Family Traveller’s CEO Andrew Dent explains why Val-d’Isère is the answer to hip family ski holidays.
It used to be one of the fears of being a parent – that now you have kids, there is nowhere cool and beautiful that will cater for you and your extended brood. Well, that was certainly true some 10 years ago when the offering around family accommodation was either very basic or uninspiring, or very luxurious and stuffy (kids to be seen, but not heard).
There was a boom in the 1990s and 2000s with a surge in contemporary boutique hotels and this suited the dating couples of that era perfectly for romantic getaways. But then, all of sudden, those same consumers started having kids, perhaps due to those funky rooms and the free bottles of wine on arrival, but no one had cottoned on to the fact they might want the same level of cool with the little ones around.
This was one of the very reasons that I founded Family Traveller. It was to make the concept of family travel more reflective of the current mood. We wanted to give you cool, clean, modern design and imagery in these pages. But more importantly, we wanted to identify those destinations and accommodation providers that were raising the bar in the sector. Those who were delivering the best in design, cuisine and service, even, or should I say especially, if you have kids in your group.
The ski industry was one of the slowest to adopt the trend to recognise families who wanted more than basic shared chalets, a bit of a ski school, and some cheap wine over dinner. But I am pleased to say that this is changing, and there are more and more amazing family-friendly offerings popping up across the Alps.
Perhaps the finest examples of this are the guys at Hip Hideouts based in Val d’Isère, France. Founded by two Londoners back in 2010, Hip Hideouts is a hand-picked collection of 10 chalets concentrated exclusively in Val-d’Isère. All the chalets have to reach the exacting standards of the owners Richard Thompson and Graham Folmer. Indeed, the pair turned down the opportunity to manage eight luxury chalets last year. Simply put, they didn’t make the cut.
The vibe is more Soho House than Austrian cow bells and vintage skis on the wall. All of the chalets are in prime spots with great views, many of them feature ski in ski out, but they tend not to be in the middle of town. This doesn’t prove to be a problem, because you will rarely feel the need to eat or drink out. These guys don’t do spag bol washed down with chalet red.
The chef at our chalet (Chalet Daria) has a CV littered with stints at Michelin-star restaurants. Nothing was too much trouble for him, even down to making my favourite type of ice cream. The evening meals are often preceded by gin-tastings and then served with wine pairings. But don’t get me wrong; this isn’t stuffy at all. It’s all pretty casual.
The kids are given just as special consideration throughout the stay, from kid-sized Frette bathrobes to snow-shoe walks through the forest and husky tours.
So what is it like out there on the slopes when you break cover from your amazing accommodation? Well, Val d’Isère is one of the perennial stars of the French Alps. It is a true all-rounder that delivers quality terrain for all abilities. There is a lively après-ski scene, led by the famous La Folie Douce.
In Val d’Isère, they care about the little ones and there are lots of dedicated slopes for beginners. What is exciting for kids is that can go with everyone else to the top of the Solaise gondola. Here, they will find lots of green runs and ski-school classes. It makes it easy for the parents to enjoy more adventurous stuff, but still all meet on the mountain for lunch and do some runs together in the afternoon.
Get your ski/snowboard hire from the guys at Snowberry – they are Brits who have been in the valley for 20 years and have the best kit at reasonable prices.
As you may have guessed, Hip Hideouts is not a budget option. A week at Chalet Daria will cost you £4,000 per person in high season. But believe me, it will be worth it.
Return flights (London to Geneva) cost from £57 per person with easyJet.
Transfers with SnowDrone, prices on request
Where to stay
A week’s stay at Hip Hideout‘s Chalet Daria costs from £1,400 per person low season to £4,305 per person high season with 14 people sharing seven double/twin en-suite rooms. Price includes breakfast on seven mornings and three-course dinners with wine pairings on five evenings from your private Michelin-trained chef, plus a pre-arrival menu consultation, champagne and canapés on one evening, daily afternoon tea, selected superior wines and craft beers, chilled juices and soft drinks, a selection of three house spirits, cocktail and gin-tasting evenings, concierge service for pre-arrival and in-resort arrangements, professional chalet host and daily housekeeping, 4×4 Land Rover resort chauffeur from 8am-8pm, Aesop bath and beauty products, bathrobes, slippers and Wi-Fi throughout.
Snowberry offers a week’s ski or snowboard hire from £41 per adult.
BMW Ice Driving A session with a professional driver (with you as the passenger) costs from £27 or from £145 per person for a driving session with a professional driver (with you behind the wheel).
For more great ideas on where to hit the slopes with the family, take a look at our selection of the best family ski holidays.