All posts by Jim Duncombe

A guide to Savoie food

A Guide to Savoie Food and its traditions

Keen British skiers flock to France each winter for the country’s spectacular ski slopes, vibrant après ski, wonderful family facilities and catered chalet holidays.

But there’s one more thing which keeps us coming back for more each year, the food! Not just in the chalets but on the slopes and in the resort restaurants.

Meribel - Savoie

History of Savoie Food

A large part of the French Alps sits across the Savoie region, and like any other region or départment in France, the Savoie has its own unique cultural, historical, political and social background.

A hugely varied terrain, much of the Savoie is covered by high-altitude mountain plateaux, steep gradients, deep river valleys, farmland and lakes, plus of course huge swathes of the land are covered in snow for half the year, so the people who historically lived and travelled here were very hardy folk.

Food sources had to be readily available and that meant their diet largely consisted of hardy vegetables, cheeses and cured meats.

Since the turn of the twentieth century, the Savoie has changed from a largely agricultural terrain to an area more readily associated with tourism and skiing, but the cuisine of the area is inextricably linked to the Savoie itself and over the years has proven hugely popular amongst skiing visitors from all corners of the globe – so much so that for many people the Savoie food is now a major reason to return to France for the annual ski trip!

 

The Ingredients

Savoyarde cooking relies exclusively on products and ingredients from the area and, because of this, is unmistakably authentic. Staple ingredients include potatoes, which were grown over the summer and stored during harsh winters, and cheeses.

Of course, being an Alpine territory cheese making has always been a hugely popular pursuit in the Savoie and abondance, Beaufort, Tome and of course Reblochon cheeses all work wonderfully well with traditional Savoyarde fare. Cured meats also form a large part of the Savoyarde dishes we enjoy today, and they feature in a number of traditional recipes.

Fondue

Perhaps the most instantly recognisable of all the Savoyard dishes, fondue is like no other meal! Wonderfully convivial and great fun to enjoy with friends, eating fondue involves placing hard bits of bread onto a skewer and dipping it into a pot of melted cheese.

There are two schools of thought on the history of the meal, one a lot more fun and interesting than the other. The traditional view is that fondue came about when poor mountain farming communities had experienced lean times and were forced to make meals out of nothing more than stale bread and hard cheese, so they melted the cheese down and ate it with the tough bread as a warm and hearty meal. The truth of the matter, if you believe the nay-sayers, is a lot less intriguing… fondue came about as little more than a marketing ploy to get punters

The truth of the matter, if you believe the nay-sayers, is a lot less intriguing… fondue came about as little more than a marketing ploy to get punters into restaurants when skiing because popular in the Alps. I know which one I’m happier believing!

Raclette

Named after the cheese it’s made with, raclette is another wonderfully convivial dining experience – there are more flavours at play than with the fondue as well, and it’s a complete meal.

Potatoes are cooked in a pan of boiling water with the skins on, and placed on a plate alongside pickled gherkins, picked onions and a selection of dried meats.

Then diners take melted slices of raclette cheese and pour them over the dish before tucking in. It’s a hearty meal and leaves you fit to burst!

 Tartiflette

For a dish with as much flavour as tartiflette, it’s surprisingly simple to make. Butter is melted in a frying pan then finely chopped onions, bacon bits and thinly sliced potatoes are added.

Once the potatoes are nearly cooked you put them in an oven proof dish, layered with the bacon bits and onions. Then you cover the dish in strips of reblochon cheese and bake until melted and browned.

Tartiflette is a very old and very traditional Savoyarde recipe, but it’s one that anybody can try. Wonderfully simple to prepare, it tastes amazing and goes well with a crisp Savoyarde white wine.

These Savoyarde dishes are all wonderful in their own ways, and although no trip to the Alps is complete without one they are also perfectly simple to make and enjoy at home.

It’s all pretty carbohydrate-heavy though, but if you’re feeling too full after one of these dishes a shot or two of Genepi, the Savoie’s own digestif spirit, will sort you out in no time at all!

 


A great place to taste all these delicious dishes is the 3 Valleys. We have catered accommodation in Méribel and La Tania.

Go to our website for more details.

www.alpineaction.co.uk


Signs that spring is the mountains

7 Signs that spring has arrive in the mountains

Fresh dumps of snow

Fresh Snow

The end of March and the start of April were once times that dedicated skiers would try and avoid the slopes. But over the last few years these 6 weeks have seen an increase in big fresh dumps of snow. The snow that falls in spring may not stay around as long but when it falls it is light, fluffy and often accompanied by blue skies.

Outrageous tan lines

A goggle mark has always been more of a statement rather than a lax approach to sunscreen application. And the best time to get yours is during the spring months. But why stop at a goggle mark when there are T-shirt lines to collect on your arms, neck and rear.

The sighting of Marmots

Marmot

To some these are mythical creatures that only exist in souvenir shops or name of the piste where you were meant to meet your partner after their ski lesson. To others the appearance of these giant rodents is a sign that spring is here and the summer is on it’s way.

Mini Festivals

The alpine festival is a growing trend, Méribel alone can boast of the Ronnie Loves Music Festival, the Piste Basher Festival and the 3 Valleys Charity Day (festival). Once the posters for these start to go up we know that we are in for a good time and that spring has arrived.

Rocks

piste sign meribel

Rocks are a part of the spring experence and other than the petex manafacures, no one enjouys their appearence. First the big ones that form the landscape start to appear then slowly smaller ones start to popup on the lowere slopes and busy intersections. By the final week of the season, (if its hasn’t dumped), part of the game is to dodge the rocks.

Sunbathing lifties

An iconic image of a ski resort in spring is the sunbathing liftie. Over the years the resorts have become more customer focused and the role of the lift operator  more responsible this sight happens less and less. But when it does you can’t but think…. “ I’d quite like that job”.

Puddles to skim

2010 Puddle Jump

You know the drill, you spot a puddle or melted pond, you point it out to your group, then you watch someone effortly skim across it on skis. The challenge is on. One of your group heads back the chalet early to dry off. In some resorts this is now a major event, don’t let your mate enter!

Take a look at our spring ski deals or call us for more information.


How Green is Méribel

Find out how Méribel reduces its environmental impact

You may be surprised to discover that Méribel is, environmentally speaking, considered a very green ski resort. Unlike the green runs which only accounts for 9% of the resort’s pistes. The Ski Club of Great Britain has identified 7 initiatives that ski resorts should be implementing for it to be considered an environmental friendly ski resort.

Only 2 resorts in Europe have the full 7 in place, and only 11 in France are implementing 6 green initiatives. Méribel is one of the 11 and is well on the way to having all 7 initiatives in place, making it the greenest resort in the 3 Valleys, although Courchevel has more green runs.

green2

Why is Méribel so green

The resort, along with the whole of the 3 valleys, source the energy needed to power the lifts and cannons from renewable sources in the form of hydro electric dams that are located throughout the local area. Local water  is also used to create the snow made by the cannons and comes from the nearby Ariondaz dam.IMG_0301

Renewable energy

The ski area also uses solar energy to power all radio communications that keep the slopes safe and maintained. There are also plans to ensure the ice rink and swimming pool are powered by renewable energy.

As part of its green plan Méribel encourages people to walk. Which may seem a simple solution but it makes a big difference in reducing the traffic in the valleys villages. The town has invested lots of money into ensuring there are safe walkways and that they are maintained throughout the winter.

Where it is clear that walking would be a bit to much the resort lays on a free bus service at a cost of 1 Million euros per season but it helps to reduce the need for private cars and local emissions so it is a worth while investment. The resort also has a policy of free open air parking or affordable underground parking.

Rubbish and Recycling 

Litter has always been an issue in ski resorts and we have all heard stories about the amount of rubbish and cigarette butts that appear under chairlifts as the snow melts in the spring.

Méribel is very proactive in discouraging skiers and boarders from littering and educating them about the impact throwing rubbish of chairlifts has. Despite all this there still needs to be organised mountain cleans at the end of every season.

The town has always had a recycling policy, just ask your chalet host how much time they spend ensuring the waste that the chalet generates gets put into the correct bin.

Architecture

One of the joys of Méribel is the architecture. There are no hideous high-rises and modern monstrosities that you find in many nearby ski resorts, this is down to the strict 80 year old building code of the town

It was’t probably introduced for environmental reasons but the policy of only using stone, wood and slate for building as well as strict height restrictions has minimised the environmental impact the development of the resort had had on the mountain.

Can Méribel It be greener?

Of course it could be more environmentally friendly, which ski resort couldn’t be. However, Méribel is working towards it. They are close to complying with the ISO 14001 which is an international standard of environmental management. Take a look at the ISO website if you want to find out more about the ISO 14001, but in short it is good for our planet and good for Méribel.

If you want to book a ski holiday to one of Europe greenest ski resorts take a look at our chalets in Méribel.

 


FIRST SKI HOLIDAY WITH CHILDREN : PART 4 – The best holiday ever

Why our first ski trip was the best holiday.

I recently spoke to someone who had read the first few of my blogs about taking the family skiing. They told me that I had made it sound a bit stressful. Maybe they were referring to part 1 where we missed the flight , maybe it was the daily dash to ski school or it could have been the restaurant experience.

I would like to reassure everyone that we really did have a wonderful time on our ski holiday to Méribel. So much so that we have booked another ski holiday in spring, only this time we are driving.

Read about the rest of the trip
Part 1 : Part 2 : Part 3

I can truly say that it was the best family holiday we have been on so far.

Everyone had a lot of fun and it has been the topic of conversation since. I often have this conversation with the youngest who didn’t even really get to ski, “Go skiing now daddy?”… “ermm, no, we’re going to nursery”… “awwwww. Wanna go skiing”. Which is both very pleasing and irritating in equal measure.

When I questioned my 4 year old on the best thing she has ever done the answer was “skiing”, although when the same question was put to her by Grandma the response was “helping you plant flowers”.

 

Why was it so good?

Being proud is an important part of being a parent and there are many moments that will bring out that feeling, such as the first time they sleep through the night, writing their name or getting good exam results.

But none of that comes close to the selfish feeling of pride when they show a glimpse of interest in a passion of yours. I felt that on the the first day of Ski School when she was excited about going, then displayed as much skill as a 4 year old can when pointed down a hill on skies for the first time. Crucially she wanted to do it again and again. It was a very proud moment.

Another moment of family bliss came when we all sat down in a bar in Méribel Centre and all enjoyed a hot chocolate after spending the afternoon on beginner slope. The time was spent being shown what was learned at ski school, sledging and general sliding about. The sun moved on and we started to feel a bit tired and chilly. We head for Evolution and all sat down with our drink and a collective feeling of contentment. Once the warmth had returned to our extremities and the sugar rush has started to kick in, we were back out on the slopes earning our next moment.

I spent many years working in the Alps, single and childless, watching families get ready for the slopes. It always looked hard work and far from relaxing. I always assumed that stress would follow them around the mountain. But once out the door the pace changes, family life slows down and unlike many holidays you work as a unit, sharing a joy in the same pursuit.

Within a few days you settle into a routine and have learnt to be prepared to leave the chalet in time for ski school in an efficient manner that still eludes you at home when trying to get to work via school/nursery. But that’s probably because you don’t really want to go to work.

There were many firsts on this trip. The one I will remember the most was at 6am on the first morning. We were all awake and discovered that it had snowed. Understandably they were very excited.  I opened the door just enough to peer out. As it turns out it was also just enough for the children to squeeze past. And so their first introduction to fresh snow was barefoot in pyjamas being chased by parents, similarly dressed, shouting warnings about the dangers of frostbite.

The future bond

As a ski trip is unlike many other types of holidays it develops a special place on the Family calendar. I have noticed that the family ski trip lasts well past leaving home and for many becomes as important as birthdays and Christmas, as an occasion to get together. I think it is because it is a shared passion and everyone can sit round the chalet dining table at the end of the day and share their stories. Or it could just be that the parents are paying and you can’t turn down a ski holiday.

Read about the rest of the trip
Part 1 : Part 2 : Part 3


If you are looking to book a holiday for your family, young or old, then give us a call and chat about your next trip – tel:01273466535


How to beat the post ski holiday blues

Guide: How to beat the end of ski trip blues

After a great week of skiing, delicious food in your catered chalet and little bit of aprés it is hard not to feel a little blue on the run back to the airport. There isn’t a 100% cure to the glumness inside but there are ways you can make yourself feel a bit better…

Talk about buying a place in the alps

“Maybe we should all chip in and buy a place in the alps” is how the conversation starts. You all know deep down that it won’t actually happen but that doesn’t stop anyone. Before the coach has arrived at the airport you have started a WhatsApp group and are sharing links to wildly unaffordable properties. One member of the group provides a spreadsheet breaking down costs that unlike your home has zero outgoings. In the arrivals hall while waiting for your luggage you all agree to look at how much you can afford to “put in” and promise to meet up soon to discuss it. You all leave happy and dreaming about the chalet you will never buy.

Consider a job as a chalet host

To avoid the post-ski holiday blues you could look into getting a job in the Alps next winter. Start by asking your host/driver/rep on that last day if they are enjoying their season. Undoubtedly they will say yes and stir up your desire even more. You can then spend the next few days after your trip applying for jobs and imagining how good you will be at skiing by the end of next season.

Book your next ski holiday

Beating the blues is all about having the next thing to look forward to. If you are out early in the season you could always book another ski holiday that season. Or you can start planning next winter’s ski trip and maybe go all out and put the deposit down. As they say booking a holiday is almost as exciting as going on one. It is worth noting that booking a ski holiday a season in advance can often be cheaper as many tour operators will honour the current season price.

Concoct an epic ski trip

Why stop at dreaming about your next ski holiday. Why not plan an epic snow chasing adventure like Travis Rice in The Fourth Phase in an attempt to abolish the sadness. You could keep it local and plan to ride every dry slope in the UK. Or maybe dream of riding a mountain on every continent, just imagine ticking off Antartica.

Buy some new ski kit.

For instant gratification get online and buy some stuff. During your holiday you will have decided that something needs replacing, maybe your jacket is a bit drafty or your goggles are scratched. It could be that you are still skiing in rear entry boots. A post ski holiday spending binge is the perfect way to cheer yourself up. Plus you get the 2nd tier of excitement when they arrive in the post and a 3rd wave of joy when after 10 months of never actually using whatever you ordered you discover it just before your next trip.

Start eating mountain style at home

They say food invokes memories so why not spend the week after your trip trying to recreate that meal you fell in love with that your chalet host cooked. Or maybe if you want more cheese and cream google a recipe for Tartiflette and indulge in some traditional Savoie food. You could even dig out the fondue kit that you found in the house when you moved in. Then get the ingredient from the supermarket and invite some friends round to indulge in melted fromage and ski stories.

Watch a ski or snowboard movie

Your final option is to wallow a bit longer, pull on your PJ’s, crack open a bottle of wine and stick a pizza in the oven. Then choose your favourite winter sports movie, snuggle up on the sofa, reminisce about the fun you had during your trip and dream of next time.


If you need some help getting over this year’s trip by planning for next year then take a look at our catered ski chalets in La Tania and Méribel. Or give us a call on 01273 466535.

Don’t miss out on our latest offers, blog and snow reports


How safe are you on the slopes quiz?

Do you know how safe you are on the piste? Take our quiz and see if you need to brush up on the mountain code of conduct!

 

Why you should consider spring skiing

Officially winter ends on the 20th of March. The beginning of spring traditionally heralds the arrival of warmer weather, bird song and flowers coming into bloom.

So why would you head to the mountains for some skiing or snowboarding at this time of the year? Because spring in the mountains is great fun, there is some wonderful skiing to do and plenty of other things to get up to.

The Snow

We can’t promise you endless bluebird powder days in spring but more snow fall in the spring than you think. We looked at the snowfall for the 6 week spring period in the alps over the last five years and found that on average 49cm of snow fell in the period. Spring snow accounts for 14% of all the season’s snowfall. This can easily match the snowfall recorded during December in the same seasons.

When we looked at the base depths on the piste in spring they compared almost like for like with the depths of December. Naturally the snow is starting to melt as spring settles in and it is often the case that at the very end of April the charts start to tail off. However, for many of the season we looked at spring starts when the snow depth is at its peak.

Spring Snow 2016

Simply put skiing in spring is as fun and varied as the rest of the season only a little bit warmer.

The Sun

During the spring the average temperatures is around 11° which is a lot warmer than you can expect in January when the average is just above freezing at 2°.

 

In the middle of winter in Méribel there is around 75 hours of sunshine over 28 days. Once spring arrives there is in excess of 175 hours of sunshine throughout the month.

The Fun

It is during these months that the sun terraces start jumping into action with more outside gigs starting happen, BBQ’s appear and of course there is loads more sunbathing to be done.

Photo : 3 Valleys Charity Day Facebook

In Spring Méribel gears itself up for some great outdoor parties including the Ronnie Loves Music Festival with Norman Jay MBE, The Sunset Sons and Craig Charles.. There is also the amazing Three Valleys Charity day hosted by the LDV’s in Méribel Village.

 

If you fancy a week skiing in the spring then give us a call on 01273 466535 or take a look at our latest offers. 


First ski holiday with children : Part 3 – Playing and relaxing

How I entertained my children when we weren’t skiing.

When you plan a holiday “relaxing” would probably appear in capital letters and a bold font in your word cloud. Another highlighted word will be your choice of activity, my guess is that for many people it would be “beach”. My choice is skiing. With its hot tubs, after exercise socialising and tranquil scenery this “extreme sport” holiday is a very relaxing way to spend a week, that is until you invite your young children along for the first time.

Read Part One      –       Read Part Two

The first few days of my holiday had already involved missed flights and manic rushes to ski school, allowing me to tick off the extreme part of my vacation checklist before I had even hit the slopes. I spent some time skiing with my wife, drinking wine and eating delicious food. Relaxing box ticked. This left me with only one part of the holiday brief left to fill, “Spending time with the Family”. Luckily in Méribel there is plenty to do to entertain the children.

Sledging

Playing with Albert Action

In my head sledging involved me standing around watching my 2 and 4 year old children slide down and then gleefully running back up with the sled in tow, repeatedly until exhausted. In reality it involved an argument over the sledge colour, me towing a convoy of child laden sledges across a variety of terrain followed by the children gleefully sliding down and me running back with a full sled in tow repeatedly until exhausted.

Like many other parents we also chose not to use the allocated tobogganing area to allow our children to play in. Instead we chose a spot that was less distance to get to but ultimately more perilous. This meant that in between being a human tow, I spent my time flinching and shouting “désolé” as a fine ballet of near misses involving skiers, snowboarders and underage sledgers was performed in front of me. Untill now I have often wondered who these type of families were.

Eating

In the UK there is no trust between restaurant owners and dinners, which is why we have seen a sharp decline, almost to the point of extinction, of the humble tablecloth. In France there is little evidence of the disappearance of either trust or tablecloths. For one lunch we headed to Le Refuge a favourite restaurant of mine that is full of tables with tablecloths on and delicious pizza.

I am the sort of parent that winces at badly behaved children in restaurants, when in fact it isn’t bad behaviour it is normal behaviour in an adult environment. When it comes to my own children I tend to eat fast, over compensate with politeness, while paralysed with embarrassment. With our children inevitably under the table tugging on a table cloth with more glassware than we currently own, I ate fast, apologised profusely and left with redder cheeks then I went in with.

Skiing

Outside of ski school I wanted to do some skiing with my daughter. The experience was similar to sledging in so much as I decided to return to the same location. Unsurprisingly after only two lessons she wasn’t quite ready for that mildly challenging red despite what my bravardad feelings were telling me. I spent a very happy afternoon towing my daughter up a mild incline and watching her straight line the slope while avoiding everyone that cut across her line.

Our 2 year old had made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t happy with the lack of skiing at the nursery he was attending. To make up for this I negotiated a loan of kit from my older child. He was thrilled and much better that I expected… maybe good enough for a difficult green?

Riding the lifts

It was agreed between us that on some of the afternoons one parent would head off and go skiing leaving the other to entertain the children. Sensibly, during her turn my wife opted for cake and games in the sanctity of the chalet. I thought I would show them the mountain. My goal was a voyage of discovery through the snowy peaks on gondola ships with a final destination of La Folie Douce. As a whole family we boarded the Saulire in Méribel centre.

Once at the top the doors opened and the wind rushed in to violate the safety of the telecabine. I realised quickly that this may not be the place for a 2 year old. Especially one that has a tendency to run towards the most perilous thing in the room, or beach, or field and now mountain top. As my wife skied away I bundled the children back into the lift where we spent an hour or so going round and round while we ate a picnic and spotted mummy an incredible amount of times.

For those of you that don’t know the Saluire Express passes over the top of the Folie Douce. We passed over it at least 6 times before I decide that it wasn’t my best idea to take the children there. They seemed happy enough in the bubble lift.

Just who you want share lift with!


There are loads of other things to do with your children when you are in Méribel : Ice Skating, swimming, soft play, Bowling and more. We were just too busy having our own fun to get round to doing it all.


The Jump Season 4 – Is it as good

The Jump returned for its 4th season on Channel 4 this weekend but is it as good?

We are not convinced. Something seems to be missing. It could be that this is the first year that I haven’t live blogged the Jump therefore allowing myself more time to watch it but to me it seems to have lost its edge. It doesn’t feel as anarchic as is it once did it. It feels a bit like that seasonnaire who want’s to carry on living in the mountains but knows a lifestyle change is in order to make it sustainable.

At the end of the last season there was much written about it being the most dangerous reality show on TV after many participants were injured, including Tina Hobley who dislocated her elbow and Beth Tweddle who still sufferers from a back injury. Combined that with plummeting ratings and there were talks that it could be axed. But it wasn’t.

The return feels like it has taken seriously the safety issues that have been raised over the years, but that doesn’t mean that it is any safer. Vogue Williams, was the first person to injure herself and has not be able to compete in the show. Her knee injury happened while she was receiving some ski cross training. Last year 50% of the entrants when home with injuries, can you imagine if that was a sport wide statistic, skiing wouldn’t be as popular as it is.Image result for the jump channel 4 2017

There could argued that it doesn’t seem as good because the contestants aren’t that famous. Getting to know 14 new people in 90 minutes is a tough ask especially when several of them come from privileged backgrounds that make it hard to identify with and get behind. The rest of the cast are mainly athletes who essentially aren’t Phil Tufnell. The biggest star is Sir Bradley Wiggins, who looks like a man that has ended up at a Hen Do and can’t escape but  knows the only way to survive is to join in as half hearted as possible while saying how much fun he is having.

One of the biggest innovations of this years event was the celebrities being introduced and appearing from behind a screen and then paraded through a crowd of unexcited crew members. This could have been dramatically improved if done in ski boots on icy steps with a handicap system that matched number of day skiing to the number of additional children skis they had to carry.Related image

Of course we will still be watching every week and soon it will be time to confess that Spenser is our favourite, but not just yet. Let’s just hope the action gets a bit more exciting as this week’s just seemed like a beginner slope highlight package and the racing was about as tense as a snapped hamstring.

Join in the chat during the show with our twitter account @alpineactionski.


A Video Tour of Meribel

Our virtual video guide to Méribel

There are some people that have never been to Méribel, there are many that just miss being there and there are the obsessed that just love Méribel so much that they can’t get enough of it. To help all these people out we have put together a virtual tour of Méribel using a collection of videos. Hopefully it will help the people that have never been want to come, those that miss it feel like they are back there and those that love Méribel can get quick top up.

 

 


The History of Méribel


The Tourist Office Guide to Méribel

Méribel, Coeur des 3 Vallées – Hiver 2015-16 from Méribel Tourisme on Vimeo.


Messing About in Méribel

RUSTY TOOTHBRUSH – MESS UP MERIBEL 2.0 from Rusty Toothbrush on Vimeo.


Alpine Action in Méribel


The Méribel Scenery

The Alps at night – Timelapse from Matthew Vandeputte on Vimeo.


On Piste in Méribel


Working in Méribel


Off Piste in Méribel

HD170 Promo Clip, Ski Freeride from Drift on Vimeo.


Apres Ski in Méribel

LA FOLIE DOUCE from G O M O V I E on Vimeo.


Fireworks in Méribel

 

Vol de nuit – 70 ans de l’ESF à Méribel from Drone Capture System on Vimeo.


Méribel from the Air

35 minutes de bonheur en vol à Méribel from Vincent on Vimeo.


Snow in Méribel

For all our latest snow reports go to our YouTube page.


Meribel & La Tania Holidays

Find out more about our holidays to Méribel or La Tania.

Contact Us

If you would like to chat about holidays to Méribel or La Tania please get in touch via one of the methods on our contact page.

Our Favorite Topics

Subscribe

To sign up for our newletter please enter your email address below: