One of our readers books his ski holidays at the last minute in January, and likes the buzz of British-run chalet hotels. Lately, he’s been focusing Courchevel and Vaujany – but he fancies a change. He asks, “What other resorts should be on my radar when looking for a last-minute ski holiday?”
This is what he wants from his holiday
*Plenty of pistes – some of the them steep. “I used to ski off-piste a lot, but my knees are no long up to it. So I’m getting my kicks on black-rated pistes instead,” he says.
*Doorstep skiing – each morning he wants to get up and go without having to catch a bus or hike for fifteen minutes in his ski boots.
*Good mountain restaurants.
*Discounted prices when he books at the last minute in January.
*The conviviality of a British-run chalet-hotel.
This is what he doesn’t want
*Après-ski bars right outside his bedroom window.
Here’s what we suggest
1. Tignes: okay, so the architecture is an acquired taste…
…and some of the food is nasty…
…but just look at the ski area.
No really, look.
There’s steep skiing…
…good food, if you know your restaurants…
…and a brand new chalet-hotel.
Just remember to pray for good weather before you go…
The high-altitude resort of Tignes shares its ski area with neighbouring Val d’Isere. Called the Espace Killy, it covers a mouth-watering stretch of mountains, with everything from cruisey blues to white-knuckle off-piste on the menu.
There are some classic blacks here too – which is what our reader is really after. Yes, most of them are immediately above Val d’Isere rather than Tignes: but we think Tignes will work better for his last-minute ski holiday for a number of reasons.
- Val’s steep runs – notably the Face, Foret and the Rhone-Alpes - are a bit of nightmare at 4pm. That’s when most people staying in Val d’Isere ski them – on the way back home, having gone over to Tignes in the middle of the day. It’s much better to be working in the opposite direction: ski them mid-morning, when they’re quieter, the snow’s in better nick, and you’re feeling stronger, and then wind down in the afternoon on the mellower pistes above Tignes.
- There’s a new chalet-hotel in Tignes this season, the Rosset, run by tour operator Ski Total. It’s a hop and a skip from key lifts and pistes and it’s likely to be discounted in January – because it usually takes a season or two for new properties to bed down with the skiing public.
- In stark contrast to Val d’Isere, the après-ski in Tignes is muted, to put it mildly. So our reader won’t be woken by 3am choruses of “I kissed a girl ” under his bedroom window.
- Although most of the best food is served on Val d’Isere’s side of the Espace Killy there are a couple of great restaurants at Tignes-le-Lac – l’Arbina, which is virtually next door to Ski Total’s chalet-hotel, and Lo Soli, at the top of the Chaudannes chairlift.
2.St Anton: it may be famous for its big off-piste descents…
…and full throttle nightlife…
…but it’s also home to some cracking blacks…
…and there’s lots of intermediate-friendly skiing in Lech, next door.
Plus – this season – you’ll be able to ski in Warth-Schrocken, too.
There’s a British chalet-hotel in the middle of town…
…and whilst the mountain food is mostly hearty rather than fancy…
…you will find gastronomic restaurants on the slopes.
(And if you go in January, you’ll miss the worst of the crowds, too.)
St Anton’s chief glory is its lift-serviced off-piste. But if you like a challenging piste or two – as our reader does – you should put it on your hit-list. January is a great time to ski it: because at busier times of the season it’s pretty hectic, and the key runs back to the resort can be choked with skiers.
Above the satellite villages of Stuben and St Christoph, you’ll also find several long intermediate-friendly pistes – but in nothing like the same quantity as in Tignes (or the Three Valleys). So it’s good to know your lift pass also gives you access to the more laid-back skiing of Lech, and Warth-Schrocken nearby. The latter, by the way, is the snowiest resort in the Alps, with an average snowfall of 11m. This season, for the first time, it’s being linked to Lech by a gondola.
Another reason why St Anton fits the bill is that it’s well-stocked with chalets and chalet-hotels run by British tour operators. Mark Warner’s chalet-hotel Rosanna is the obvious choice: it’s slap-bang in the middle of town and close to the key lifts – though our reader will need a room facing the railway station (ie away from the resort’s main, pedestrianised street) if he wants to avoid the sound of St Anton’s legendary nightlife. (He shouldn’t expect too much from the decor in the public rooms, either – here, you’re paying principally for the location.)
He should also check out VIP’s more upmarket chalet-hotel, the Montjola – which is quieter, but also more expensive. It’s up the hill at Oberdorf, a few minutes’ walk from the middle of town. Inghams also has a chalet-hotel – the Alpenheim – in the suburb of Nasserein: it’s a ten-minute walk from the centre of town, but has its own gondola up the mountain. It’s worth keeping an eye on it during the hunt for last-minute ski holiday discounts.
3. Madonna di Campiglio: home to some stunning scenery…
…superb and reasonably-priced mountain food…
…and some of the best steep, tree-lined pistes we know.
Including this one…
There are no chalet-hotels, but this place is popular with British skiers…
…and there’s a British ski-hosting programme, too.
Madonna di Campiglio is not a big destination for British skiers like Tignes or St Anton, and it’s not packed with Brit-friendly chalets and chalet-hotels. But in many respects it’s going to suit our reader very well for a January trip. Hidden away deep in the Italian Alps, on the edge of the Brenta Dolomites, it’s a spectacular place to ski, and and is home to several sumptuous black-rated pistes.
We’ve even got a special feature about them – The Madonna di Campiglio Ski Map Cheat Sheet.
And because it’s in Italy, you’ll good and inexpensive mountain food all over the place. The best example is above Pinzolo, at the far end of the gondola that links its ski area with Madonna’s. Here, at the Rifugio Doss del Sabion you’ll get delicious things like taglioni with smoked ricotta, tomatoes and porcini mushrooms for 2/3rds of the price of dry and depressing poulet frites in a French self-service. Meanwhile, above Madonna itself, the Chalet Fiat has a more gastronomic atmosphere and is the place to go for the kind of lunch that lasts most of the afternoon.
Admittedly, there isn’t as much skiing here as you’ll find in our other suggested resorts. But with 60 lifts and 150km of pistes the ski area isn’t exactly small either. And it has the distinct advantage of being set largely below the treeline, so visibility is good on cloudy days. What’s more, if our reader books with British tour operator Crystal he’ll get its social skiing service thrown into the mix – so he can meet other Brits skiing in the resort to add to the sense of variety.