Let’s face it, if your choice of skiing destination is driven by giving your kids an easy introduction to the Alpine art, Chamonix is not your first choice of resort. As dynamic and beautiful as it is, it’s not ski in, ski out stuff.
We’ve always been aware of Chamonix’s reputation for being the playground of those with nerves of steel, but with so many families in town, kids must be catered for, yes? So itching to get out there ourselves, we’ve decided to take the kids out of school and sample ski school in the Chamonix valley. I’m using the phrase ‘Chamonix valley’ intentionally, as we’re being faced with far more choices of locations and schools than we’ve been used to.
Whereas in most French resorts the choice is pretty much just vanilla ESF, we’re being offered quite a few more we could use:
- British Association of Ski Schools, BASS Chamonix. Based in Argentiere with an English focus. Appears to offer small group lessons.
- Evolution 2. Mad dog ski has it down as the best independent ski school in the valley, principally run out of Argentiere. Apparently they are also ‘progresssive’ in their teaching methods. It’s Panda Club is also run out of there.
- ESF (Ecloe Ski Francaise) Sometimes you hear them knocked for being inflexible, and possibly a bit too keen to push your limits, but we’ve never had any problem. As with most things, a lot of it comes down to individual personalities, and as we’re not going skiing in the UK we’re not surprised if the instructor doesn’t have an excellent command of English.
- UCPA. I don’t know details personally but you see their black jackets all over the place, apparently ‘low-cost winter sport packages for groups, covering the premium resorts in the French alps.’ Possibly ski guides rather than instructors? You’ll need a good comand of French I think.
Then we have we’re faced with 5 skiing areas, all with their very own unique terrain. It would be great to try them all over the week, but our choice of kids ski domain will act as the hub for much of our shussing. So it’ll be important to chose a domain that offers us a wide enough variety to keep us adults entertained for the week, or enables a quick drop and run so we can head off elsewhere quickly. So, where to base the kids?
- Blame La Tour which has nice gentle slopes, but about a 20 minute drive up the valley.
- Argentiere, again up the valley, probably about 13 minutes. Better known for the challenges of Grands Montets than beginner friendliness.
- Planards, a small self contained area with nursery slopes and one red run in the centre of the town. Great for beginners, but only caters for those up to 1 star. Those above are bused to Les Houches on a daily basis.
- Savoy,which again is close to town, but the north side. It has a flat beginners’ area with a drag lift behind Club Med that takes you up to Brevent. This also hopefully means you can park further away from the Planpraz gondola that takes you up to Brevent area which is joined to Flegere so you can all start skiing at the same time.
- Les Houches, an area with some lifts not included in the Chamonix Le Pass I think. Being further down the valley where the sides are less steep it offers much for beginners and intermediates. Personally on my last trip without kids I found this area the most pleasurable and I spotted a restaurant I’m itching to go to, Les Vielles Luge. This is about a 12 minutes drive down the valley from Barrats A.
So being prepared to put up with the ESF bashing we decided to keep with the programme the kids have already been introduced to. Their collection of sparkling metal badge can then grow as they collect more etoiles. Um, more stuff to dust:-)
So for the purposes of enabling Mum and Dad to ski for at least 2 hours on our own we’re going to try Argentiere (Les Chosalets (1230 m)). – Savoy/Brevent was a close runner for a while, but given the kids’ different abilities (the 7yr old going into 1 star, the 9yr old 3 star) the all day lesson option for the elder child wasn’t available for the younger unless we were prepared for an expensive 2.5 hr lunch, or she was 125cm in height.
So hopefully Argentiere will be relatively straightforward with kids. Watch this space for reports.
Gosh, at this moment our usual skiing in Montalbert, La Plagne (Chalet Alexander) seems so much simpler when you’ve got kids. But we’ve got that to look forward to at the end of the season:-)
And here’s a link to family priced lift passes for the unlimited pass.
And if you are interested in finding out the ski area our kids prefer, here it is…..
And don’t forget this year new ski lifts are being built.