Having spent 2 seasons in the Alps, I have worked in the most basic of resorts Les 2 Alpes and the most exclusive, Courchevel. Not surprisingly Courchevel is my resort of choice, with access to over 300km of piste and the entire 3 valleys. To be completely honest, the two resorts don’t even compare and offer entirely different experiences. But how do us ‘mere mortals’ enjoy what is usually a playground for intended solely for the rich and famous.
As with all holidays, it’s all comes down to the research you put in. This subject came up a few weeks ago when my brother decided to take his girlfriend for their first skiing holiday together. She was a complete beginner and they were on a tight budget so we had to get our ‘thinking caps’ on. The key thing to consider is “What do you want from your holiday?” Good piste access, excellent après, would you prefer a hotel or chalet environment? All these things need to be considered before you even think about booking. I’m hoping next few posts will help you to still have an amazing trip on a reasonable budget and hopefully these tips will apply to other resorts, not just Courchevel.
Firstly, how do you get out there? I have driven, flown and even travelled by coach. It all depends on how many are going. I personally wouldn’t recommend a coach, quite simply it was the worst experience of my life and I can hand on heart say I think I’d rather not go at all after spending 24 hours on a bus with a 30 minute pit stop every 2 hours because the drivers have to swap/take a break.
If there are 4+ of you in the car to share the petrol and tolls (almost £140 according to via Michelin ) then this is worth looking into. The drive from Calais is about 8-9 hours depending on how often you stop, in my car we had to re-fuel twice on the way down and again on the way back, but it is slightly heavier on fuel than the average hatchback. After a quick comfort break and stocking up on refreshments, we’re back on the road. We tend to leave the UK on the tunnel early afternoon to make our way down and stay in an Ibis hotel or similar close to Villefranche-sur -Saone or Bourg-en-Bresse so we can get up nice and early to finish the journey but still get a good days ski in. Most places will have somewhere you can leave your cases when you arrive, but you won’t likely be allowed in your room before 3pm. Please remember to have the right insurance and breakdown cover to get you through Europe and that you have the necessary equipment in/on your car (GB Sticker, warning triangle, reflective jacket, first aid kit, headlamp adjustment and breathalyser). More info can be found on www.theaa.com . Finally, if you get caught in the snow and you don’t have chains in your car, you could get a hefty fine and cause a jam so invest in some chains, Lidl sell them for £19.99 it’s a worthwhile investment.
If there is only one or two of you then flying is certainly more cost effective way to travel. Geneva is the most easily accessible airport for the 3 valleys (although you also have Grenoble, Chambery and Lyon nearby as well). I know this is will come to a shock to most of you but I really do like EasyJet, they have never been late or cancelled and I have to say their service has always been great. I tend to book my return flight for the evening (so I can try and get an extra morning’s ski in before I leave), but a couple of times my transfer has been earlier in the day and EasyJet have transferred me to an earlier flight free of charge! Basically if they have the space and there’s a chance of selling your seat to someone that is late, then that works in their favour. The only thing that I struggle with is skis, it is expensive to get them out there (£30 each way), but to me it’s worth the extra. BA also offer reasonably priced flights to Geneva with luggage included if I remember rightly, but if I’m ever waiting for another flight before the transfer bus leaves, it’s tends to be a BA flight that is delayed, so that has always put me off flying with them.
Something that we often forget is that the flight is only half of the journey and I would recommend that you try and arrange a transfer from the airport to resort before leaving the UK. Again, there are numerous ways of doing this. You can get a bus to Moutiers http://www.alpski-bus.com/ or even a train (but it can be a bit of a kerfuffle) and then a local bus up to resort. You could be lucky and be able to bung a rep/transfer driver 50€ each to get up the mountain, but it’s a big risk, there might not be anyone going in that direction, particularly if you arrive on a weekday. If you are staying in a chalet or going with a tour operator they offer a transfer, take it, then you know that you can get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ without any stress or added expense of a private minibus or taxi.
So hopefully that will help you decide how you are going to get to resort, next on the list is Accommodation. And we’re still trying to stick to that budget (whatever that may be).
Of course if anyone knows of any other hints/tips about getting into resort, I would love to hear them. At the end of the day, the more we could save on these trips, the more regularly we can get out to the snow !