Travel review: Le Ski’s Chalet Marmau, La Tania, in the French Alps
12:14 19 September 2014
As autumn pulls in and one school holiday comes to an end, it’s worth thinking forward to the next one and making some ski plans to tide you through the seasonal doldrums.
Overheating in thermals and plodding along in ungainly boots, lugging not only my own set of skis and poles but all the kids’ too, I’ve wondered in the past if it might be a bit more glamorous to nip away for a ski break without them.
But it needn’t be such hard work - and it’s certainly not the case when staying with Le Ski in their La Tania set up, where everything is geared towards making it easy for families to hit the slopes.
From Chalet Marmau’s prime location just a couple of minutes walk away from the nursery slopes, to their all-day crèche facility, and the home-from-home feel of the accommodation and superb staff care, it all adds up to make a family ski holiday stress free.
Even details like the technician from Ski Higher’s ski hire service coming out to the chalet to size us up for boots and skis, then dropping off all the top notch kit - without us having to step a foot out of the door - really do make a big difference.
Nick Morgan set up Le Ski 30 years ago after bumming around in the south of France one summer, when he was asked what he did in winter.
He realised he didn’t do anything, and he was compelled to visit a ski resort, back in the days when the chalet concept was just kicking off.
He went on to open his own chalet the following year and now his company, Le Ski, has 19 chalets in Courchevel, nine in Val d’Isere and three in La Tania - a pint-sized village built as an overspill for the 1992 Winter Olympics.
Set in a cluster, they couldn’t be any closer to La Tania’s car-free centre and the nursery slope button lift, which is the meeting point each day for Ecole du Ski Français lessons.
From there it’s just a few metres to the larger bubble lift which takes you up to the higher slopes, from where you can ski down into Courchevel’s wealth of chair and bubble lifts spewing out the centre at 1850m, and as far as Val Thorens, using the massive Three Valleys ski system.
If your tot graduates past the button lift experience, anxious parents will be reassured that no expense was spared upgrading La Tania’s Le Bouc chairlift higher up the mountain to make it safe for kids.
Magnetic vests provided by ESF stick them well and truly onto the lift and make it nigh on impossible they could ever fall under the bars.
The great thing about the ESF is it has branches in every French ski resort, and youngsters can work towards badges, like the première étoile my five-year old daughter Ines bagged on her previous trip.
Le Ski prices:
■ Prices start from £549 per person for a week’s stay in Chalet Marmau, including return flights from London Gatwick to Chambery, return transfer, cooked breakfast, afternoon tea and a 3-course evening meal with unlimited wine at dinner six nights a week.
■ A full day place at the crèche, from 9am to 5pm including lunch costs £260 per week, for children aged from six months to 12 years.
■ Lunchtime supervision costs £130 per week, for 5-12 year olds, who can be collected from ski school and taken to crèche for lunch (2½ hrs).
For more information see www.leski.com or call 01484 548996.
With a kamikaze tendency to snow plough straight down blue runs, laughing devilishly, while I ski frantically behind yelling at her to slow down, it seemed like a good idea to sign her up to more classes so she could understand the importance of turning.
Meanwhile my 12-year old twin sons went into a higher group to master their parallel turns, and I went into a higher group still, hoping to refine my style with Sylvain, a motorbike enthusiast with a great sense of humour.
He made us do exercises like trying to squeeze as many turns into a 10 metre stretch as possible, and after just one class I felt I was skiing more aggressively with shorter sharper turns.
After the two and a half hour class the boys and I were still raring to go, but Ines felt her little legs had had more than enough than they could bear for the day.
So we went off to explore further afield, grateful that Robin, her assigned nanny at Le Ski’s crèche was picking her up, sending me a text to reassure me she had her safely in hand.
Tots are fed hearty meals like shepherds pie with peas or home made chicken bites with broccoli, in the chalet’s crèche, which is takes up the whole of the basement, and they spend the afternoon chilling out with a film before going to the park.
The boys were keen to test out the family fun park over in Courchevel, where some fanatics are doing 360 jumps on the half pipes, while we made do with the smaller mounds which still make my stomach go up to my mouth as took off into the air.
Coming back to a cake and tea in the pine-clad comfort of Chalet Marmau was certainly a highlight after a full day’s skiing, as was the three course meal we’d worked up an appetite for.
La Tania info:
■ Ski hire from Ski Higher, with a fitting service at Chalet Marmau costs between 128 to 225€ for six days for adult skis, boots and poles, 69€ for 3-6 year olds and 82€ for 7-12 year olds. To book online and get a discount see www.skihigher.com.
■ Five half-day lessons with the ESF, lasting two and a half hours, cost from 162€ for teenagers and adults, and 150€ for children aged 4-6 years. For more information see www.ski-school-la-tania.co.uk.
■ Six day adult lift pass for the Courchevel Valley this winter starts at 240€, or 193€ for children, while a six day adult pass for the Three Valleys costs 283€, and 228€ for children. Child prices apply to everyone in a family of two adults, two children.
Running a chalet is not as easy as it looks - I know having spent three seasons doing it myself when I finished uni.
So I knew our hosts Samantha, Rebecca and Sarah really had their work cut out, catering for up to 23 guests inhabiting Marmau’s 10 rooms.
While I was let loose on a dozen guests never having cooked in my life, I’m sure the selection process was a lot more rigorous at Le Ski, and Samantha’s Tante Marie cookery course did her proud.
The girls ran an impressively smooth operation and pumped out great cooked breakfasts, cakes we devoured on our return from the slopes and impressively tasty dinners like roast lamb, tarragon-stuffed chicken breast, salmon mousse and panna cotta.
Never in the three seasons I ran a chalet did the guests not get on, and I’m sure that the genre attracts a sociable crowd who want to bond with fellow guests at the meal tables and on the slopes.
Chalet Marmau is big enough to get in a really mixed crowd, and the mixture of twin, triple and family bedrooms mean it’s flexible space for families and groups.
We shared our holiday with another couple on a ski break without their child, a mother and her teenage son, a family with teenagers and a baby who was looked after full time in the creche, as well as Sarah’s mum, dad and brother.
In no time at all everyone forged friendships and some of the group, who weren’t signed up to ski classes, teamed up to go out skiing together.
After a week in La Tania with Le Ski I really felt as though I’d maxxed out on my time on the slopes, feeling stress and guilt-free, knowing the children were having a whale of a time too. If only all family ski holidays could be this easy,