Now here’s a couple of questions for all you ski holiday enthusiasts to ponder. Put to one side the resort and the weather, what are the ingredients that make a great chalet holiday for you? Is it the food, the location, the other guests, the rooms, the facilities, the price; or is it a combination of all these things? And how many truly great chalet holidays have you been on? There’s a lot of variables to take into account, and as a chalet company, a lot to get right if you want to run a successful business in a crowded market place. Hats off then to Small Wonders, who have got a very good handle on the majority of these factors, and tie them all together in a great venue that is Chalet White Eden.
The winner of the Ski Club Ski Holiday For Life competition, Rob Wycherley, has been in Sainte Foy Tarentaise this year. He gives us his review for Chalet White Eden, Small Wonders. Everyone at Small Wonders, from the Managing Director down to the chalet staff in resort, hold the same philosophies regarding genuine hospitality, taking pleasure in looking after their customers, the enjoyment from being in a wonderful environment and that crucial aspect, attention to detail. All this became evident in the week that I spent as their guest in Chalet White Eden, tucked nicely in against the Home Run in the small resort of Sainte Foy in the Tarentaise, close to Bourg St Maurice and within striking distance of the Paradiski and Espace Killy. We’d chosen to hire a car and drive the just over 2 hours from Grenoble, giving us flexibility during the week, but the chalet will arrange a minibus pick up from the station at Bourg, as well as run you to other resorts should you choose to stretch your ski legs. After a short drive up the mountain from the Bourg to Tignes road you arrive in the resort of Ste. Foy, a collection of modern, tastefully presented, chalets and residences. Chalet White Eden is in the upper part of the village, and has the benefit of an underground car park, that proved to be an absolute godsend due to the levels of snow that we had during the week.
The chalet itself is only a few years old, and unlike a lot of its competitors in this price bracket spread across the Alps, it is not lacking for space. Aside from the underground car park there is room for a separate ski and boot room (equipped with powerful heaters and a sofa to change your boots on, heaven, and a massive tick from me!) as well as a sauna, a lift, generous living areas, a
Jacuzzi on the balcony (great fun to bubble away in as the snow falls) and large bedrooms and en-suites, where you don’t have to trip over you and your companion’s gear as you get ready in the morning.
White Eden is set up in a style of what is best described as boutique chalet-hotel, with Savoyard architecture, and a smattering of art and carvings, making for a sophisticated but relaxed environment, with subtle lighting and a welcoming log fire in the hearth. Twice a week there are “Le Chic” Happy Hours, where champagne and mouth-watering canapés are served up, however outside of these times there is an honesty bar, which also includes quality teas and coffees. Although the hosts are generous with after dinner drinks, at this level of service with typical properties in the Alps, local beer and wine runs free of charge throughout the stay.
Now on to the food; one word, wow! Expertly cooked and beautifully presented, with a wonderful repertoire and great matching wines. My mouth is still watering from the thought of it all after 3 weeks. Local produce is high on the list, and after an initial foray into gauging the right amount to serve for the guests on the first night, we settled into a well-balanced and perfectly timed series of dinner parties with our fellow holiday makers. Unusually for chalets in the Alps, during the week that I stayed it was a cosmopolitan mix of Europeans, with guests from France, Luxembourg, Ireland and Switzerland; and myself and my buddy were the only Brits in the mix. As the French were the most numerous, it was their language that dominated at the table, which might be a bit intimidating if you don’t speak the lingo, but everyone made a real effort and we all learned more about each other and had a lot of laughs in the process.
For those of you interested in bringing children, as after all the resort is fabulous for families, there was a first sitting for dinner, and plenty of space for the kids to retreat to so that they can watch television and access the free wifi.
So, back to those questions I posed at the start. Small Wonders have that combination right, and it is testament to the company and their product that there was an almost unanimous re-booking for 2017 from the guests that stayed. This was a great chalet holiday, oh, and the snow played its part too!
Have you heard of this resort? If you have, you’re in the minority. There might be a number of reasons why you could have, either you’ve passed through the main village on the road from Bourg St Maurice to Tignes and Val D’Isere, you might have a young family and wanted something quiet and safe, or lastly you’re a back country officianado who has heard whisperings of the awesome off-piste, and acres of powder that remains untouched days after all the other nearby major resorts have been skied out.
To be honest with you, I was very fortunate to find it, being given the opportunity as a guest of Small Wonders, staying in Chalet White Eden which I was reviewing for the Much Better Adventures website. Like you, I went online and checked out the usual sites for a review of the resort, full of statistics and mouth watering photos taken on bluebird powder days. I was apprehensive, as for a week’s skiing I normally plump for large ski stations with excellent links, miles of piste, ample eating and drinking opportunities with access to a range of off-piste opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, I love a smaller resort, and have been fortunate enough to ski in plenty across the globe, but normally from a larger centre, or for a long weekend or day trip. Ste. Foy however lends itself to do things the other way around, so you can stay at a smaller, more intimate resort and then use it as a base to explore other larger ones that are nearby. In my case, and having the benefit of a hire car, I skied in Val D’Isere and then a day in Meribel where I caught up with friends, though there are other resorts nearer such as Les Arcs, La Plagne, Tignes and La Rosiere within 40 minutes or so.
For those with family, or with more intermediate desires, then the resort offers ample skiing with accessible pistes from a handful of well linked chairlifts. This makes it easy to navigate for those inclined to use piste maps, and gives reassurance that older children won’t get stuck in the wrong valley when they pester to go off with friends. There are a small number of restaurants to rendez-vous at, all serving good mountain fare, but in busier periods, or with inclement weather it is best to book for meals. My stay co-incided with European half term, but it never felt too busy or crowded on the slopes, and lift queues only became apparent when bad weather forced the closure of the two top lifts due to high winds and avalanche risk.
So then, what about the off-piste opportunities? Well, if you catch the weather right and you have fresh snow, you’ll think you have won the lottery. The top lifts open up a significant amount of area, from the unpisted blacks through to tree skiing and itineraries, it is all here, and what’s more there are only a small number of like minded individuals doing the same, so it is possible to make fresh tracks for a number of days after. My friend and I cut first lines on an epic run of 1,300m of vertical from the top of the lifts via the deserted hamlet of Le Monal down to the village of Le Miroir. For a long time we were following the hoof marks of a small deer, which met an unfortunate demise on the path with only its head left on show in a pool of red snow! Eeek! We didn’t hang around long to look for the culprit, but safe to say we asked locals from the safety of a bar about the likely wildlife able to carry this ambush out. At Le Miroir there is a handy bus service that takes you back to the main resort. To get the best from the off-piste then, hire a local guide, gear up and get stuck in.
Safe to say that the nightlife in Ste. Foy is pretty quiet, but there are a small number of bars and eateries, including a pretty decent wine bar that has some atmosphere, so you can venture out on the chef’s day off. We ate at the Maison a Colonnes at the base of the slopes, and thoroughly enjoyed a “Witch’s Hat” pierrade (see pic) with all the theatre of cooking your own grub.
Well then, there you have it, a super little destination that is becoming increasingly better known in skiing circles, and ticks a lot of boxes for a wide range of needs. It’s a relatively new resort that retains a lot of charm, and for those that have found it there are enough compelling reasons to keep coming back, and to keep it as quiet as possible from the rest of the skiing fraternity.
Damn, I’ve let you into my secret.
Want more of Rob? Check out his review of Go Ski Meribel Chalet Review 2015