Beau Travel Publication
Val dâ€™Isere at night
Chosing where to go skiing can be like an office sweepstake…hum, ha… put them all in a hat and pull one out…leave it to Lady Luck, (curious, though, that it was always the same person who won). Cost, weather, peak holiday times, advanced, beginners, high, low? I’ve written about some of the resorts I visited last season, from uberposh St Moritz and Verbier, via party-central Ischgl, to Les Menuires, reinventing itself as the coming catered chalet place to go. The snow (when it came) wasn’t good, but I always had a ball. For one reason: the people I was with, or the people I met. The 85 year-old smuggler, the tiny British woman ski-patroller saving lives, my best pal skiing again after a life-threatening operation. My advice is slow down now and again, take a deep breath, and savour the moment. Make every turn the best you can, and enjoy.
Beau Travel Magazine Contents Ski Gear -4 Ski Special Offers -6 St. Moritz-10 Verbier -15 Vaujany -19 Ischgl - 24 Le Grand Bornand -28 Val d’ Isère -34 Les Menuires -38
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The Beau Travel Ski supplement is a digital publication with a controlled circulation freely available to qualifying applicants. Care is taken to ensure that the information contained within the magazine is accurate. However, the publisher cannot accept liability for errors or omissions, no matter how they arise. Readers are advised to get facts and statements confirmed by suppliers when making enquiries. The opinions of the author are not necessarily those as the publisher. All rights are reserved. No reproduction of any part of this magazine may be carried out without the consent of the publisher being obtained in the first instance.
Beau Travel Magazine
Zakti Ski Wear review
Zakti clothes are designed to be high performing with technical fabrics that are practical yet still
fashionable. Their ski range takes you from your mountain run, to a casual stroll, through to a
full-on day on the ski slopes and still look cool in the bar. Pieces can be mixed to make new combinations with the confidence that you can enjoy your day with all the features to protect you from the harsh landscape. Zakti Activewear launched in 2015 and now has four stores and was launched as a sister brand to outdoor retailer Mountain Warehouse, entering the fast growing active wear
market. www.zaktiactive.com @Zakti_Active,
The Edge Men's Banff Insulated Snow Jacket designed to keep you warm on the slopes, made with plush synthetic pearl insulation and a DWR treatment on the outer fabric means that light
rain and snow will just shake right off.
Fleece lining on the inside adds extra warmth and snugness. www.gooutdoors.co.uk
/ Discount Card Price £60.00 (Retail Price £100.00)
The Edge Aquilo anti-fog snowsport goggles
with twin interchangeable lenses
to combat different conditions one grey,
one yellow tinted - that hold in place with powerful magnets.
Anti-fog properties fight against misting in damp, cool conditions, and their 'spherical' shape gives great,
unblocked peripheral vision without distortion.
www.gooutdoors.co.uk/ Discount Card Price £50.00 (Retail Price £80.00)
Snowshoeing above Villard Recula
Ski Special Offers
Head to the luxury Tirolean resort of Ischgl
for superb skiing, fun in snowparks and a nightlife
Beau Travel Magazine to match. Ski Solutions offers 7 nights’ half board accommodation at the sumptuous 4* Hotel Brigitte in the heart of the village from £1099 pp
including London flights and transfers.
www.skisolutions.com/acc ommodations/brigitte 020 7471 7700
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
The chic Italian town of Cortina d’Ampezzo is the Queen of the Dolomites, steeped in history, charm and spectacular scenery. Zenith Holidays has 7 nights’ b&b in the centrally located 4*
Hotel Ambra from £823 per person, including flights and transfers, based on four people in two twin rooms.www.zenithholid ays.co.uk/packages/ italy-skiing/skiing-incortina/0203 137 7678
Lounge day lodge.
number of runs back to the village.
Val Gardena, Italy
Val Gardena in the Italian Dolomites has direct links to the popular 42 km Sellaronda ski circuit and the quaint old town of Ortisei makes an ideal base. Snow-wise offers the ultimate in luxury at the historic 5* Adler Dolomiti Spa and
Sport Resort from £1695 per person for 7 nights’ half board, Gatwick to Innsbruck flights and private transfers. www.snowwise.com/our-hotels/ ortisei-italy/ adler-dolomiti/ 020 3397 8450
Val d’Isere, France Solaise lift pass in Val d’Isère for just €36 pp per day. The new pass covers seven lifts,
including the 10-person gondola from the village up to Solaise, plus entrance to Le
The five-star Grand Tirolia offers an Alpine paradise 15 minutes from the slopes
(by private shuttle) Relax in the awardwinning spa. A week’s stay from
It also includes access to dedicated beginner slopes and a substantial intermediate area, along with a £1,050 (two sharing) on a B&B basis. Price includes return flights from London to Salzburg and transfers.
Ski Special Special Offers Offers Ski
Save £100 pp on a VIP SKI saver week at CLUB Alaska in Morzine, 100 metres from the Pleney piste. Sleeps up to 16. 7night stay from £779 pp, based on two sharing. Includes halfboard accommodation, flights, transfers, and VIP SKI’s dedicated chalet service. Saver
week beginning 7, 14, 21 and 28 January and 11 March 2018. The offer valid when booked before 31 October 2017.VIP SKI (0208 875 1957, www.vip-chalets.com)
Mammoth, USA Raring to get back on the slopes? It’s already snowing in Mammoth, one of North America’s
largest ski hills. Last season, Mammoth saw a colossal 270 days of skiing. The resort is open
Val d’Isere, France
A week at the Alpina
Lodge, Val d’Isère, from
La Plagne, France
Save more than 30% this Christmas at premium residence Les Hauts Bois, Aime-laPlagne located at altitude of 2,100 m, it offers impeccable views across the Isère Valley with Mont Blanc as the star of the show. Ski in, ski out with Deep Nature Spa® A sevennight self-catered stay,
in an apartment that sleeps up to six people, from 23 December 2017, costs from £236pp saving 31%) Pierre & Vacances (0870 0267 145, www.pierreet vacances.co.uk)
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Save more than 30% on a Christmas holiday at 4* Premium residence Les Crêts near Méribel-Mottaret at 1,750 m. The ski-in, ski-out residence has a new lift that whisks guests from the residence to resort centre. A seven-night, self-catered stay for
up to four people, from 22 December 2017, is priced from £403 pp including return flights from London Luton to Geneva, (saving 31% on accommodation). Pierre & Vacances (0870 0267 145, www.pierreet vacances.co.uk)
from 9 November 2017. Make the most of this early-season start and save 10%, with Ski Safari. A 10-night stay at Mammoth Mountain Inn from £1,215 pp (for four
adults sharing a deluxe loft including 10% discount) and includes return flights and transfers Departs 9 December 2017. Ski Safari (01273 224060,
£288 pp (two sharing) in a self-catered studio flat with Ski France. Accommodation only.
Return flights, transfers and food extra. Ski France: www.skifrance.co.uk
Save 30% on a stay at the NEW 5*+ Hotel Talisa, a contemporary spa hotel with heated outdoor swimming pools, ski-in, ski-out, on-site rentals, concierge service and its own private chairlift. 7-night stay from £3,275 pp (saving 30%) based
on two people sharing a Mountain Superior View room. Includes breakfast, flights and transfers. Book by 1 November 2017.Ski Safari (01273 224060, www.skisafari.com)
Ski Special Offers
Beau Travel Magazine
New luxurious private Chalet Iona sleeping up to 14 people, with terrace and outdoor hot tub. 6 en-suite bedrooms with televisions, a dining area with 15ft handmade oak table seating up to 20. Next door an annex called Chalet
India sleeps up to four ideal for grandparents, extra friends etc.. Dedicated butler, and maid, transport to and from Méribel. A week’s from Saturday 9 December, costs from £562 pp (£10,112 total) for 18 people.
Exeter Airport flights to Chambery, France
Packages from £508 per person including direct flights from Exeter, transfers, local
lift pass, ski/board hire or ski carriage, a week’s accommodation at Grand Bois
Return flights, airport transfers, lift pass and ski hire extra. Ski
France (0203 4754756, www.skifrance.co.uk)
apartments in La Tania departing 24 February 2018. Book by 30 November 2017.
Ibiza, two sharing, departure 13 January 2018).
All-Inclusive hotels in Les Deux Alpes and Meribel and other resorts. Price from £937 per person, Hotel
Reduced price children places on every departure date. www.crystalski.co.uk 020 8610 3123
Super Luxury, Les Gets and Val d’Isere, France
Experience Christmas at a very special price
in Consensio’s luxury self-catered Alpine
Apartments (offer valid limited time only): Etoile Filante, Val d’Isere, Sleeps 6+3 Guests: 17th – 28th Dec (11 nights) Now 10,500 euros (from 12,900 euros) Urban Corniche, Les Gets, Sleeps 6+5
Guests: 17th – 26th Dec (9 nights) Now 8,100 euros (from 9,250 euros)
www.consensio chalets.co.uk/ +44 (0) 203 393 0833
Verbier ski patroller Victoria Jamieson on a ledge
What an invitation! Come to St. Moritz, stay at the five-star Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, attend their Opening Season Diamond Party, experience the World Ski Championships start; Oh! and do some skiing. All before Christmas. Well, it took a while to decide…about 2 seconds. I’ve got packing for a ski trip down to a fine art, but this one needed a bit extra.
Beau Travel Magazine
Somehow I crammed a suit (yes, I do own one) shirt, and shoes into my bag and off I went. Travelling courtesy of swish Swiss Business Class takes some of the tedium out of flying, and I knew from experience that the onward train trip from Geneva would give me time to bone up on what I’d let myself in for. The hotel is one of the Poshest in Poshtown, where the beautiful people gravitate
during the ‘season’ for a spot of horse racing or polo on the nearby lake (it’s frozen, naturally), some of them even go skiing. No struggle with boots and a hangover in the morning here. Be seated while a member of staff fits them for. Your skis will have been edged and waxed overnight. All part of the service. My railway reverie was interspersed with glances at the passing
Free Fall start St. Moritz
landscape as the line wound higher and higher through tunnels, gorges and over teetering viaducts, at one point nearly disappearing up its own… well, I’m sure you gather what I mean.
In the normal course of events, as you ascend snow appears. That’s the way of things. This winter, however, was bucking that trend. Fields were brown, mountains showing rocks usually 10
St. Moritz blanketed in the white stuff. We reached our destination at 1,822 metres with little evidence of frozen lakes or snow. Oh dear. My worries were somewhat diverted as I settled into my ‘Classic Junior Suite’2,757 Swiss francs (£2,124.57) per night. It did include a hearty breakfast, so jolly good value I’m sure you’ll agree. Things in St. Moritz are not done by halves and the
Beau Travel Magazine upcoming World Ski Championship was no exception. It’s would be the Blue Riband event of the season and the eyes of the world would be on the town, the premier event, naturally, being the Men’s Downhill. Kitzbühel’s notorious Hahnenkamm and Val d’ Isère’s La Face are probably the most feared by racers, now they would have another to contend with – the start, a.k.a. the Free Fall. Consider the stats:
pitch 45°, gradient 100%, one horizontal metre for each vertical metre drop. Acceleration 0 to 140 kilometres per hour in 6 seconds. Still with me? This continues straight down for 150 metres, for all the world like those Death Slides at the fairground. Had enough yet? The course then turns 90° left as the racers accelerate faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera S. Gulp! I checked my invitation: ‘Skiing
Corviglia and visit the Free Fall’. The wording was reassuring…’skiing’ and ‘visit’ being separated. I met Daniel Schaltegger, Head of Media, at the Piz Nair gondola. The operator made an unscheduled stop to let us off at the halfway pylon. “Leave your skis here” said Daniel. I heaved a sigh of relief. I wouldn’t have to ski the Fall Line. “Now it’s only 187 steps to the start, 2,840 metres up”. After much puffing I got
Walkers on the frozen Silersee lake
St. Moritz there, a flat steel platform surrounded by safety fence.
come to St. Moritz if we did something special”. I peered down over The whole mad idea the edge, my white came from 2-time knuckles clamped to the barrier. The race world downhill champion and 1972 was 2 months away. “There’s hardly any Olympic gold medallist, Bernhard snow, Daniel. Even at this elevation. What Russi designer of World Championships happens if…?” “We make some” was his and Olympic downhills, who slightly uncomfortable declared the course response. Mmm. We retrieved our skis flat and boring. “He and took the would only agree to
Beau Travel Magazine Salastrains piste, past the finish area, down into town. The pisteurs were doing a remarkable job bulldozing any available snow to form a skiable track. A bit of sightseeing was in order. I’d heard tales of a beautiful lake above St. Moritz, and the poor conditions were a good excuse for an excursion. The Silersee, which
locals call the Blue Lake, half an hour from town, was frozen over and seemed from the road high above to be covered with penguins moving sedately across the mirrored surface. These turned out to be people, walking and sliding as if in a dreamscape. Then, bang on cue and following the curves of the shoreline, a red train snaked into
St. Moritz vision completing the scene both for camera and memory. Time to prepare for the Opening Season Diamond Party. WhooHoo! Shower, shirt, suit and downstairs to show my invitation, gaining me access past the red velvet rope (truly!) to the world of the rich and beautiful (some of them) The crème of society was there; dresses
Beau Travel Magazine that probably cost more than I earn in a year revealing boob jobs of all descriptions, a pushup here, a separate there. Implants, reductions, it was like being in a mad plastic surgeon’s waiting room. And jewels nestled in many a wrinkled décolletage. Couples ‘circulated’ scarcely talking to each other, desperately scanning
the room in a game of social oneupmanship. As we were admitted through the V.I.P. barrier we’d been given a flûte à Champagne and a card informing us that in the bottom of each glass was a ‘diamond’, one real the remainders fake. When all the cards were handed in the winner would be announced.
It was the only topic of conversation. Considering that, aside from the staff and me, most guests probably had more than enough assets tucked away in Swiss bank accounts to clear the UK’s deficit, it was amusing to see their insatiability for yet more. I didn’t wait to see who had the diamond. Money goes to money so it wasn’t St Moritz under snow
Beau Travel Magazine
Kempinski Hotel des Bains
going to be me. Instead I headed over the road to a bleak, unlit car park where I’d heard the best bar in town was to be found. Plonked next to the Signal ski lift was a converted work site hut. A 40w bulb over the door revealed a flickering sign for La Baracca.
floor, and dancing to great music from the decks of the eccentric owner Max Schneider. Not a Botox needle mark in sight. Footnote. The Free Fall was never used. Snow arrived and the course was raceprepared. But fog made it too dangerous on the day. They ran the start Inside, a crazy from lower down. hedonistic world of Cost for preparing the drink, more people on Free Fall? 3 million the tables than on the Swiss Francs (roughly
£2.3 million). St. Moritz – it’s a helluva town.
Michael Cranmer travelled courtesy of the Swiss travel system and Swiss Airline: www.swiss.com He stayed at The Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains: www.kempinski.com/e n/st-moritz/grandhotel-des-bains/
Walkers on the frozen Silersee lake. Pic Michael Cranmer St Moritz under snow Kempinski Hote des Bains, St. Moritz
Free Fall start, St. Moritz
Verbier Let’s start with some sobering news headlines from 2017: •Avalanche in French Alps claims three members of same family- 24 January 2017 •Italy Alps avalanche: Three dead near Courmayeur- 2 March 2017 •Tyrol avalanche: Four killed in Austrian Alps snow slide- 15 March 2017 Some of these were off-piste, some, perhaps more shockingly, were on-
Beau Travel Magazine piste. After all, you spend a large sum of money on a lift pass to get you up the mountain, but also for someone to prepare, maintain, and keep safe the pistes you ski on. Off-piste is different. Switzerland, France, Austria, and Italy, each has different rules. The universal advice is always hire a local guide. But will that guarantee your safety? Clearly not. I was in Verbier, one of the world’s cult
with ski resorts and the snow sports industry to promote training and safety. “We want to break down national barriers, to standardise instruction. Sometimes distrust and rivalry overrules commonsense between countries and trainers. Dominique Perret is That’s counterthe ‘Best Freeride Skier of the Century’. productive”. Blimey! As if that isn’t On a shoulder off the 2,740 metre enough he founded ISTA and runs it with a Chassoure, he took us through avalanche passion. He’s assembled 40 experts drill: observe the who work with closely person being carried resorts for serious offpiste skiing, to sample the latest in safety teaching with the International Snow Training Academy, and, later, to see behind the scenes with Verbier’s élite patrouilleurs – the Ski Patrol.
Dominique Perret_(right) trains with avalanche probes
Verbier away; memorise the Last Seen Point; evaluate the number of victims buried; alert the rescue agencies; and so on… This was high-adrenaline, and even though the ‘victim’ was a hidden rucksack, the utter panic that would follow a real avalanche was tangible. Work as a
Beau Travel Magazine team, follow drill, probe methodically following transceiver signals, then dig, dig, dig. A victim has only minutes to survive before rescue. Later, time to reflect in the bar. “Most fatalities are avoidable. Verbier and ISTA have formed a partnership. I hope our courses will save lives”. I’ll second that.
No lie-in next morning. Up and on the 7.00am Médran lift with red-eyed pisteurs, riding a freezing gondola in pitch darkness enroute to a pre-dawn rendezvous with Verbier’s security crew; not bouncers, but bombers. Security and bombing. What? While you are tucking
into your croissant and expresso there’s a team of dedicated experts checking signage, piste markers, snow conditions and avalanche danger before they give the all-clear to open up for the day. That’s the security bit. Bombing becomes necessary when they
Avalanche at Verbier in which Swiss snowboarder champion Estelle Balet died
Victoria Jamieson Ski Patroller
Verbier judge an area too dangerous to allow skiing before the build-up of potential snowmass is brought down by blasting. That’s the ‘whoomps’ you hear while you’re putting on your boots. Victoria Jamieson is just about the most unlikely person I’d expect to be a Swiss patrouilleur. 5foot 4inches in her ski socks, a woman in what is still very much a macho men’s world, English, looking like she’d waft away in a strong breeze. “I am quite small, I suppose. I have to buy children’s ski boots” Her smile lit up the fuggy cabin filled with her fellow patrollers who were being assigned their allotted routes. “Come on, I’ll show you the explosives bunker” she laughed. That’s not an offer I could readily refuse.
Beau Travel Magazine cardboard boxes marked ‘Tovex’ sit on pallets next to bunches of corded fuses, for all the world like those ignited by cartoon villains. The ‘Tovex’ is plastic explosive packed into obscene metre-long orange sausages. Shove in a fuse, light it, and stand well back. “We drop the charges from a helicopter, or, if we can’t get close enough, one of us does it by hand”. Boom.
A wide perfectly groomed run, I let go and feel as though I’m taking flight. It’s too good to end so we pause for a chat. I find out more about this remarkable person. The first woman patroller in Verbier, she was accepted (professionally and socially)10 years ago. A former champion snowboarder she learned the slopes of Verbier hard style, breaking back and bones along the way. The near-fatal accident of a close friend made her determined to train for a mountain-rescue career.
late. He comes back every year to thank me for trying. It’s hard”. She skied ahead, lost in thought. I didn’t ski again that day, I needed to absorb the morning and enjoy being alive. www.verbier.ch/en ISTA www.istaeducation.com/en
But today no blasting is needed, so Victoria sets off with a bunch of piste-markers twice her height. No wind, butHobo theChic, coldaka feels like Adam Speight plunging my face into "What I really look a bowl of ice-cubes. forward to is just The waking sun being in the gradually washes the mountains with no distant peaks of Mont- one else around. It is Rouge and Greppon so quiet and peaceful. Blanc. Just Victoria I am lucky. I do what I and me on the do because I want to”. mountain. She skis to “I’ve rescued many The store is buried one side to replace a people. It’s my job. under the gondola wonky pole. The sky is Sometimes it’s hard station, and requires unblemished, when we can’t get two patrollers with 4 changing by the there in time. I massive sets of keys to minute as the sun’s remember one unlock the outer and rays crank the colour father…I dug his inner Fort Knox-sized spectrum from icedaughter from the doors. Stacks of blue to palest rosé. snow, but it was too 18
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Most high superresorts have satellites lower down. Courchevel has La Tania (1,350m), Méribel has Brides les Bains (600m). Prices drop here like a thermometer in an ice-bath. You run the risk of not being able to ski back due to lack of snow, but operators will always keep lifts lift passes, insurance, assuming they haven’t open. L’Alpe d’Huez, gone into meltdown clothing, equipment up with the Big Guns, hire, ski school, by now, will have has 6. I set off to try easily gone into 5 lunches, drinks, and two of them. figures. Ching! Ching! Spread your hand eating out. Ching! Ching! That’s just the out. Imagine the palm But, being essentials. Go in the is l’Alpe d’Huez, school hols, and judgemental about 250km of pistes, 80 addiction won’t help. prices rocket. Ching! lifts, highest point Go large, to Val d’ If you gotta go, you 3,330m. Your thumb Isère, this year’s most gotta go. There are becomes Vaujany popular resort. Ching! ways to cut costs (1,250m), pointy without compromise. The basic bill for our finger Oz-en-Oisans 2 nuclear families, Here’s how. (1,350m), middle
Marcels Farm Villars Reculas Alpe d Huez
Once a ski-junkie, always a ski-junkie. Cheap airlines fold, Brexit looms, the pound nosedives, snow doesn’t fall; but if you’re hooked you’ll always find a way to get your fix. Aside from yachting and owning horses there can’t be many other efficient ways of spending lots of money in a short space of time…legally that is. Given that this year’s industry-compiled stats show that the average size of a group chalet booking is 8, consider some back-of-a-fag-packet calculations: let’s say 4 adults with 4 kids are going skiing in France. They must buy: parking at airport, airfares, transfers, chalet costs,
Vaujany digit Villard-Reculas (1,500m), ring bearer Huez (1,500m), and pinkie Auris-enOisans (1,600m). All connected by lift to l’Alpe d’Huez, and all cheep-cheep cheaper. Vaujany is a village perched on a sunny hillside. Riches from a huge hydro-electric scheme, which you pass en-route up from the valley, have financed new lifts and community buildings. Not many places of its size have an indoor ice rink, swimming pool, and bowling alley, great for families, which is where where Vaujany
Beau Travel Magazine excels. With a wide range of catered chalets, and apartments, Ma and Pa Nuclear and their 2 little Nukettes can cut-back on costs. There’s a wellregarded nursery, and the local ski-school instructors really do teach in English. The biggest selling-point for me after costsaving? Hop on the 2-stage Alpette lift and be whisked to the Dôme des Petites Rousses at 2,800m. Slap-bang into the big system. A short red across to the monster Pic Blanc gondola which tops
out at 3,330m and time to tick off two runs that are on all ‘must-do’ lists: the Sarenne, sold as ‘the longest black run in the Alps’ advertised at 18kms (it’s actually more like 10.5km, but who’s counting) has a short and tricksy mogul field, depending on the conditions, the rest a long quad-quaking red. Back in time to pick up the Nukettes after their morning lesson. The other must-tick-off black requires a variation off the Sarenne leading into a tunnel. Take a tip here. Check
the conditions before you enter. If you don’t, and many don’t, you will regret it. There Is No Turning Back. At the exit you’ll see 3 things. On your left, orange safety netting with, usually, a pile-up of very nervouslooking people, then a bit further on where the netting ends, even more very-very nervous-looking people perched on the edge of an extremely steep dropoff. Then, lastly, a stunning panorama with l’Alpe d’Huez far below. Top-tip; get off to the far right hand side. This will help you
Vaujany avoid more skiers piling into you. In good conditions (remember to check first) it’s a proper black but doable by a good skier. The second satellite, Villard-Reculas, sits over the sunny bowl of its big daddy, and the run down to it is a joy in itself. A swoopy, open whoosh. I was brought up short halfway down by a large fibreglass black and white cow and sign for ‘Marcel’s Farm’. Built for Nukettes it’s a new family play area, and, here’s the best thing - adults can
Beau Travel Magazine go on it too. You’ve already met Marcel (gender neutral you’ll have spotted), now you’ll see his chums Brigitte Bridge, the goat; Reno Turbo, the dog; and Ralf Pipe, the pig. Then there’s Tina Turn, the cat, Les Grenouilles, the frogs, a series of mini bumps; and Agathe Gate, a sheep marking the gates of a mini-slalom. It’s completely bonkers and I love it. Just keep the kids away. Only joking! The village, sorry, hamlet, has a fast quad lift connecting to le Signal. Kid’s ski-
school meets here, no a beer in La Cabane. chalets (mostly self- Chalet Eterlou Oz en Oisans Michael Cranmer was catered) being more a guest of Vaujany: than 300m from www.vaujany.com hamlet-central. A and Villard-Reculas: shop, ski-hire, and www.villardbar/restaurant make reculas.com up the entirety of He stayed at Chalet Villard-Reculas. Here’s a real money- Solneige Vaujany: www.chaletsolneige.c saving spot if you om/ don’t want noisy and Chalet Le night-life. I rounded off my visit Regain: firstname.lastname@example.org with some snow shoeing just above the Ski statistics: www.consensiochalets village. After a super day on the mountains .co.uk/ski-stats-2017lastest-ski-industry-tre the noiseless crunchnds/ crunch of the snow shoes was a fine way to unwind the mind and the muscles. Followed, bien sur, by Blanc lift above l Alpe dHuez
Snowshoeing above Villard Recula
Beau Travel Magazine Samnaun duty free village
Party town, dirndlgirls, snow-sure, Top-of-the-Mountain
concerts with Robbie, some of the epithets Elton, Kylie, Tinaâ€Ś that come to mind glamour, five-star. Just when describing
Ischgl, Austria. Not bad for a once deadend village of 800 Smuggling goods from Switzerland in the 1950s
Ischgl Austria, was excluded from Swiss customs territory and granted special tax-free status. It was easier for villagers to trade with Post-WW11 a few of Austria - or to those same villagers, smuggle goods across raised from tough, the border. That status wily mountain-stock, started to change their stands to this day. hand-to-mouth existence for The Swiss had coffee, something a bit better. rice, flour, tobacco, How? By smuggling. saccharin sweetener, and spices, all impossible to get in That was, and still is, Austria. The mostdown to a quirk of prized, most desired, terrain just over the mountains. Samnaun, most hard-to-get items were American Switzerland, which in the 19th century could silk stockings. For exchange, the only be reached by Ischglers had butter, road from Spissin, inhabitants just about subsisting on what they grew or raised themselves.
Beau Travel Magazine brown face a picturebook of a life well-lived. “It was fun. Dodging the customs Emil Zangerl was in wasn’t too hard, we his teens when he joined the elite band were all much better skiers and the of Schmuggler mountains were our making the gruelling nursery, our school. 7 hour trip returning with a rucksack But if you got caught you lost all your loot. stuffed with 50 kilos of contraband. Up at That wasn’t so good” 2.00 a.m. winter and he chuckled, “No silk stockings for the summer, come poor visibility and bad girls!” weather, dodging the And there were girls, plenty of them. patrolling customs “There’s nothing like offiziere, but a forbidden fruit to guaranteed a king’s welcome in Samnaun. charm a village girl. I brought them Emil is now in his 85th American nylons with year, his lined walnut- the black seams. They meat, cheese and furs.
Ischgl’s first ski lift in 1952
Ischgl couldn’t say nein! ”
border, two Samnaun families, the Zeggs Gradually tourists and the Hangls, came and Ischgl built divvied up the spoils. its first ski lift in 1952 Hotels, bars, shops, - financed with profits everything is still from illegal exchange owned by one or deals. Smuggling other. "Duty free dwindled. The handful shopping is vital for of families that ran us," says Hubert Zegg, who runs four dutythings - the Zangerls amongst them – free shops in Samnaun under the made their fortunes that continue to this name "Zegg Shopping day. World". His brothers and sisters run several Meanwhile, across the others. Skiers and
Beau Travel Magazine bargain-hunters load up with tax-free fuel, watches, and booze, between 20 to 30% lower than nearby Austria or Germany. Regulars drive 6 hours to shop. Still maximising profits, Ischgl has created The Smugglers Circuit – with Gold, Silver, and Bronze routes. Skiers can retrace the Schmuggler tracks. I
tried the Gold with Andreas Steibl, General Manager of the Paznaun-Ischgl Tourism Association. “We’re always looking to innovate. Visitors love the idea” he told me. The 37.5 kms from Ischgl to Samnaun is quicker and easier than in Emil’s day and the long sweeping red down past frozen waterfalls has long been one of my
Gold Smugglers Route from Ischgl
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UK prices, with an allowance of 200 cigarettes, or 250gm of tobacco per adult. There’s no customs visible so it’s a big temptation, But they do get stopped sometimes when they re-enter Austria at the top of the Alp Trida, and they do get fined or the goods confiscated” Not a sign of any offiziere today though. Good Over a heiße schokolade mit rum in job I didn’t have any Samnaun Andy filled Rolexes tucked away me in on modern-day down my thermals. smuggling. “It does go on, sure. For Our wily smuggler example, cigarettes Emil Zangerl later turned ski instructor, are about a third of favourite runs in the area. There’s an app which works offline to track your route, passing checkpoints along the way. Log all in order and you’ll stand the chance of daily, weekly, and season prizes, tops being 3 nights in a 4star hotel, ski pass and concert tickets. Not bad.
Ischgl smuggler Emil Zangerl
mountain guide, and founder of Silvrettaseilbahn AG, the ski-lift company with a current annual turnover of €200m. Along the way he did a spot of poaching, had two heart bypasses and a pacemaker fitted; oh, and has ten grandchildren.
Did the latter have anything to do with his popularity with the girls all those years ago, I wonder? He broke into a toothy smile, looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, and said “Well, I
didn’t do me any harm. I didn’t always get paid in money for my services”. Can you remember when you last did any smuggling? “Yes, of course...last year”. Michael Cranmer was a guest of Inghams at the 4* Hotel Seiblishof www.inghams.co.uk/s ki-holidays www.ischgl.com
Le Grand Bornand
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Le Grand Bornand with La Chaîne des Aravis behind
Sometimes it’s best to admit your ignorance. Now I’ve been skiing for a fair old while and I’ve ticked off quite a few resorts. But Le Grand Bornand? Mmm, no, I don’t seem to remember that one. This was an invitation with a difference, to spend some ‘quality time’ with very, very good friends. He was recovering from a heart op from which he’d been given a single-figure percent
chance of survival. If he did, the blunt prognosis was that he’d be unlikely to be able to walk again, let alone ski. For a man to whom skiing meant everything (apart, perhaps, from Watford FC) that was unconscionable. So he simply ignored the diagnosis and set about learning to walk again. After months of pain and exhaustion he was back on his feet. Next goal, to ski.
The phone call went like this, “Hello, old chum. We’re taking an apartment for a month in Le Grand Bornand. Fancy coming out for a week and doing a bit of skiing? Let me know the dates and we’ll pick you up at Geneva Airport”. Not wishing to question his sanity, or ability to ski, I, of course, said yes. Out came the skier’s bible, ‘Where to Ski and Snowboard’, to
find out about Le Grand Bornand. It’s in France, an hour from Geneva. (Thank goodness for that. Considering my pal had only just learned to walk, heaven knows how his driving might be). Part of the Aravis ski area of Le Grand-Bornand, La Clusaz, Manigod, and Saint-Jean-de-Sixt. Ah, I’d been to La Clusaz before. My bible had described the village as ‘charming’ as 28
Le Grand Bornand
indeed it was, a proper old alpine community with the newer sympathetic development of Le Chinaillon higher up the valley where the apartment was. We stopped in the village to get skis. I always plump for Intersport with their nationwide network of shops stocking top-quality gear and the best local advice. Lionel and Elodie run the Le Charvet branch and, as well as sorting me
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out with excellent skis, brewed a fine expresso. It’s always exciting to open the curtains the morning after arriving somewhere in the dark. Bang opposite, the sun was just sneaking a look over the summit of what turned out to be the 2,100m Mont Lachat. Looking good. Thinking my friend would need some building up, I’d carefully packed halfa-dozen eggs from
my hens at home for brekkie. As he poached the ones that hadn’t cracked in my bag, he updated me on matters medical. Feeling physically stronger each day, but still extremely nervous like a bride on her wedding night, he’d put skis on and done a short run. But today was the Big One. By now the sun was up, the sky was blue, and not a cloud to spoil the view (to paraphrase Mr Holly);
time to explore Le Grand Bornand. We were after quality, a day to remember, to appreciate, to take pleasure in simply being able to be there. Neither of us voiced these momentous thoughts as we worked our way over to a stunning ridge called Les Col des Annes and a hot chocolate on the terrace of the restaurant. By now the piste was beginning to soften in the sun. 29
Le Grand Bornand
Beau Travel Magazine Le Grand Bornand
Time to go. The tension was palpable, but melted away as we settled into relaxed crisply carved turns, edges cutting our signatures on the snow. He paused in the dip of the wide valley, by an old church, “Can you take some pics of me skiing? I want to send them to my surgeon and the nurses who said I’d never walk again”. Then he said, “You know what. It’s a year to the day when I nearly died”. It’s as
well we both had dark glasses on. One of the joys of Le Grand Bornand is skiing down to the village and sauntering through the Wednesday market, absorbing ordinary daily life away from the other high-altitude world. This is the home of Reblochon cheese, with local producteurs selling as they have done since the 13thC. The eastern horizon is dominated by the extra-ordinary sight of La Chaîne des Aravis
like a backcloth of crumpled white paper, at the southern end of which lies La Clusaz, our destination for the next day. My lift pass, which covered all 4 areas, was a fraction of the prices of some of the super-resorts. I remembered little of my first visit here apart from the super cruising area of Beauregard, perfect for confidencebuilding. Sunny, wide pistes flanked by trees. I expected us to take it nice and easy,
a long lazy lunch, and a beer or two later. Oh no! He was having none of it. “Let’s try something a bit steeper. The snow’s in great nick” said the man who’d come back from the dead 366 days ago. On the ridge at the top of the 2,477m Col de Balme, there’s one of those viewpoints where you survey the countryside like a conquering hero. Mont Blanc seemingly in touching distance under a 30
Le Grand Bornand
Beau Travel Magazine My pal on the Blanchette red run La Clusaz
flawless sky to one side and Le Grand Bornand snuggled in the valley behind us. I’d been able to see the route all the way up from the chairlift and I had serious doubts that we’d make it down without a call to security. It was steep and relentlessly long, well within a fit, skilled skier’s capability, but, for somebody who’d been in an induced vegetative state in Intensive Care for a month, not so clever.
phrase ‘a significant one’. Something began to dawn on me I was wrong. I’m not when we took the sure exactly what he was out to prove to wrong way back. The himself, but he did it. I lifts were shut which might involve a hike pulled ahead and to the car. As we took pictures as my friend gave a textbook rounded a shoulder of ski demonstration. the hill I saw an icebar throbbing with My own birthdays are music and aprèsnot something I make skiers. Unable to pass such an opportunity a fuss over. Other people’s yes, but I we stopped, and, as I took my helmet and prefer to keep mine googles off, the entire quiet. It just so bar full of strangers happened that this particular day was, to burst into ‘Happy Birthday’. My best use that ghastly I’d seen his scars.
buddy had got me.
Those were two days I shall never forget.
Equipment hire: www.intersportgrandbornand.com/m agasin Area information: www.lakeannecyskiresorts.com
Parapente Le Grand Bornand
Val d’ Isère
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Mimie Favrel picnics in Le Lounge Solais Val d Isere
vital in my book. I’m constantly asked, “What’s your favourite Sure, there are some ski resort?” minus points; it’s not Shuffle, quizzical look, been great for the nervous or beginners ponder, ermm…”I don’t have one. It’s in (I’ll get to that a bit later); sometimes a bit the moment. I depends on who I’m too ‘macho’; a bit with; the weather; the run-down in parts of snow. But there are a the town (I’ll get to few that are always up that also). there.” Val d’ Isère is Let’s delve a bit one. deeper. First-off, I should be calling it How could it not be? A huge variety of Val d’ Isère /Tignes. opportunities on and Why? Well, it’s been twinned with uglyoff-piste, guaranteed sister Tignes by snow, great accommodation of all committee decree grades, night-life for since 2015. (Dunno all tastes, and…style, which committee.
Don’t care. They’re all demented) Before that bit of genius rebranding it had been named Espace Killy in honour of its favourite son, JeanClaude Killy, 60’s triple Olympic champion skier, style icon, magnet for beautiful women, race-car driver, filmstar. Yes, in the global game of ‘our-resortis-bigger-than-yours’ it’s handy adding kilometres of excellent skiing to Val d’ Isère’s already huge itinerary by plonking the two onto a single lift-pass and map, but why try
and change the name? Everyone still calls it Espace Killy anyway.
To come back to my criticism about not being great for beginners or the nervous in the past, that’s been sorted by the opening of the new Solaise area.
There’s a lot to take in about this stonking €16m development: hop on one of 91 black-painted, black heated-seats, blackwindowed gondolas and take the 7 minute ride up. If you’re lucky 34
Val d’ Isère you’ll be in one with a glass floor (there are two). From here you get a drone’s-eye view of another black - the jaw-droppingly steep La Face World Cup race piste. Off the lift and onto the new beginner’s area with learning slopes and a little slalom, linked by three covered magic carpets. At the centre is a truly fabulous day lodge, Le Lounge. If the sun’s shining, sit on bean bags outside, if it’s cold go inside for comfy sheepskinclad chairs and sofas, vending
Beau Travel Magazine machines, kid’s film shows, table football, a microwave oven, and a café selling expresso and a croissant for €2.50. Yes! Not a misprint. Must be the cheapest in the Alps. For me the joy of Le Lounge is Le PiqueNique. The higher up any ski resort you go, prices rocket accordingly. Factor in the glam of Val with its twinkle of Michelin stars and the average cost of lunch for a family of four won’t leave change from €100. French restauranteurs are less
than welcoming to those practicing the surreptitious piquenique. I decided to prove that it’s possible to enjoy a Michelin-style lunch, with wine, in classy surroundings at 2,560 metres for under €10 without being thrown out, so I did some early shopping and in my rucksack had an excellent bottle of local Chignon, a tranche of pâté de foie gras, a loaf from Patrick Chevallot’s bakery (he’s one of France’s twenty-five Master Bakers) and
fresh strawberries. Total cost? €32 The scrumptious spread was laid out in Le Lounge, framed by a massive picture window and nothing but glorious mountains. It soon attracted the attention of fellow picnickers Mimie Favrel and her family, so I shared the scoff around. A gourmet lunch for around €8 per and no tip needed. While on the subject of food, Val (getting familiar now) is packed with high-end restaurants, some of which I’ve been lucky
Le Solaise (centre) Table d’Orientation piste(from centre to left) Val d’Isere
Val d’ Isère enough to try. But fancy-food is not really my thing. I much prefer simple no-nonsense nosh. The family-run Chez Paulo has everything I want, authentic Italian food, great wines, and a plate du jour at 17 euros that won’t break the bank. Situated in the Rond Point des Pistes, it’s slap-bang next to the ‘Best Ski Hire Shop in Europe’ (so proclaims their brochure). We’re talking about Snowberry, run by a force-of-nature named Jock Dun. Why are they the best,
Beau Travel Magazine I asked him? “My team of pros start with the boots and 10 steps to the perfect fitting, only then, when you are satisfied, do they move on to help you select skis from our range of 120 newseason models. When everyone is happy, we even give you a complimentary lift to the piste”. It’s at the other end of town that changes are happening. Remember my grouse about some parts being ‘a bit rundown’? Well not for long. In the biggest
redevelopment in the French Alps for more than 20 years Le Coin de Val will add 900 new guest beds, two luxury hotels, two tourist residences, shops, and restaurants. Before you start thinking ‘committee’ it’s clear to me that this is being done right. With traditional Savoyarde architecture, recycled snowmelt and water systems, geothermal heating, and ski-in accommodation, it isn’t coming cheap. The bill? €200m. To accommodate the
scheme, some relocation is necessary. The rickety, brilliant Banana Bar, and Dick’s T Bar will be reborn in Le Coin. Property companies are already selling apartments off-plan at prices that rise by the week. And then, what next? I hear buzz of further improvements down towards La Daille. No wonder Val d’ Isère is European Ski Resort of the Year. My visit was the lastbut-one-week of the season. Cloudless, gin-clear skies after cracklingly-cold nights. Four cms. of
Le Coin de Val development
Val d’ Isère powder fell - as unexpected as a lottery win. Val d’ Isère had not let me down. Time to find the element that would round it off…an impeccable Dirty Dry Vodka Martini. All local advice and fairly exhaustive testing was pointing in one direction – a certain David, barman in Le Blizzard, the name on everyone’s lips. David Rivet is a tall, tanned, elegant Français, immaculately clad, when I met him, in tartan trousers, blue waistcoat, sharp shirt and tie. “A Dirty Dry Vodka Martini? Of course. How do you like it? Please, sit down and leave things to me” There followed a pause, best described by Raymond Chandler in The Long Goodbye: ‘I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and put the little folded napkin beside it. I like to taste it slowly. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar - that’s wonderful.’
Beau Travel Magazine David Rivet Le Blizzard barman and Dirty Dry Vodka Martini.
David did not disappoint. We talked. “I make cocktails by instinct; 20% connaissance, 80% psychologie”. His trousers? “I go to Scotland to buy the cloth. It is Hamilton Red Modern tartan. I
have it made up in Paris”. Here was a man of style. Killy would have proud of him.
Michael Cranmer was a guest of Val d’ Isère: www.valdisere.com He stayed at Hôtel Le
Blizzard: www.hotelblizzard.co m/en Snowberry: www.snowberryvaldisere.com
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Let’s be honest and up front from the start. Les Menuires has always been a bit of a joke. Known colloquially as ‘Les Manures’. Seen as the chav cousin of the Three Valleys family. But that’s all changing.
Hands up, I confess to being as bad as the rest, my prejudice reinforced by what little I saw as I skied past en-route from Méribel to Val Thorens. A ‘Blade Runner’ dystopia cloned from 60s inner city high-rises gone horribly wrong.
Who’d want to stay there?
Well, I was about to.
La Compagnie des Alpes who own and run the joint, are pioneering attractive chalet-style ‘burbs, light-years away from the dingy, cramped
self-catering blocks that still cluster round the La Croisette, the just-about-still-beating heart of the old ‘Manures’. There are five new satellites, La Sapinière, Les Bruyères, Les Bouquetins, and
Beau Travel Magazine Telemark instructor shows how its done
Reberty 1850 and 2000 all traditionalstyle, small-scale, and upmarket. Respected British tour operators like Erna Low, Ski Amis, and Ski Famille have invested heavily here, clearly spotting the potential. I’d been invited to Chalet Le Chamois up in
Reberty 2000 one of a select handful run by Steve Pangli & Francesca Smith, Powder N Shine owners/co-directors. Over a welcome glass of bubbly on the sunny balcony, I asked Francesca why they chose this location “It’s high, so
gets the early season snow, you ski-in and out, the backdrop from the balcony (and hot-tub) of Cime de Caron is magnificent, and you feed straight in to everything the Three Valleys has to offer. Add 4 course meals from our trained chef, fine
wines and service, and you’ll understand why we won the 2017 Best For Luxury Ski Trips and Chalets Award”. I’m beginning to get the message. Not a tower block in sight. Francesca, also a competitive ski-racer, 39
Les Menuires showed me the slopes next day. The Jewel in the Crown of this sector is Les Masses. On the opposite shady side of the valley, so preserving snow later in the season, there are some seriously good reds and blacks which sweep fast for hundreds of metres with hardly a soul in sight…including Francesca, who’d got her racing head on and left me to ‘eat her dust’. Few, ticking off the kilometres on the Three Valleys circuit, venture down this
Beau Travel Magazine side. They don’t know what they’re missing.
Any mass-market resort has to put ‘bums on seats’ and Le Menuires is no exception. The dip in bookings between the busy holidays and the end of the season pose problems. In common with many other resorts the gaps are filled with ‘special weeks’. La Croisette had been packed with pink until a few days before I arrived with thousands attending European Gay Ski Week. Discounted
accommodation and lift passes, and their ‘Infamous Pool Party’ and ‘Bottomless Brunch’ were on offer. A trifle nippy, one would have thought, at this height. Midday lunch was booked at Le Chalet du Sunny off the David Douillet piste. The quiet terrace gave splendid views over the mountainside, but I began to notice odd people in fancy-dress ordering at the bar. Then, loud music started, echoing off the hill as 2,000 Polish Students arrived
behind the restaurant for their annual Snowshow Music Fest. Only one thing to do…join in the madness. No trouble, no drunkenness, just a bunch of happy kids enjoying life. One of my favourite runs in all the Three Valleys is from the edge of the Méribel sector at le Roc des Trois Marches 2,704m, down, down, down, past the remains of the old coal mines (menuires is a corruption of the local name) which are great fun to swoop Michael Cranmer
Polish Ski Week
over. Crowds are left far behind while facing you is the unspoiled Vallée des Encombres. I always pause here to drink in the peace. Finally, Biolley wends its way down to the lovely Saint Martin de Bellville, another favourite, transformed from the once tiny village huddled round the church, to a lunchtime helicopterdrop- off-for-lunchMichelin-3-star-€295a head sort of place. My taste is much simpler, however. Keep an eye open on the left for an old farm chalet with the
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name Le Corbeleys and stop! We were welcomed by brother and sister Bruno Suchet and Martine Bal-Suchet, whose great-grandparents built the farm 120 years ago. Later after a wonderful lunch, time to chat. “When the Three Valleys were first developed as a ski area in 1985, we decided to convert the farm into a restaurant” Bruno told me, “Good mountain food, not much different from what we served you today. There was nothing in Saint Martin then. The ski lift, that was it. I
Bruno Suchet and Martine Bal-Suchet Le Corbeleys
had an idea. I put a little table and chair on the snow, and took bookings for ski instruction. Just me!” Bruno and Martine toasted the memory with a glass of red. A truly Happy Family. Any prejudices about Les Menuires had been erased. But I’m not going to correct anyone who still patronisingly calls it by its old moniker. Why should I? I’ll be back to enjoy it in peace. One last pleasure awaited after Francesca waved off the taxi taking me to Bourg Saint
Maurice…home by train. No ghastly transfer, no shuffling check-in at Geneva, no 2 hour wait. I was going by TGV, and sat back in comfort, the odd glass of wine, and no changes until St Pancras. Nothing chavvy about all that! www.powdern shine.com/thechalets/le-chamois/ uk.voyagessncf.com/en en.lesmenuires.com/ www.lecorbeleys.com/
View of Les Menuires from Les Masses
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