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

 

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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Tracks of the day

Some seriously good looking tracks from CTO Guy this morning in Morzine:

skiing in Morzine in March

Back in work by 11 and on inspired form. Now that is what we call a good working environment!

The Alps had an awesome dump of the snow this weekend, and there are plenty of great deals still to be had…can we tempt you? Check out chalets now.

Cool to be Green – What are the best green skis?

Liberty helix skis

The temperature drops and summer comes to a close, for many of us our favourite season is approaching. Winter is on its way and I find myself in the market for a new pair of skis. After trawling through hundreds of reviews and articles on the latest gear, I decided to jump on the eco bandwagon and plumped for a more environmentally friendly set of equipment.

 

greenNow when it comes to ski equipment and clothing, there is a very broad spectrum of consumers. From the neon one-piece wearing generation to whom gore-tex and anti camber might be recent bands, all the way through to the hoody wearing, pockmarked teenagers that inhabit the local snow parks. Unless you’re willing to turn up in the après bar soaked through and shivering, most of us fall somewhere in the middle. We want functional and usually fashionable clothing and equipment, incorporating the recent advances in technology. Up until the past few years it wasn’t possible to do this and save the environment we’re all so fond of tearing up on fiberglass sticks, but times are definitely changing!

 

My recent purchases made me take a closer look at a few companies who are doing their bit. In this first part we take a quick glance at skis and snowboards, and which companies are using greener methods to produce them.

 

Liberty helix skis
Liberty helix skis

Colorado based Liberty Skis is the first contender in the lineup with a full quiver of skis for every condition. Liberty are the only company to make its entire range of skis with sustainable bamboo cores and UHMW sidewalls (a plastic that doesn’t require the use of toxic adhesives used in traditional ABS skis). Liberty has won a handful of awards from top names in the ski media with Freeskier magazine voting its Helix as ‘Probably the most versatile ski ever’. If that isn’t enough, they’re handmade, use 100% wind power during manufacture and also provide the longest warranty in the industry of 3 years!

 

Movement, the ski touring favorite makes the cut with the use of pure wood cores from certified sustainable forests. They use a combination of woods, but use no toxic adhesives in the assembly as well as no injected foam, a far too common and environmentally damaging material. Movement are a well established company with a devout customer base. A great selection of ultra light touring skis, piste carvers, even modern powder twin tips like the bibby pro. It’s just a shame they’re one of the few bigger brands making an effort.

 

Last on the list but definitely not least, is German Ski maker, Grown Skis. Founded in 2007, they use 70% sustainable wood, recycled bases and basalt fiber reinforcement (lower emissions than fiberglass). They have a small collection to choose from, but if the shoe fits and you want a solidly built timeless classic you’ve come to the right place. Grown also offsets the tiny carbon footprint it creates by paying into non-profit organization My Climate and for their hard work were awarded the first eco design award at the major sporting goods industry fair in 2008.

 

For all you snowboarders out there, Arbor snowboards produce most of their boards with bamboo cores and recycled bases and Venture produce a range with sustainable wood and even recycle scraps to produce bird boxes. Even big guns Salomon have produced a selection of bamboo boards for every budget with the ‘SlickStick’ winning the Volvo eco design award.

 

As of yet industry pioneers Rossignol haven’t shown any real advancement in the green arena and Head skis are yet to produce a green ski but do offset their carbon emissions through their charity Cool Earth which protects areas of rainforest. Up to date there isn’t much greener on the other side when it comes to binding manufacture but who wants wooden bindings at 50 mph?

 

So if all this was over your head or your skis are still in good nick, maybe a pair of bamboo poles?

 

Looking for a ski chalet still? We can make finding one a breeze.

Thanks to George Andrews for sharing his ski insights with us!

The best places to ski in the summer

No that is not a typo, nor the result of too much sun. Summer isn’t all about barbecues and sitting outside in the evening with the family, there is some serious skiing to be done if you know where to look. Those who want something more from their summer holiday than sun, sea and sand might want to consider a ski break instead.

 

Some of the following resorts will come as a surprise who think they will have to travel to the southern hemisphere to ski in the summer, so read on to find a good selection of resorts both close to home and further afield.

 

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Hintertux Austria

When you see Hintertux for yourself, it will come as no surprise to hear than numerous ski teams train here off season. Hintertux is also home to the steepest skiing in the Alpine region that is serviced by a lift. It also boasts some of the surest snow you will find anywhere. Come slightly out of season in late spring or early autumn and you will also have the chance to try your snowboarding skills on the rails and kickers of Betterpark. A year round ski area, the lifts operate in the summer from 0815 to 1430.

 

Les 2 Alps France

Boasting one of the largest skiing resorts in Europe, Les 2 Alps is home to the Mont-de-Lans Glacier, which is open from the middle of June to the beginning of September. The glacier offers an impressive eight runs which are accessible by a railway system and chairlifts. If that’s not enough, and you seek something more daring, then there is also a snow park which boasts an enjoyable snow zone. The snow zone contains a range of small pipes for beginners wanting to try out their moves as well as a 400ft long, 15 ft high half pipe for those with more experience. A half day ticket at the resort will set you back around 30 euros and be sure to get your monies worth as the lifts open at 7:15am and close at 12:30pm.

 

Timberline Lodge Oregon

Open from the middle of May until the beginning of September; which is North America’s longest season. The scenic routes are located on the south face of Mt. Hood on the Palmer Snowfield. The main use for this resort is race camps during the summer however there is always one lane usable by the public located in the terrain above the tree line. The resort is open daily from 7am until 1:30pm offering a good amount of skiing time. This charming resort is only an hour drive away from Portland which offers other attractions if you fancy doing something else apart from skiing.

 

Ski Portillo Chile

The owners of Ski Portillo have worked very hard to keep their resort on an intimate scale. One of its biggest attractions is that there isn’t a town, or a shopping centre, or even a Starbucks. All there is here is one hotel painted yellow which can accommodate up to 400 guests at any one time. This turn means there are rarely any queues at the ski lifts, and the slopes are never overcrowded. The 28 miles of well groomed runs at Portillo are accessed by both drags and chairs. Advanced or expert skiers will cover all the runs within hours, but they needn’t fear as Portillo also boast an abundance of steep faces off piste perfect for some daredevil freeriding. Those who want to go even higher can do thanks to heli operations and if that wasn’t enough, there is a stunning back country that begs to be explored.

 

Coronet Peak New Zealand

Situated only 20 minutes from the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere, that is Queenstown; Coronet Peak is the most popular South island ski resort. Stand at the summit and look left and you will see Gondor from Lord of the Rings. The resort boasts a varied terrain that means there is something for skiers of all abilities, from beginners through to accomplished. Those still finding their feet, so to speak, have a choice of both red and blue runs, whilst those who are more advanced can try out Terrain Park. They can also give their stamina a good testing on the M1, the longest run on Coronet Peak which stretches for 1.5 miles. Before you hit the slopes though, make sure you have suitable ski insurance policy that will cover you for the duration of your trip (try Columbus Direct).

These are just a small selection of the many great resorts which offer skiing in the summer, but are generally considered to be the best. If a summer holiday on the snow holds more appeal than the sand then ditch the sun tan oil and the flip flops for some skis and goggles and have one of the most memorable summer breaks you will ever experience.

 

Where would you add to the list? Spill the beans in the comments below.

 

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