‘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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!