The standards are improving
There has been a revolution in the standard of apartments in Europe in the last 10 years. Complexes with swimming-pools, hot tubs, fitness facilities, saunas and steam rooms are now widely available and are no longer the sole domain of North American and Canadian resorts.
There’s more space
There are now larger apartments available at a reasonable price so you will have more space and you don’t necessarily need to have people sleeping on the sofas in the living room.
Apartments are better equipped
Most apartments now have flat-screen TVs, a toaster and kettles (although there is still a conspicuous absence of big mugs for tea), together with large ovens rather than a tiny combination microwave/grill.
Keep to your own routine
You can set your own timetable when it comes to meal times without having to fit in to a chalet routine, which is good for families with babies and small children – or you can order a takeaway and dine in.
No empty bed fees
Most specialist companies and rental agencies charge per apartment not per person, so there are no under-occupancy fees.
No sharing space with strangers
You can book an apartment just for your family, so you don’t have to share the living areas with others. If you want to, you can get straight into your pyjamas after skiing without upsetting other holidaymakers.
Good for groups
There are now lots of larger apartments with up to seven bedrooms, so you could book a big apartment for a large family or group of friends all holidaying together. Some of these apartments are large enough for a private chef or nanny to join your party, and there are an increasing number of stand-alone chalets on offer.
Half-board can still be an option
Some apartment residences have hotel facilities, should you wish to book a half board/meal package.
Don’t forget the dog
Pet lovers can bring their dogs with them for only a small fee.
and above all…
It works out cheaper
Self-catering will make your holiday cheaper, as many apartments have great locations and you can come back for lunch and a warm-up before heading out for the afternoon. Evening meals are also less expensive than dining out in expensive resort restaurants.
* The smaller, lesser-known resorts are usually better value, for example St Sorlin d’Avres is a great place for an inexpensive ski holiday.
* Arc 1950 is one of the best ski-in ski-out resorts without a shadow of doubt. Every single one of the 800 apartments and their respective boot rooms open onto a gentle slope, either in the village or on to the blue run that goes past the resort.
Apartments for different requirements:
On a budget
La Daille has long been the cheap-and-cheerful suburb of Val d’Isere with tiny apartments. However, Residence La Daille contains renovated apartments which are well worth a look. They are 200m from the funicular that whisks you straight into the ski area, and a 1km bus-ride from the resort centre.
Le Village de Lessy in Le Grand Bornand is built into the rock face with the reception at the top, and the chalets are all connected by lift. On the lowest level is a good sized mini-market and a few shops. Across the road there’s the ski school and a lift down to the slopes.
MGM L’Oree des Cimes is in Peisey-Vallandry, which is part of the giant Paradiski area. The smart apartments have doorstep skiing, a spacious lounge area with an open fireplace, and there’s an in-house spa.
Best new apartments
The Hameau du Kashmir apartments in Val Thorens are the stars of the slopes for 2013. Another sparkling newcomer is MGM Le Lodge Hemera in La Rosiere, which are brand new luxury apartments combining traditional architecture with a high standard of modern facilities. The smart new apartments have their own leisure centre, private swimming-pool and a spa centre.
Les Fermes Emiguy in Les Gets opened in the winter of 2011-12, with a swimming-pool, sauna, steam room, and spa suite offering massages. The building is 300m from the village centre and the shops, with a free shuttle bus service to the lifts and centre.
Best for ski-in, ski-out
Les Chalets Edelweiss in Plagne 1800, are right next to the ESF ski school meeting point and the ski lift to Plagne Centre. Also in La Plagne are MGM Les Granges du Soleil apartments, which face Mont Blanc in Plagne Soleil. They have a spa, heated indoor swimming-pool, and a lounge with a cosy log fire.
Saskia Falaise is at the top of the La Falaise area in Avoriaz and is split between a number of buildings. Given their lofty location, the properties offer wonderful views of Avoriaz and down into the Morzine valley.
Les Fermes de Samoens is set between the old town centre and the gondola in Samoens. The collection of traditional apartments and terraced chalets share a small swimming-pool. CGH Hameau de Pierre Blanche is in the village of Les Houches, which shares a lift pass with the other resorts of the Chamonix Valley. The hameau is split between six Savoyard-style chalets that have been created from local wood and stone.
Le Chalet des Dolines is in Montgenevre, part of the giant Milky Way ski area that straddles the border between France and Italy. The residence is located in the new Obélisque area, at the foot of the slopes and a newly-built ski slope adjoins the residence with a drag-lift and snow-cannons. In addition, the ski kindergarten and children’s ski school meeting place are next door. Le Centaure is a new apartment building next to the Grandes Plattieres cable-car station in Flaine, the purpose-built resort that is considered to be one of the best choices for families.
P&V Residence l’Amara in Avoriaz is one of the best residences in a resort that is excellent for families, with a kids club for non-sking little ones, and baby-sitting can be arranged. There’s a swimming-pool with Jacuzzi and sauna and the building is ski-in ski-out from both sides.
For spa lovers
Chalet-style MGM Le Telemark in Lac de Tignes has a spa offering a variety of beauty and massage treatments, and an indoor heated pool. Le Hameau du Rocher Blanc in Serre Chevalier is in a prime location at Chantemerle 1350, a couple of minutes’ walk from the lifts and the resort centre. The building has its own indoor pool and fitness room, and the resort’s Les Grands Bains spa is well worth a visit. MGM Residence Les Clarines, in Les Menuires, is a wood-and-stone residence divided into four chalet-style buildings. It houses a Spa Ô des Cimes with an indoor heated swimming-pool, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms and massage treatments on offer.
Best for big groups
Le Chalet des Arolles in Arc 2000 is great for large groups. It has a seven-bedroom duplex apartment for 14-16 people, so you could fit in several families or a big group of friends. There’s also access to a private indoor heated swimming-pool, sauna, steam room and a fitness centre within the complex.
We have listed the properties above each with one tour operator. However they may also be available from the following apartment specialists: Erna Low, P&V Holidays, Peak Retreats, Lagrange, PowderBeds, Powder White, Ski Apartments, Ski Collection, and larger operators like Crystal and Skiworld – the latter has its own blog on the subject.