Apprehensive would be the best way to describe my feeling about our imminent first trip to the mountains en famille.
I was excited about getting back on the snowboard again, but sceptical about staying in a family specialist chalet hotel. What would it be like? Full of noise, chaos and sofas covered in squashed banana?
Thankfully, Esprit’s latest
chalet hotel, Chalet Hotel des Deux Domaines in Belle Plagne, France – one of the 10 villages that make up the resort of La Plagne – was nothing like I’d imagined. With its contemporary striped carpet, soft lighting and sunken seating area, it felt more like a chic mountain retreat than a hotel.
The cushions were clean, the bar was inviting and it had everything you’d expect from a luxury hotel: a gorgeous pool, a health suite with hot tubs, and spacious rooms with plasma TVs and simply fabulous mountain views.
At 2,050 metres, Belle Plagne is a high-altitude village offering ski-in-ski-out from most hotels. It’s compact and pretty, with a covered walkway linking shops,
bars and chalet-style restaurants giving
it an Alpine charm.
Although we couldn’t wait to go and chuck a few snowballs as soon as we arrived, we had to postpone it. It was 8pm, so our first priority was to get our one-year-old daughter, Elsie, ready for bed. A cot was set up in our room, and milk was available in the nursery downstairs.
A member of staff on baby-listening duties – a service they ran every night – was stationed in the corridor, so once Elsie was asleep we went to reception to sort out our skiing essentials.
There’s usually a huge amount of faffing about on the first day of a skiing holiday – there are lift passes to collect, lessons to organise and equipment to hire, but the staff had helpfully taken care of all that for us.
By the morning, there was a lively atmosphere in the hotel as families worked out their day over breakfast. Childcare is broken down into clubs: Nursery for under-threes (£239 per week); Spritelets for three- to four-year-olds, with lessons in the afternoon (£179 per week); and Sprites for children over five, with lessons in the morning and afternoon club (£179 per week).
Elsie was in the Nursery for six days and we arrived to a chorus of sobbing children. She clung to me like a koala bear. One of the staff produced two pink maracas and encouraged her
to join in with the singing session. Meanwhile, the Nursery manager reassured me that Elsie would have lots of fun. After all, “it’s her holiday, too”.
Jonny went on his first snowboarding lesson with Oxygène Ski School and I had a guide waiting to take me to Face Nord de Bellecôte for some serious off-piste action, before exploring the rest of the resort.
High up in the Savoie French Alps, La Plagne boasts a ski area ranging from 1,250m
to 3,250m covering over 225km of pistes. Linked to neighbouring resorts Les
Arcs and Peisey-Vallandry by the Vanoise Express lift service, it makes up Paradiski – one of the largest ski areas in the world. The whole area offers 425km of pistes to choose from, with two snowparks, five boardercross courses, one half pipe and 236 runs of all categories. And it’s this variety that makes Paradiski perfect for hardened solo skiers and families alike.
At the end of a day on the slopes, with burning thighs and a story about an embarrassing face-plant, I hooked up
with Jonny. He, too, was buzzing with excitement, having finally conquered how to board. Elsie, it seemed, had also had her share of fun in the snow.
With a quick splash in the pool quickly followed by high tea served in the Bellecôte dining room, Elsie was fast asleep by 7.30, which meant we could take full advantage of the delicious canapés and aperitifs being served in the bar. Unfortunately, as only two trays made it out of the kitchen, they were gone in seconds. Still, the remaining four courses were good – as was the concept of adult-only dining with unlimited wine.
It took a couple of days to settle into the flow of a family skiing trip and by the end of the week we could almost class ourselves as organised. We even managed a massage and some time in the hot tub. So did we have any complaints? Well, the temperature in the room was variable
and the limited space in the bar meant
six evenings of listening to proud parents recall the progress of their young prodigies. But, while this became a running joke between us, give it a few years and I’m sure we’ll be doing exactly the same.
One week at Chatel Hotel des Deux Domaines costs from £599 per adult and £389 for children over six sharing a Belle Plagne room, including flights and transfers, breakfast, five-course evening meal for adults and lunch and high tea for children.
Tel: 01252 618300
Find more skiing holiday ideas in our Travel section.