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Ski virgins - where to go self drive in France?

(21 Posts)
loobylolly Tue 19-May-09 22:31:23

We (2 adults, 2 kids 11 and 6) are thinking of going skiing as a family for the first time next winter and we like the idea of driving somewhere in France and probably self-catering.

Which resort would you recommend? We won't be needing sophisticated nightclubs but a couple of good restaurants and maybe a couple of other things to do other than skiing might be a good idea, as well as a decent ski school for me and dcs. In general, small and quiet suits us better than heaving and lively (but I don't mean tiny and comatose).

If anyone can recommend any particular accommodation or a company to book with, that would ice the cake!

TIA

loobylolly Tue 19-May-09 22:37:53

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loobylolly Tue 19-May-09 23:09:47

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cornflakemum Tue 19-May-09 23:16:16

We went to Les Gets last Dec and it was lovely - not a concrete jungle full of tour operators, but enough to do.
We went with Ski Famille, but that was fully catered - not self-catering.
We drove and it was c. 11 hours door to door, including EuroTunnel waits, stops, lunch etc.

The resort seemed pretty easy to get to too.

loobylolly Tue 19-May-09 23:28:13

Thanks Cornflake, will look at Les Gets, it sounds like the kind of place we're after. Will also look at Ski Famille, who I haven't heard of but sound interesting...

Directskiandsun Wed 20-May-09 11:33:36

Hi - Les Gets IS lovely - in the summer too, it's glorious - and it's very child-friendly. Are you looking at Half Term week? If so, prices are on the high side here (everywhere really, but LG is very popular with Brits and this does seem to put the costs up - the French won't pay it!) Samoens and Morillon are also good, with lots of s/c and even nearer to the channel ports than Les Gets (about 15 minutes nearer). Be aware that all of Feb and the 1st week of March are also French HT weeks so prices stay higher and it's also busier. If you can take the DC out of school for a week, you'll see a massive cost difference. If you need more help see here

Ponders Wed 20-May-09 11:38:48

We went to Chamonix in early April - much cheaper & still lots of snow though of course that can never be guaranteed. Chamonix is fab - a proper town (ie not seasonal) quite large, but not heaving.

Toddmummy Tue 26-May-09 12:25:33

I have to say I find France quite expensive, and would also suggest you consider andorra, austria or italy - but not so good for driving.If you go with a family oriented tour operator you will pay a bit more, but (hopefully) everything will go smoothly. We are going with snowbizz, which is a self catered option as our first foray into family ski hols as it is important to us that the kids enjoy it (me and DH would sleep in a tent for the right mountain!. There is something nice about having someone else pick you up, drop you off, sort out your sking stuff/lessons/childcare. it makes for a very calm holiday.

mumof2222222222222222boys Tue 26-May-09 12:48:55

I would suggest a small resort for value for money. I can understand Toddmummy's pov - but there is a world of difference between 3 vallees, val d'isere etc and some of the smaller places.

We have a small place in a town in the southern french alps, within an hour's drive of 20 differenct resorts (Puy St Vincent, Serre Che, Risoul, Les Orres being some of the bigger ones) and I can say that while prices are clearly more expensive than they were, they are nowhere near the cost of going skiing in Val d'I etc.

Think about how much skiing you need (600km or 60km?) and whether you want one resort or maybe the option to go to several. Bear in mind the cost of a day pass at a big resort (Risoul 31E/ day) vs a small resort (Reallon about 15E)

If you know what you are doing (hope that doesn't sound too patronising), going independently can be fun, but is more effort. My BIL and family (snow virgins)used our place last year and wanted a lot of help re ski lessons / hire etc, which obviously we were able to provide - but you may not be able to get on a plate so to speak.

Having said that you can do an enormous amount of research on the net - even booking skis etc in our local shop.

Toddmummy Thu 28-May-09 09:42:17

Oh i have to agree that the 'family chalets' are expensive. Just thinking that if you've never been skiing before, booking ski hire etc is a bit daunting. Obviously if you have friends to help, or an idea of what you want, doing it yourself can save a lot of cash (and means you don't have to queue up with 20 other families to get fitted for boots (and I always get stuck behind a very fussy teenager!)). We will be DIYing again in a few years when we can see how the kids like it.(and we'll prob go back to austria or italy).
Incidentally mumof2222 where is your little place? is it in a valley somwhere?

mumof2222222222222222boys Thu 28-May-09 14:57:55

Hi toddmummy

Yes it is in the durance valley in a town called Embrun. 20 mins drive from Les Orres. If you goodle it, it is in France not Canada!

Toddmummy Thu 28-May-09 16:04:10

embrun looks very nice . is it hard to get to? are you a 'summer mountain sports' kind of person as well? just being nosy really, so don't feel you have to reply

happywomble Thu 28-May-09 18:44:09

I would also recommend Snowbizz in Puy St Vincent. We went by train but you can also self drive or take one of their flight packages.

mumof2222222222222222boys Thu 28-May-09 19:42:50

I love talking about it! It is more of a summer resort to be honest - but great for all times of the year imo. The weather is usually lovely in the summer - in July out of 2 weeks you probably get 10-12 fab days and a couple of rainy days (the Tour de France started there twice last summer and one of the days was a TOTAL washout but the other day was amazing!), there is a lake for swimming / water sports. Lots of camping, walking etc.

We usually drive (for a 2 week stay) - it takes 9 hours driving from Channel so we usually stop en route. For a week we usually fly to Marseille and it is jsut under 2 hours drive. There is also a direct train from Paris.

loobylolly Thu 28-May-09 20:09:15

ooh hello, what a surprise to find in active convos! Thanks, some good advice here.

We don't remotely know what we are doing, which has been concerning me - perhaps we need our hands held a bit for the first time.
I will def. look at Snowbizz, and the resorts mentioned.

(Normally I love choosing holidays and spending hours researching everything but I feel totally overwhelmed at the prospect of skiing and am making very slow progress!)

smartiejake Thu 28-May-09 20:16:41

My sis has a place in Chatel (on the Frech Swiss border).Lovely little town- quite a few nice restaurants and a good supermarket nearby. It has a very good ski school/ creche and is very near to Prix la Joe which has loads of ski lifts up and over into the Ports soleil region where there are oodles of lovely ski runs of varying difficulty. We went skiing there in mid March and there was still loads of Snow.

I think door to door (from Essex) it takes them about 11 hours to drive there.

Toddmummy Fri 29-May-09 08:58:54

I have to say choosing a resort is hard. If money was no object it would still be hard!We had a lovely time in zell am zee once,and when the kids can cope with the flight we will be going to whistler in canada (they have a terrific ski school!). I wouldn't go to St Anton though - it's quite an 'advanced level' resort. Most places would be pretty much ok though.
If you don't know what you are doing at all, it's nice to have someone sort out lift passes and lessons and stuff. We went to stay with mates in feb and they picked us up, booked our passes/ski/lessons etc and it made the trip really easy.

CaurnieBred Mon 01-Jun-09 15:05:39

Also look at La Tania - nice, friendly family resort. Is part of the Three Valleys but you don't have to buy the full three valley pass if you don't think you will ski that much. Look at latania.co.uk. Lots of accommodation on there and guides re getting there, etc. We drove this year and took us 11 hours door to door (north London) to get back (on the way there we visited friends in Grenoble).

MrsGuyOfGisbourne Tue 09-Jun-09 15:39:19

CB - what a fantastci interactive map on the La Tania website!! Great fun - if only all resorts has one of those!

abraid Tue 09-Jun-09 15:51:12

I love La Tania, too!

Flaine is also good for families and a slightly shorter drive.

BeachMum3 Wed 10-Jun-09 14:29:37

The benefit of going with a company the first time is that they can help out with everything - especially when you are with kids.

We went with Family Ski Company last year to Ardent (in the same ski area as Let Gets).

They sorted everything out for us - ski lessons, ski & boot hire (which were at our chalet when we arrived so we didn't have to go and stand in a que) and lift passes. They were even great at giving advise before we travelled on what kit we needed to bring etc.

They have helpers who look after the kids on the slopes when they are in lessons and check they are happy - I found this very reassuring and my kids loved them. They also have excellent kids clubs in the afternoons which the kids can go to so you can carry on skiing (I think the bigger ones are guided on the slopes if they want to carry on skiing).

The skiing in that area is great too. There are loads of lovely blue runs which are ideal for beginners and you can ski over to Morzine and Let Gets if you fancy - we found that as Les Gets is a bit lower & doesn't get as good snow, the slopes were a bit icier.

If you can take the kids out of school that would be ideal - the slopes get really busy in Feb. We went in Jan which was amazing (though we were blessed with good weather), but I hear March is great too - a bit warmer.

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