here. You are more likely to find a cosy bar with some live music and hunker-down with the locals. Almost half-way along the alphabetti spaghetti of villages is Villeneuve and the Chalet Refuge, my home for the duration. A charmingly-renovated ancient farm building tucked off the main street it’s one of Zenith Holidays roster of accommodations and I was hosted by the Big Boss Katie Waddington. “It’s long been one of my favourite places to ski” she
Seree Chevalier-extreme off-piste Serre Chevalier- first run on perfect piste
Beau Travel told me, “Clients do too; they rebook year after year” The Refuge was across the way from the Aravet lift which offers a web of runs more or less at the hub of the system. If stats are your thing there’s 250km of pistes, only 50km smaller than Val d’Isere–Tignes. In other words nobody will run out of runs. I love tree skiing and there’s lots here. I love the impression of speed (even 30mph seems fast); I love the security of knowing where you’re going (no missing piste markers); I love the visibility in poor light or heavy snow. As we made our way over to the north-east, rolling snowfields above, forests below, I began to appreciate the true extent of the system, but then Katie stopped and said “Do you fancy some Karting?” Hunh? Was she suffering from lack-of-oxygeninduced-hallucinations? But, no. At the head of the Combes chairlift you can hire three-wheeler ‘Karts’ and career down a 4.4km track in the snow… for fun. It seemed like a good idea, so after a brief (very brief to my mind) ‘Elf n’Safety talk
(“Stay on zee piste. Not to turn zee Kart ovair”) off we went. The operator hadn’t explained that for part of the course we were sharing it with passing skiers, a most unsettling experience. The machine had brakes, but, what happens when you brake on snow? Yes, correct, you skid. So, giggling, skidding, and after a short while getting a bit cocky, we hurtled down without “turning zee Kart ovair.” What larks! Much of the skiing in Serre Che (as I now call it) is above 2,000m and the slopes are north-facing meaning snow stays longer, while the villages are south-facing, which equals sunny cafes and restaurants. It’s a pleasant shock to find prices lower than many of the ‘classic’ destinations. Another surprise - Les Cols’Porteurs free 90-minute tours of the ski area, every day of the week (red-run skiers only) What a great idea. After skiing a visit to nearby Briançon was planned. As dusk fell so did the snow - great soft lumps of it - making the drive an adventure. At 1,326m, it’s the highest town in
France, and rammed with history, a UNESCO World Heritage Site principally due to the remarkable fortifications built between the 18th and 20th centuries in order to improve the town's defence system at the confluence of five valleys. It’s a place to potter around, lined with ancient houses, steep, narrow streets, and the stunning Place d'Armes square. But the snow had increased to marshmallow-sized proportions so it wasn’t an evening to linger. In the middle of this weather-event (as forecasters are prone to call it) Katie announced that she had another treat up her sleeve but wouldn’t reveal what it was except to say that I would need my cossie. Mmm. Maybe a sauna? We picked up our things back at the Refuge and jumped back in the car, which now resembled an igloo after 10 minutes parked up. Off to the ‘treat.’ Suspend belief for a while. I had to. In a clearing facing the slopes was a Yurt. Falling snow and twinkly lights made it hard to see what lay in store. Inside the
Ski Supplement warm interior I was shown to the ‘Boys’ changing area. I wrapped a warm gown round myself and left my clothes in a locker. I was directed outside. Outside! Are they mad! It was -10° and snowing like billy-o. Through the flakes I saw Katie waving to me. She was immersed in a large tub, like a Victorian missionary being casseroled by cannibals. Steam rose as I tiptoed over and climbed in. “Welcome to the Bain Nordique. What do you want to drink?” Only one possible thing when a chap finds himself in such a situation…champagne. Then a menu was passed
to me. Langoustine, scallops, chicken, whatever I wanted, as long as it could be kebab-ed. Thereby passed a most pleasant evening, sipping Bollinger, nibbling and giggling until, inevitably, my wrinkle-ometer told me
it was time to get dressed before my skin fell off. www.zenithholidays.co.uk/ packages/franceskiing/skiing-in-serrechevalier/ Tourist Office: www.serrechevalier.com/en /winter/miscellaneous/ contact/tourism-office/ Serre Chevalier-Karting
Serre Chevalier-Bain Nordique
by Michael Cranmer
Verbier should carry a government health warning, something like ‘You come here at your own risk’. Risk of what! Well, your wallet for a start, then your health, then your ego. I’d better explain. It’s undoubtedly one of the most expensive resorts in Europe, with chalets fetching £10,000 per square metre. Ultra-chic, ultra-posh, and beloved of Brit, Swedish, and Belgian (yes, they do have some too) royals. Fergie and her ex, Andrew, raided their piggy-bank three years ago and bought Chalet Helora, a snip at £13 million. The seven bedrooms must make ‘I’m bringing a friend to stay the night’ much easier. James Blunt has a chalet here and co-owns Le Vache mountain eatery with England rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio and superbike racer Carl Foggarty. He’s even got a lift named after him. Careful on that piste…you might bump into Ed
Sheeran, Pixie Lott and her squeeze Oliver Cheshire, or Madonna. Bear Grylls owns a home, but presumably not a lift-pass…he runs back up the slopes. In the game of my-chalet’s-bigger-thanyours, R. Branson must hold Top Trump. In his ‘The Lodge’ he’s hosted Leonardo Dicaprio, Jude Law, and Barack Obama. If you’ve got the £156,000-aweek asking price you can stay there yourself. By now you’ve got the picture. Apart from the obvious money-attractsmoney syndrome, why do they come to Verbs? (“not Verbier dahling…too common”) Because it’s beautiful, and it’s rated as among the tops for off-piste and freeriding. The highest lift, Mont Fort, at 3,330m, gives access to vast powder fields: the perfectly-named ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for example, involves a steep climb from Col des Gentianes, a drop over the ridge to an isolated valley down, down, and a glorious run back onto the piste at Tortin.
Grooving at Polaris
I doubt Fergie would be spotted here, but much more likely to be seen in the exclusive mountain restaurant, Le Mouton Noir at Ruinettes, with easy access by car and a fabulous view, their Black Sheep Burger a bargain at 31Chf (£25) washed down with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot’s 2004 The Big Pink Lady equally good value at only 405Chf (£324)
, Richard B
Ski Supplement summer, skiers in winter. The stage is framed by a view of the lights of Verbier and the valley beyond. It’s utterly stunning as the sun sets over the distant 4,000m peaks. Massive Attack opened the proceedings, with rumours of Banksy (aka Robert "3D" Del Naja, one half of M.A.) putting in an appearance. But no graffiti in town. The season kicks off in early The evening builds and the December with the Polaris crowd settle into the groove, helped, no doubt, Electronic Music Festival. From a small beginning in by the obvious and extensive intake of a bar to a purpose-built stage at 1,600m on the ski- additives. It’s everywhere, slopes above Verbier, it has in the Gents, spilt on the It’s when the lifts close that morphed in four years into carpet (and helpfully swept Verbier really comes into its an international must-go-to up by a smiling Security own. Slap-bang next to the event held over four nights guard). But this is Switzerland, and we’re (and days if anybody is Médran lift the Pub Monthigh (geddit!) up a Fort fills up with instructors awake) mountain, far from the and saisonnaires telling madding crowd and The main stage is atop a their real and tall tales of plateau, home to golfers in admittedly loose laws on the mountain. Set-aside Skiing on-piste is a different affair. While the boy (and girl) dudes head over the edges and down the steepest, narrowest couloirs they can find, most of us life-loving folk are happiest on groomed runs. Verbier is a little disappointing in this respect. There isn’t much for the mileage-hungry, and it does get crowded. Although it’s marketed as 4 Valleys the town is at the end of a long series of connected slopes and smaller villages (which, incidentally, are much cheaper to set up base in)
from the boasters and wanna-be’s are a quiet group nursing small beers or coffees; these are the elite Patrouilliers up and at work when many are coming out of the nightclubs. They blast avalanches, mark pistes, and rescue the unlucky, or plain stupid, who’ve fallen. They also recover the bodies.
Extreme off-piste Verbier
Beau Travel medication. The raised V.I.P. balcony sways alarmingly to the weaponsgrade beat and snow begins to fall, inside and out. The vibe stays live until 4.00am back in town with the OFF Festival in L’Etoile and Le Farinet where nothing comes cheap, a bottle of Taittinger Brut clocking out at 4,200Chf (£3,295) which doesn’t seem to daunt the denizens of this dive. But no Prince Harry sofadancing here this time like he did before his recent nuptials. You can eat well for a reasonable price (by Verbier standards, that is) at Le Caveau, on Place Centrale. You enter Hobbitfashion through an upturned barrel. The
speciality is…tah, dah! Cheese, raclette-style. No huge surprise given where we are, but Bagnard cuisine (Val de Bagnes is the roll of a cheese just down the hill.) It’s very hard to resist, just call for more for your individuallynumbered plate, and another melted slice arrives. A word of advice: book ahead. It gets packed. So, if your scene is hardcore skiing, and hard-core nightlife, and you’re equally familiar with the contents of Hello! Magazine and Horse and Hounds Verbier’s the place for you. But, better check the bank balance first.
Polaris Main Stage
Michael Cranmer was the guest of Verbier Promotion www.verbier.ch/en/ fppoi-verbier-promotionsa-4429.html Le Caveau Place Centrale +4127 771 22 26 email@example.com www.theplacetobe.ch/rest aurant-le-caveau Getting there: Geneva Airport is approx. 2 hours away with a choice of regular flights to and from UK. Swiss International Airlines carry skis free www.swiss.com/gb/en Transfers: AlpyBus use Mercedes Sprinters and Mercdes Vito either private or shared +41 22 723 29 84 www.alpybus.com/
Special Offers Catered Ski Chalets offer Chalet Valerie, Tignes, sleeps 16. 2nd February, based on two sharing, £1,069. Flights, transfers, catered accommodation with wine, full area lift pass, silver ski and boot hire. Saving £383pp www.cateredski-chalets.co.uk
Rates per week, from €10,450 - €37,950. www.meriski.co.uk/ aour-catered-chalets/ chalet-larpege
INTERSPORT have 800 stores worldwide. Save time and money. Select an INTERSPORT in your resort and pre-book your rental equipment online with Europe’s No. 1 rental network. No Meriski’s new Chalet need to queue. Your L’Arpege, Meribel, is available from Jan products will be 2019 onwards, waiting at the sleeping12 adults and selected store ready 2 children, it’s ski-in for collection with a and out, dedicated team of experts to chalet manager take care of the rest. professional chef and Save between 20 and 50% by booking host, chauffeur, and online. walking distance to www.intersportrent. bars and com/ski-hire restaurants.Ideally suited to large families, groups of friends and even corporate groups.
Ski Supplement 2019 It's a dirty job and Michael's got to do it, this year he takes a hit for the team and visits... Alpe d’Huez is unquest...
Published on Jan 29, 2019
Ski Supplement 2019 It's a dirty job and Michael's got to do it, this year he takes a hit for the team and visits... Alpe d’Huez is unquest...