All this week we’re sharing information to help you decide when, where and how to take a successful family ski trip. Yesterday we explored some of the options for skiing as a family at Christmas, and on Monday we looked at some very family-friendly ski chalets in Europe. Yesterday we tackled whether you can satisfy all members of a family with one ski holiday – including the extreme skiers. What should you do though, if your family are all ski fanatics, but the thought of sliding down an icy hill in the cold fills you with dread? We talked to the Savoie Mont Blanc tourist board about their ski resorts, and what’s on offer for all members of the group, skiers or not.
Savoie Mont Blanc covers two thirds of the French Alps and is the world’s top ski destination, with no less than 110 ski resorts, and a new lift pass* which gives access to 1,300 kilometres of slopes. It’s easy to see why the area is attractive to skiers of all abilities, but if that’s not for you, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied while your brood hurtles down the pistes.
What to do in a ski resort when you don’t ski
Mille8: The Mille8 development above Arc 1800 is a completely new activity and entertainment hub, open at least 12 hours a day with indoor and outdoor facilities, and events and activities taking place all winter. The outdoor facilities include a toboggan, a freestyle area, and a secured area for children. Inside there’s a swimming pool, spa, and a play area for children. Plenty to do all day long!
Cycling on the snow? Launched last winter in a few resorts, the fat bike will be the new trend of winter 2015/16. The fat bike is a bicycle with over-sized tyres designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft snow. Fat bikes are built around frames with wide forks and stays to accommodate the wide rims required to fit these tyres. Try out the fat bikes in Praz sur Arly and Les Saisies. We’re also liking the sound of electric bikes on the snow (it’s the thought of all those hills that attracts)! In the Val d’Arly, start at the top with a 360-degree view of Mont-Blanc and the Aravis range and ride down 7km of groomed slopes. Riders can then head to the first bike park on snow in France, where they can test their balance and practise their turns. At sunset, they can go for a last bike ride with headlights.
Zipwire the Alps: The Fantasticable in Châtel, a 1,200m-long zip-wire, at 140m above the ground, will open this winter for the first time. For €25 per person, skiers will be able to fly over the Plaine de Dranse at high speed (up to 100km per hour) before carry on skiing in the Portes du Soleil.
Go extreme with Bear Grylls: The Bear Grylls Survival Academy is launching exclusive survival courses in La Clusaz. Survive 24 hours in the snow and freezing temperatures with your team: learn to make a fire without matches, build an emergency shelter, find food, and cross difficult terrain. €250 per person.
Chill out! The Savoie Mont Blanc area is not short on spas and wellbeing centres. You go on holiday to relax, and they certainly know how to do it here. There are seven natural spas, which can all be combined with a ski holiday, and most of the top in-resort hotels offer spa treatments. If you’re lucky enough to have chosen Courchevel, the whole family can visit the spectacular Aquamotion, a new sport and aqua centre. Sport enthusiasts will love the swimming pools, diving area, climbing wall and indoor surfing area. The spectacular surf wave is the first indoor example of its size in France. In the fun area, you can run, jump, shout and swim. Take on your friends on the three-lane water slide or stock up on thrills in the 110m wild water rapids. The wellness area is equipped with a jetstream pool, a salt-water pool and a bubble pool.
Just for families
No matter how much they take to skiing, kids need variety, so it’s always good to have some additional activities for when they’re not practicing their pizza and chips turns.
Drive a snowmobile: In Courchevel, kids can learn how to drive a real snowmobile on a specially adapted 700-metre circuit near the Family Park.
Learn dog-sledding: Praz de Lys and Val d’Arly, and Les Saisies all have a ‘BabyPark,’ where children aged from three to seven to learn dog sledding in a safe environment. The equipment used is adapted to little ones and the dogs are specially trained to be with children. The BabyPark has a chalet where children can warm up after a session of fun learning, or play when it snows.
Make a film! The ESF (French Ski School) in Saint- Gervais Mont-Blanc is launching Freeski+ video courses. The mini riders will be filmed by the instructors and will learn how to edit their own videos.
Stargaze: Learn about astronomy in Les Arcs every Tuesday from 6 to 8pm. Children and their parents can go for a short hike to an observatory in a hut on the Cabane slope in Les Arcs, where a professional will show them the constellations. This is a free activity, open to all.
Learn the lingo: Ski-Cool ski school in Val Thorens offers the chance to learn a language while skiing this winter. The bilingual ski instructors will help you to learn a few words, increase your familiarity, or hone your expertise in another language during group lessons.
More fun for the skiers
Gastronomic food ski tours: if you can’t bear to miss out on divine food whilst you’re skiing, then gastronomic ski-touring tours are for you. To celebrate its 80th birthday, Combloux is organising a ski-touring tour for foodies, between 30 January and 5 February. During the tour, skiers will stop in eight mountain restaurants to taste eight small portions of local dishes.
Wingjump: Wingjump is a new activity 100% made in France. Rip’Air is a company based in Savoie Mont Blanc which makes paragliders. They have created and developed the wingump, an aerodynamic jacket that gives skiers the feeling of flying on the snow. You can try out this fun activity for all ages in Praz de Lys Sommand, near Geneva, from 19 December.
In the evenings, when your family return, rosy-cheeked, from a day in the fresh air, is when the resort comes alive for you as a non-skier. Savoie food is delicious, and alongside the traditional cheese fondues and raclettes available in all the main restaurants, the area is becoming renowned for incredible, Michelin starred cuisine. Here are some of the most notable:
Restaurants in Savoie Mont Blanc
Val-Thorens: New 5-star hotel Le Pashmina in Val Thorens boasts two gourmet restaurants: Les Explorateurs and Le Base Camp, with Chef Romuald Fassenet (‘Best craftsman in France’ award) creating the menus and Chef Josselin Jean-blanc in the kitchen.
Le Pashmina in Val Thorens
Tignes: Mesa Verde is the restaurant of the new 4-star hotel Le Taos in Tignes Le Lac. Like the hotel, the restaurant’s décor is inspired by the village of Taos in New Mexico in the American Rockies, with mineral and smooth sand stones and colourful patchworks. Mesa Verde serves hearty French cuisine.
Courchevel: Two-Michelin-star restaurant Le Kintessence in Courchevel has entered the very exclusive club of Les Grandes Tables du Monde. 166 restaurants from 24 countries are in Les Grandes Tables du Monde and eight of them are in Savoie Mont Blanc.
Les Arcs: Le Lodge is a new brasserie in the Mille8 area, in the heart of Arcs 1800, accessible to skiers and non-skiers via the Villards gondola. Le Lodge has contemporary décor, with a large terrace, a snack bar, a lounge and an indoor golf simulator. Every Sunday, le Lodge organises local product tastings. There are happy hours and live music every day.
Events for foodies
Learn to cook Savoyard style: 5-star hotel Le Royal Evian, which reopened last July, is organising cooking lessons with its chefs for 14, 21, 28 November and 12 and 19 December. Children have their own cooking lessons on 7 November and 5 December.
Make a macaron: In March, Val d’Isère will host the Concours du Meilleur Macaron Amateur de France, a contest for anyone who loves making macaroons.
Rissoles! Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe in the Val d’Arly will organise for the first time a Concours (competition) de Rissoles. Rissoles is a traditional Savoyard sweet treat. On 21 January, the winner will be announced and everybody will be able to enjoy some Rissoles!
* The new Alpine Legends lift pass costs €340 for six days and covers the Three Valleys, Paradiski and Tignes/Val d’Isère, including 5 glacier ski areas. For more information on any of the activities mentioned here go to savoie-mont-blanc.com or visit Savoie Mont Blanc on Facebook.