In the past we had travelled en-masse to Tignes with Esprit Ski, the family specialist. Staying in the same chalet, with the same people, for four consecutive years. This year sadly the diaries couldn’t deliver a ski week that we could all do and so, possibly selfishly, I decided to go it alone. A few of my mum-friends thought I was mad but I knew it had to be done. I just wasn’t sure it could be done, alone. My mad keen six year old desperately wanted to ski and so this was the only solution. To do the single parent skiing trip.
We were after fun family skiing with a selection of other non-skiing activities just in case the weather came in. The team at Esprit Ski suggested Alpe d’Huez. With 42 green, 37 blue, 39 red and 17 black runs it looked promising.
A smooth transition
Having flown from our local airport of Southampton to Chambery we located our Esprit rep and just over two hours later we arrived at the 4-diamond Hotel Mariandre in Alpe d’Huez. Situated in the old part of town, next door to the tourist office, it’s a pretty area with chalets and restaurants all crammed into the narrow steep streets. The selection of very good restaurants on our door step came in handy on the chalet staff’s night off.
We were well connected with access to all areas. From our bedroom window we could see five lifts and a bus stop, so we were certainly in the thick of it. Arriving at lunchtime meant we had time to get our skis from Ski Set and test them on the ‘free’ to use beginners slopes before heading back to our chalet hotel for an afternoon tea of cake, cookies, savouries and soup.
Single parent skiing – alone, but not for long…
No one else was a ‘single-parent’ skiing. But this didn’t faze my son as he could see there were children as old as him, and a few a little older too. He knew he’d have some ski buddies.
The great thing about staying in a family-friendly chalet hotel such as the Mariandre is that it is very informal and relaxed. The communal areas, high-tea and social dining mean that there are lots of opportunities to meet others. I already had two things in common with everyone at this hotel; a child and a passion for skiing… so I wasn’t alone for long.
Discovering the area
Having dispatched my son to ski school at 8.30am the day was mine.
I headed up the DMC lift. At the top I had a quick tour around the Grotte De Glace- a glacial art gallery at the top of the mountain – well worth the €5 it cost me to enter.
I met up with a former colleague who lives and works in Alpe d’Huez. Stuart Adamson moved to Alpe d’Huez some 25 years ago and set up the Ski School Masterclass. There’s not much he doesn’t know about the area, and everyone appears to know him.
“Alpe d’Huez is a resort without pretence.” Stuart told me. He was right.
There are good skiers and people who want to become good in this resort. There are great restaurants with reasonable prices. There is even a Folie Douce and La Fruitiere… but there isn’t the ‘look at me’ that goes with certain other resorts where’ll you find these two venues.
Armed with the resort information I had gleaned from Stuart I met up with my ‘new friends’ and was off to explore further. We duly did the routes and runs Stuart suggested and they did not disappoint. From the top of the Pic Blanc we skied Sarenne. And later in the week we did the huge vertical descent from 3330m to 1500m, all the way from the top of Pic Blanc and Le Tunnel down to Vaujany.
Personally I enjoyed the skiing over to Villard Reculas. Fresh snow during our stay meant that Les Vallons Du Petit Prance was a powder meadow.
The journey over to the Auris en Oisans ski area via the ‘scare-chair’ was also fun, and the children enjoyed the ride which tipped them over the side of an incredibly steep valley.
Fun family skiing
The children skied with the ESF under blue skies and in total white-out conditions and each day they returned singing and dancing along with the Esprit Childcare team for lunch, all buzzing from their lessons and wanting to do more.
New for this season in Alpe d’Huez is Marcel’s Farm. Winding down from the top of the Signal lift, Marcel’s Farm is full of fun. A mini half-pipe, slalom sticks, skiing through pigs nostrils, doing a loop the loop like a pig’s tail, woo-tangs, hoops, slides and bridges!
Non-skiing activities in Alpe d’Huez
Even on the one morning when we couldn’t ski (lifts were closed due to high winds) we had a huge list of fun activities to choose from.
The Sports centre has a Vertigo assault course and climbing wall as well as an indoor pool. There’s the outdoor pool (free with your lift pass) if you fancy a snowball fight in your bathers. There was also ice skating, a sledging track, a zip-wire and inflatable ring rides down the slope into an air bag. And no trip to Alpe d’Huez would be complete without a visit to one of the Lollypop sweet shops.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays night-skiing and tobogganing can be done with your weekly lift pass.
Esprit Ski’s timetable of childcare and catering arrangements meant that I actually had a holiday too. My son skied all morning, had lunch and then went to CocoClub until 2pm. Although some days I picked him up after lunch so we could get a bit more skiing in.
We would return for cake and savouries each day by 4pm and then as the children had their high tea at 5pm, I was able to shower so I was ready for canapés at 7pm.
CocoClub started at 7pm too, so whilst the adults settled to dinner the children were taking part in quizzes and were entertained until their bed times. And at bedtime, the childcare team sat on the landings babysitting until adult-dinner was done. This formula works well.
I asked my son at the end of the trip what he thought of it all, he answered “Alpe d’Huez has really fun skiing for me. Can we come back again?”
We will return. Esprit Ski made it so very manageable. Single parent skiing – it can be done!
Fiona travelled to Alpe d’Huez with Esprit Ski
A week’s stay at the Chalet Hotel Mariandre commencing 14 January 2018 will cost £659 per person, including flights, transfers and taxes.
A six-day adult lift pass is priced from £250/€259.50 per person.
A six-day child (aged 5-12) lift pass is priced from: £173/€205 per person.
Lift passes for children aged under 5 years old are free
For more information visit www.sataski.com
Six days ski and boot hire for adults is priced from £53 (£63 with helmet) at SKISET. Six days ski, boot and helmet hire for children is priced from £38 (for children aged 3-5 years old); £44 (for children aged 6-11)