There is a chill in the air, there has been no indian summer and people have started to put the heating on all of which means that it’s time to look forward to the winter season. It won’t be long before we are packing our bags and heading back to the Three Valleys, opening up our chalets in Meribel and La Tania and making sure our guest have a great ski holiday.
It has been a great summer, full of sun, sea and fun leaving us very little time to miss the mountains. Now the cold wind is blowing and our mind has started to drift to our colder happy place… here are some of the things we are looking forward to this winter.
Of course! As soon as the temperature drops we start to think about clipping into our skis and hitting the mountains. Right now as I type I can feel the excitement of the first day on the slopes. You know that feeling, the one that makes you just want to run to the lift knowing that the wait is nearly over and how that energy will carry you through the day as you ski run after run with a stupid grin on your face.
Every year the resort works hard to make things better. This year there are no new lifts or runs to look forward too. However, there is something that we are quite excited about. In Meribel-Motteret they are introducing an indoor picnic spot, complete with sofas, kitchen, free WIFI and charging points. It sounds like the ultimate skiers common room. You can expect to find us hanging out with a Baguette at lunchtimes!
A new ski outfit
This year it is new outfit time which is very exciting. Once you have spent ages deciding what style and colour to go for the most exciting thing is then getting to discover all the different pockets and features that you didn’t even read about, like a whistle tucked into a hidden pocket in the collar!
It doesn’t matter if you’re a season worker or a holiday maker returning to a resort,is a joy when you meet up with people you know from past winters. It could be your favourite waiter, chalet host or ski instructor. They will be as pleased to see you as you will be to see them.
Early season snow
Last year the snow fell before the lifts weren’t even open yet. This didn’t stop us as we hiked out of Méribel up to the top of the Saluire to get some of the first tracks of the season. Check out the video below.
Breathing the Air
How can you not miss the cold, unpolluted, crisp air of the alps. We always look forward to walking out onto the chalet balcony, all wrapped up warm, probably with a glass of wine, to look at the stars and breath the cool night air.
Every year our executive chef dreams up a menu full of old favourites and new dishes and we love getting to eat every one of them. It also means a trip to our favourite butcher who always makes sure we get the best local meat and treats us to some his incredible pork chops (not pictured). We also get to sample all the wines that Tom picks to accompany your chalet dinner.
To be in the mountains is to feel humble and awestruck by the might of nature! Here are some photos to remind you of what it looks like.
Before even going skiing nearly 70% of skiers reported that they feel very satisfied after they have booked a ski holiday, with only 2% not getting any satisfaction from booking the annual trip.
The other 50% were all satisfied if they got out for the first lift however, there was a small percentage that weren’t. We can only assume that the unsatisfied 8% were more keen to a lie-in.
Ride, Eat, Party
We asked everyone how satisfied they felt after half a days riding, a long lunch, one more run and some Aprés? There was nearly a 30/70 split with the majority feeling pretty pleased with this approach to skiing.
Dump of snow
Unsurprisingly waking up to a fresh dump of snow was the most satisfying with 93% of skiers feeling satisfied/quite satisfied or very satisfied. There was a small group that weren’t very happy about this. We suspect that these are the same ones that were planning on a lie-in.
Becoming a ski instructor
We wondered how satisfying it would you be if everyone who had been skiing followed their dream and became a ski instructor? 31% claimed it would not be satisfying at all but on the positive end of the scale 42% of skiers would be very happy to end up working as a instructor.
Hiking and getting fresh lines
The results were pretty clear for the question “How satisfied do you feel after a day hiking and making fresh tracks?”. With the majority claiming that hiking was high on the agenda when looking for thrills on the mountain.
How satisfied to you feel at the end of the trip? On the whole most people felt satisfied at the end of a weeks skiing with a massive 52% being very satisfied. Not surprisingly there was an 18% who craved more mountain time which is why they should consider working a ski season.
It has happens to us all at some point when skiing. Of course it is much easier to deal with now that most of us e have mobile phones and you can now use them at no extra cost when you are out in the Alps. But sometimes you forget your phone.
If you are looking for a good place to loose your friends then maybe you should consider a ski trip to Méribel.
Way back in December 2015 there wasn’t much snow. Many resorts postponed their opening dates leaving quite a few sad skiers. However, this didn’t happen in the 3 Valleys. Of course the snowfall in Méribel wasn’t any different to anywhere else in the Alps but we did benefit from the incredible investment in snow making the Three Valleys has made. Of the other European resorts that were open most were only able to open around 50% of their runs, while Méribel was boasting 76% and the runs down to 1350m in La Tania we in perfect condition. With all the great skiing to be had, despite the lack of snow, it meant that we had very happy customers and that even included a group of travel agents that we invited out at the beginning of the season before the snow arrived in time for Christmas.
Spring skiing is outstanding again
It was as if the 2015/16 winter was reversed as heavy snow fell throughout April meaning that there was endless powder days accompanied by warm temperatures and blue skies. Much to the disappointment of many the snow even continued to fall after the lifts had shut, which wasn’t a problem for our resort director as he loves a hike. This late snowfall is something we have noticed in recent years and makes us wonder if it the amazing spring conditions are becoming a trend. Could April be the new December?
Méribel is as popular as ever
If you read any article on top ski resorts, Méribel or the Three Valleys will feature in most. This is unsurprising as, in our biased opinion, it does have everything from amazing aprés ski to the world biggest ski area all in one of Frances prettiest resorts. Did you know that you get about 2.1km of piste per €1 spent on your lift pass in Méribel for comparison you only 1.2km per € in Val d’Isere. It isn’t just us and the ski press that love Méribel, you do too. The resort has sat in the top 10 destination for British skiers for many years and this year Méribel was a respectable 6th.
The sleeper train is no more
One of my favourite ways to arrive in Alps is by sleeper train. Alighting in Moutiers early in the morning feeling smug that I had an extra day to ski than those who chose to fly. Of course I never remember the hassle of dragging skis through central London on a Friday night, the stressful dash across Paris and the irritating kids playing GameBoy all night as I try to sleep in a half upright position but smug is how I still felt. No longer is this option open to me as the SNCF has decided to cancel the service due to cost.
What does the end of the ski season mean to the staff in the ski resorts?
Spring is in the mountains and that means many things. Things such as drink the bar dry nights, increased sightings of marmots, stones appearing on the piste, increased worry about getting your deposit back on your hire skis and of course the end of the winter ski season. But what does the end of the ski season mean to the staff in the ski resorts?
Our staff will be starting to realise what this means very soon. To them it will seem a distant memory when they filled out their application form and then came and had an interview for a ski job with us. Since then, the potential we spotted in them will have been realised and they will now be developed professional caterers. Never, during playground chat, will they have thought that making a bed and cleaning bathrooms would be a path they would take and they definitely wouldn’t have considered the rewards it would also lead to.
Now as the last few weeks of guest arrive and depart and the chalets are prepared for a lonely summer, our chalet host will be starting to have one of two feelings. For some it will be Joy, for others it will be dread and some it will be both.
The feeling of joy will come from the feeling of relief that they did it. It is hard to underestimate the pressure a chalet host is under. Many people take the job with mixed emotions of trepidation and excitement because is it far outside their comfort zone. So to have completed a winter season in a ski chalet having cooked and cleaned for 200 people 6 nights a week is a massive achievement, especially when you have got consistently good reviews as our staff have done this season.
Joy will also be because they are looking forward to going home, for quite a few of our chalet host this will have been the first time that they have left everyone behind. When they do return they may have not seen their parents or partners for 6 months.
But there is that feeling of dread too. In some jobs you work, then you go home, then you have a weekend and then you go on holiday. Working and living in a ski resort as a chalet host is all of those things in a day, every day, twice. It is a completely absorbing environment to be in. For many it will be the most intense few months of their lives. In some cases it is addictive and can lead to a whole life in the mountains.
When we reflect on the friend we have made and how far they will be away when we return home. When we consider the epic days we have had in the hills and how suddenly we won’t be skiing fresh tracks 30 minutes after getting that cake out of the oven. We will even reflect back at the great guests we have had, from the party animals to the clean freaks, and how we have enjoyed having them all to stay. When you consider all this you start to get a feeling of dread. Suddenly it will all be gone.
I thought the hardest thing about trying mono-skiing was going to be finding a mono-ski and then I clipped my boots in and discovered that actually skiing on one ski with my feet next to each other was actually harder.
After having the idea of giving this minority sport a go I set about looking for some kit. I started my quest at the usual ski hire shop. My question was met with silence and then laughter, they didn’t have one. After trying my luck at a few other shops where I was met with similar reactions I was told to try a hire shop that I had never noticed in resort before. I found it in a big apartment block located between some sort of office and a restaurant. Just by looking at you knew that it had never experienced the British onslaught of boot fitting and bad ski carrying techniques only seen on a transfer day.
Inside the shop there was a good selection of skis, certainly no snowboards, cross country equipment, snowshoe kit and two mono-skis of questionable quality. I arranged with the owner a day to hire them, filled in the paperwork and left a deposit. Next I went to inform my accomplice in this adventure who seemed surprised and mildly concerned.
It may be worth you knowing the level of our skiing. I was average at best, having learnt skiing at a young age then abandoned it for snowboarding, something I have later come to regret not least on the upcoming “mono-ski” day. My buddy was a better skier than me however, his distinct Dad style gave away the many floors in his technique which would also hinder his mono début.
The day arrived and lucky for us it was a pleasant spring day on the mountain. In a vain attempt to distract anyone from our lack of ability, we decided to dress-up as we assumed a mono skier would dress. Our outfits involved headbands and day-glow clothing, a look that seems to repeat itself on the slopes regularly as part of a decade long fashion cycle.
I went for the turquoise and pink mono-ski the other one was purple and yellow this seemed to reinforcing our choice of attire. We headed for the lifts. Rather predictably we opted for the British approach to taking on something new which is to muddle through, invent and learn in the field. Our first challenge was the chairlift. I won’t waste your time with faux suspense at the outcome. Let us just say there were people sat on a stationary lift for some time.
Finally we were clipped in, we stood up and pushed off. We weren’t expecting immediate success nor were we expecting it take 2 hours to get down a slope that would normally take us 5 minutes to ride down. There isn’t the forgivness on a mono that you get on two skis and the motion of planting poles is crucial to success leaving me endlessly muddled in my attempt and on the floor after most turns. My biggest mistake was trying to use my poles to push off to make the turns. This did aide my speed down the hill however, that was with my back lying on the ski, feet still clipped in, head pointing down, with poles and head gear liberally distributed down the slope.
My second mistake was telling people we were going to attempt this and choosing a run than pretty much had a lift running over it the whole length. Normally I am the one sat on a chairlift laughing at the misfortune of others, today I was being laughed at, commented on and on occasions applauded but with irony. My friend fared no better than me I am pleased to report. Possibly my third mistake was not giving up after the first run, through the course of the day my technique didn’t really improve and my biggest success was probably linking 10 turns before confusion ultimately got the better of me.
At the end of the day we felt a bit sore, quite demoralised and no better at mono-skiing. I can thoroughly recommend this as a minority sport that you don’t need to try.
This week has been springtime skiing at its very best! Blue skies, sunshine and heaps of snow have brought us one of the best weeks of skiing this season and the good weather looks set to stay. If you’ve ever hesitated about booking a holiday later in the season this week has been an example of how fabulous it can be, with empty slopes to boot!
We have got piles and piles of snow after 2 big dumps in the last couple of weeks, the snow pack is over 220cm at the top of lifts and 125cm at the bottom with more than enough snow to see us through to the end of the season. There is even still some powder to be had if you’re willing to look for it! Every lift and piste in resort is open with all 3 Valley links up and running and all of the parks and fun areas are looking in fantastic shape.
The sun is set to stay in the 3 Valleys for the next week, some impressive goggle tans are starting to form and we already spotted our first shorts n’ t shirt combo of the spring, maybe a little prematurely. We are expecting a few snowy showers overnight to top up the runs but blue skies during the day- perfect conditions!
Springtime means party time in the 3 Valleys, outside enjoying the sunshine with a demi peche and some good tunes. This week we have a veritable feast of musical talent! On Monday night from 10pm we have Newton Faulkner playing in Lodge Du Village with local favourite Hobo Chic, then playing again at the Spring Party at the Chaudanne on Tuesday evening. We also have Norman Jay MBE spinning at Rond Point for Wednesday Apres, arguably the funkiest apres of the season!
There has never been a better time to come out to the three valleys, just don’t forget your sun cream!