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Travel: The French Alps… Why we will return to slopes piste haste

© Press Association ImagesMeribel at night.
Meribel at night.

There’s good news for anyone itching to take to the slopes – or craving a healthy dose of après-ski – as resorts in France will be accessible again this season.

But as with everything else we’re experiencing, it will be a bit different this time.

My taster of what the new-normal of traditional chalet holidays will be like begins when I arrivev at Geneva Airport, where I’m picked up by our driver Renaud from MV Transport.

He whisks us across the border to the beautifully crisp and mesmerising Meribel, found in the heart of the 3 Valleys in the French Alps – the world’s largest ski area.

So, what has changed? Quite a lot, it seems. I’m among the first to experience how Ski France has been preparing for the winter season ahead, with fully vaccinated Brits now permitted to travel to its resorts quarantine-free.

We arrive late evening to Chalet Etienne, where we are met not by chalet staff, but by a fully stocked fridge, cool beer, chilled wine, beds neatly made and rooms perfectly organised.

Say goodbye to chalet hosts and chefs and hello to their new Contactless Catered Chalets. Ski France has more than 50 chalets, which are divided into Classic and Premium across various French Alps resorts.

© Press Association Images
The Aquamotion Spa in Meribel.

Despite differences among the resorts in prestige, accommodation and food offerings, both Classic and Premium provide local produce and various ingredients for breakfast, afternoon tea/snack, a three-course dinner and drinks each day, with flexibility in each category.

Our extra perks include Champagne on the first night and croissants and coffee delivered every day from the local bakery.

Menus, recipes and easy-to-follow instructions are laid out, with fresh ingredients pre-delivered and pre-stocked in the kitchen.

On our first night, the suggested meal is goat’s cheese and lardon salad with balsamic dressing, salmon en croute with white wine and dill sauce (plus roast new potatoes and broccoli), summer fruit crumble with crème anglaise and after dinner chocolates. We also enjoy copious amounts of cheese.

Skis or snowboards will also be reserved at the local hire shop and lift passes will be booked, which will help to avoid queuing and crowded areas.

The “backstage” chalet crew will only sweep into the chalet – when guests are out enjoying the slopes – halfway through the week to clean, replenish and re-sock the accommodation. They’ll be at the end of the phone, but “contactless”, unless requested otherwise.

Our first proper day starts with breakfast in the chalet, then we’re off to experience some bike action in the Alps.

We meet our guide Alexandre from MCF bike school for adventures on e-mountain fatbikes. Some might say “boost mode” is cheating, but I certainly appreciate how it helps me climb the mountains.

With resorts filled mostly be the domestic market, Alexandre says there has been a shift to “slightly lesser known activities, such as the fatbike, ski trekking, snow shoes…a different way to enjoy the mountain”. Back at the chalet I enjoy some downtime in the wooden sauna, before a dip in the very powerful Jacuzzi.

My dip into e-transport and “lesser known activities” isn’t over quite yet though, as next we head for e-skateboarding escapades at Lac de Tueda, a beautiful circular lake surrounded by pine trees.

I slowly but surely make my way around the breathtaking scenes, clutching a controller that allows me to add power to my skate. We head next in our mini-van down the valley to Chambery.

Waking up to Ski France’s very own 14th Century Chateau de Candie doesn’t turn out to be the worst experience.

We sample some of the Viognier produced from its very own vineyard, of which it makes 2-3000 bottles of Candie 1891 dry white wine a year.

After a very satisfying three-course meal at the chateau’s La Cantine, I reach the conclusion that French ski resorts are fairly well-prepared for the season ahead.

P.S.

Aquamotion, nestled in Courchevel, is an aquatic centre filled with indoor and outdoor pools with mountain views, steam rooms, ice buckets, cold and hot Jacuzzis, a salt pool with neon lights, a surf experience, and most importantly…slides.

Factfile:

A week’s stay at Chalet Etienne, with Ski France, costs from £638 per person for 14 people. Visit skifrance-premium.co.uk or call 0203 475 4756