Chalet White Eden – Sainte Foy Tarentaise – Chalet Review 2016

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.TheLodgeexterior4skiinout 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

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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.


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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.

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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!
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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.


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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.

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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

 

Rob’s Go Ski Meribel Chalet Review 2015

‘The chalet is warm and inviting, much like the reception you get from the guys who work there, and it takes no time at all to get settled in and down to the important business of enjoying your holiday.’


The wonderful winner of the Ski Club Ski Holiday For Life competition, Rob Wycherley, has been in Meribel this year.  He gives us his review for Chalet Magic Rock, Go Ski Meribel. 

Do you get that urge to continuously check the weather reports for the two weeks or so before you go on your ski holiday? Or maybe it’s the frequent re-visit to the website of the chalet company that you have booked with, to re-assure yourself that you have made the right choice when dropping loads of your hard earned Wonga into a company you may never have heard of? Have you done the right thing, do the pictures tell the whole story, what about the reviews? Aaargghh! It’s enough to make your head spin, it’s meant to be a holiday….

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Hopefully, the first signs that you get to indicate that you have made the right choice come from the interaction surrounding your booking. All you’re looking for are prompt and polite answers to satisfy your queries and an informative website to know you are on the right track. This is where Mat, the owner of Go Ski Meribel stands out from the crowd. In a former life he was like you and I, making chalet bookings for himself and his friends, trying to make the right decision to maximise those precious moments when we can escape the ritual grind and indulge ourselves in the splendour and majesty of the mountains. He’s got it right, back in 2008 he gave up the successful career in finance, thought to himself “I can make this chalet experience better” and then walked the talk (or skied the slope?)

Chalet Magic Rock is one of four chalets in Meribel that Go Ski operate. It’s the newest of the bunch, and sits in the quiet hamlet of Le Plantin approximately 900 metres outside of Meribel Village; which itself is a few kilometres from the main centre of Meribel. If you’re after bright lights and bars in the evening, Le Plantin is not the place, but Go Ski operate a very efficient minibus service from 08.30 to 22.30 every day to move you around as required. The drivers will happily drop you off at the nearest lift, The Golf, in Meribel Village two minutes away, or alternatively run you up to the busier Chaudanne where there are more choices of direction. In the afternoon you can either arrange to meet the minibus again, or alternatively if the conditions are good you can ski a picturesque route back down the golf course and arrive 50 metres away from the Chalet.

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The Chalet itself is nestled a few metres below the road, and sits amongst a motley collection of new and old buildings, affording fabulous views down the Valley when the weather is right. The chalet is warm and inviting, much like the reception you get from the guys who work there, and it takes no time at all to get settled in and down to the important business of enjoying your holiday. The week that I was there the chalet was full, with 17 people the maximum, but it never felt like you were crowded or excluded.

The Go Ski team work incredibly hard at making it feel like a personal service, and were on first name terms with everyone by the end of the first evening. Nothing was too much trouble, and everything was done with willingness and a smile on the face, reflecting the company’s desire to deliver a high quality experience to its customers. The food in particular was awesome, with a wonderfully varied menu created by the professional chef, tailored to dietary requirements as necessary, that began with Canapés at the bar for 19.15pm before being followed up by a gourmet four course sit down affair, washed down with copious amounts of wine. In fact the bar is free for your entire stay, with draught beer on tap, and plastic mugs available so that you can take your drink outside onto the deck, sit in the Jacuzzi, and soak away the aches and pains from a hard day’s skiing.

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The hub of the chalet is on the bottom floor, with plenty of relaxed seating, a log fire, Sky TV for sports fans, the bar area and the dining table. Here it’s easy to congregate with your fellow chalet mates, tell your skiing stories or simply chill out. There’s also a sauna available to warm the bones on cold days. The bedrooms themselves are simply furnished, and perhaps lacking in adequate storage for all the kit that one needs to bring out nowadays, but they are light and clean, with either individual bathrooms or en-suite facilities.

Perhaps the one gripe that I had was with the boot room; is it just me or do chalet designers not take into account that there will be pinch points here at the start and end of the day? More than two people getting into their ski boots at one time is an issue, and the boot heaters were a bit pathetic, but hey, that’s not going to detract from a superb overall experience, and Mat is looking at ways to improve this for next season.

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From the pick up at the airport, right through to the drop off a week later the experience was first class, and nothing too much trouble for all of the Go Ski team, which was typified by Mat going out of his way to help organise me and my ski buddy onto a heli-skiing trip to La Thuile, booking tickets for the comedy night, as well as making us feel included on an afternoon around the slopes with them. I would thoroughly recommend both Go Ski Meribel and Chalet Magic Rock, for a stress free winning combination. Now get checking that 3 Valleys snow report, they’re waiting!

 

Want more of Rob? Check out his review of Chalet Algonquin, Snow HQ, Les Arcs

Snow HQ independent chalet review

‘You could not wish for a more conducive environment in which to eat, drink and make merry, and discuss your day’s exertions and achievements.’

Rob Wycherley, winner of our Ski Club Ski Holiday for Life competition gives us his independent review of Chalet Algonquin, Snow Hq, Les Arcs.
Rob has taken at least one ski holiday every year for as long as he can remember, incorporating most of Europe, and as far afield as The States, Australia and Japan. He took this trip in March 2014 with his wife and two kids. He’ll back with another review for us next year!

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Chalet review

The sense of anticipation was rising in the car as we climbed steadily from the valley floor up the remaining few kilometres to the small hamlet of Moulin, just below the resort of Peissey Vallandry, and almost directly under the Vanoise Express cable car (or handbag as my four year old son called it) linking Les Arcs to La Plagne. This is the location of the two Snow HQ chalets, and as a family we had been looking forward to this holiday for a good few months, with our expectations high following excellent communication with Ben from Snow HQ and a user friendly, comprehensive website, that leaves other chalet companies looking drab in comparison.

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We were staying in the Algonquin, hosted by Fanchea and Andre, and as we pulled up outside the chalet the sun was glinting off the snow covered peaks in the distance and swallows were flitting around the collection of traditional stone buildings that made up the hamlet, and spring had most definitely sprung, with a pleasing warmth already in the air. This warmth was extended by Fanchea as she met us at the door and helped us disgorge the contents of the hire car into our family room, and then set about providing baguettes, cheese and ham for a simple yet delicious lunch that was readily demolished.

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We were instructed that everything was at our disposal, and we wandered around the living area of the chalet, checking out the books, DVDs and games, as well as relaxing on the sofas and standing out on the balconies, drinking in the views and getting our bearings.

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The shared portion of the chalet was not large, and apart from one other delightful couple for the first two nights we had the place to ourselves, just the four of us with the rule of the roost, but it did leave me feeling that it would be quite tight with a full chalet of 14. On that theme the entrance to the chalet is also narrow, with a small bench to put your ski boots on, and when a number of you are getting geared up and waiting for the complimentary minibus, congestion and overheating will likely occur.

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The chalet itself, much like other properties in the hamlet, is a converted barn, which has been undertaken sympathetically with plenty of bare wooden floors, exposed beams and large windows upstairs to make use of the natural light and views.

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The heart of the chalet though is most definitely the kitchen, and this is where the magic takes place on a daily basis, with Andre as chef extraordinaire, and Fanchea as his willing accomplice (and no mean cake baker in her own right.) Andre has lashings of talent, looking completely at ease in his domain, and focussing intently on producing the perfect plate, using local ingredients and varying his menu accordingly. As guests the table is positioned similar to a chef’s table at a top restaurant, so that you can see the courses taking shape, and for those gastronomes interested in learning more, Andre is happy to pass on tips and knowledge, chatting happily at the end of the meal, glass of wine in hand.

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You could not wish for a more conducive environment in which to eat, drink and make merry, and discuss your day’s exertions and achievements. For the two nights when we had company at the table it felt like a dinner party with best friends, and the conversation and wine flowed easily, and when it was just my wife and I it was like an evening tete a tete at an exclusive restaurant. Tasty nibbles and starters were followed by such delights as Charolais steaks, coq au vin and herb crusted salmon, with just enough room for wicked desserts. I only managed a cheese course once all week!

This is not a chalet that has it’s accommodation clinically cleaned to within an inch of its life every day, with all your toilet paper and towels folded back, but that’s part of the charm; you can treat it like home, a home in which you have a professional chef and sous chef, where your child’s fish fingers are hand cooked, and where there’s a free supply of local wine and a chauffeur to drive you to and from the slopes, all in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Oh, and the skiing is fabulous too, and I haven’t got enough room to tell you about that!

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