As I have done on a few occasions (like here and here), I thought I’d give my readers (particularly those in Europe that are parents of little monsters) my impressions from the ski vacation I just finished at the Village Vacances de Soleil at Les Menuires in the French Alps. Overall, it was an excellent place for skiing (or in my case snowboarding) as it is right in the center of the 3 Vallées – a massive ski area covering the domains of Courchevel, Méribel-Mottaret, Val Thorens, and Les Menuires with 100s of kilometers of incredible downhill tracks for all levels as well as tons of awesome off-track possibilities. In a 6-day ski holiday, I can say that I could only do justice to Les Menuires (although there were several tracks that I think I missed) and scratched the surfaces of Méribel and Val Thorens and just got next to Courchevel. All that to say that there as stated by a couple that was leaving just as we were checking in, it is nearly possible to not revisit a single track over a week’s holiday. Snow quality was extraordinary – powdery and very little ice patches. The altitude climbs to about 3200m over at Val Thorens (or Val Tho’ for the initiated) with most peaks in the 2700m range (Mont de la Chambre at Menuires, Mont Vallon at Méribel). We had pretty good weather with just one afternoon of nearly zero visibility and a huge snow storm the following day. As for the equipment, there are lifts and cabins practically everywhere and so the wait times were always tolerable to non-existant. The food tends to be quite expensive out on the slopes with our lunches averaging at between €40 and €50 for two. I would, however, highly recommend the Caron Freeride Restaurant at Combe de Caron in Val Tho’ for the excellent views and the decent food at relatively reasonable prices. On the other hand, the Espace Confort Plans des Mains at Motteret was terrible in terms of quality and a total ripoff in terms of price!
As for the Club itself, the food was perhaps the weakest point although over the week it improved a lot. It turns out that the Village Vacances purchased the site from Club Med and opened this club only the previous year so we profited from Club Med-style amenities in terms of room size and furnishings. The clubs for the kids were pretty good: there was ski for everyone for at least half a day starting at 3y (included in the price of the week) and activities for the rest of the day as well as into the night. Yes, it is a club so there is the awful kid’s spectacle on Saturday night and the typical salon games and so forth, but it is a take-it-or-leave-it with no pressure to join if you don’t feel like it. The bar is well-stocked (one or two bourbons and a few whiskeys as well as a choice of about 12 different beers) and the service is both friendly (cute male and female bartenders) and the drinks are actually really good (they made a mean mojito and caipirinha), so us parents could relax and enjoy a bit as the day ended. Overall, I would recommend this club in terms of price-performance (it is MUCH cheaper than Club Med and the skiable domain is unbeatable) as long as you can tolerate the “club” ambiance and are not too picky about food and kids running around all the time.
The one thing that we definitely took some reservations about was the ESF instruction for the younger skiers (like my 6y old son). My kid had already passed the “snow flake” level last year but was bucked back by this past week’s instructor to “baby bear”. Apparently, the bar is set really high for the little ones on basic skills and this backslide occurred to several other kids. A little warning about the failure to make the expected level would have been appreciated as my kid was pretty crestfallen when he didn’t get the “snow flake” this time around. I wonder if other parents have had similar issues with other ESF schools in the 3 Vallées area…
- Les Menuires, France: How to cut costs on a ski holiday (telegraph.co.uk)
- Family chalet ski breaks: A week of ups and downs in Les Trois Vallees (dailymail.co.uk)
- Skiing: How to survive the half-term holiday hell (telegraph.co.uk)