Lucy Pares heads to Verbier to find out how families can enjoy great skiing in Switzerland, on a smaller budget
Don’t want to spend an extortionate amount of money taking your family on a ski trip to Verbier? We’ve found the answer: La Tzoumaz.
La Tzoumaz, linked to Verbier, is part of the four vallees which altogether form Switzerland’s largest ski area reaching over 410km of pistes.
It’s a small resort, but that doesn’t take away from its ski-town charm. It’s quieter than bustling Verbier and much cheaper, providing a perfect destination for families who want incredible skiing but who don’t want to fork out a small fortune.
I spent my beginner years learning to ski in Switzerland, and I’ve always loved the tree-lined pistes, relaxed atmosphere and delicious food that the Swiss have to offer but I’d never heard of La Tzoumaz before, which is a shame because it’s such a convenient and affordable resort for families.
We stayed in the brand new apartment blocks, T-One Résidence La Tzoumaz, right opposite the resort’s main ski lift and ski school ‘meet area’.
The ski hire shop sits conveniently beneath the apartments and we barely had to walk 10 steps from our ground floor apartment to hire brand new, state-of-the-art skiis, boots, helmets and poles.
The self-catering apartments are spacious and comfortable, offering everything you need for a ski holiday. They might not be the height of luxury, but when you are paying so much less than you would for a catered chalet in Verbier, they offer incredible value for money. Three twin rooms, three bathrooms, a set of bunk beds and a pull-out bed in the kitchen/dining room mean there is enough room for two families (or one large one).
Our first night’s restaurant, Le Central, was a hop, skip and a jump (don’t try this in ski boots) away from the apartment block, and we were warmly greeted by the owner of the residence and a huge wheel of cheese. The raclette, as it was called, was cooked in front of us under a hot grill and served with fresh new potatoes, delicious charcuterie and pickled onions galore. The competition ‘who could eat the most’ quickly became serious and I jumped leagues in front of the rest as I gobbled down multiple rounds of bubbling melted cheese, fresh and steaming from the grill.
After a cheese-filled, wild-dreamed sleep we woke up to beautiful blue skies and a rumoured three metres of snow at the top of the mountain. With the ski lift being so close to the apartment, we were up the mountain within half an hour of waking up, soaking in the spectacular views that you can only experience in the European Alps. We were lucky enough to be greeted by clear blue skies at the top of the mountain and plenty of snow and thus were able to ski most of the Four Vallees in the first day.
Our group’s instructors were delightfully patient and very funny and the beginners’ area was a popular destination for those who hadn’t skied before. The Four Vallees accommodate for all levels of skiers from complete beginners to those wanting to ski off piste or down black runs.
Lunch was at the charming La Vache, a restaurant jointly owned by James Blunt, where we enjoyed enormous pizzas and celebrity spotting (Bear Grylls). If you’ve really worked up an appetite, make sure you try their famous Tiramasu, it’s absolutely delicious.
To save money on eating out every night, we made the most of our self-catered kitchen, cooking our own homemade Fondu. It’s a great way to get the kids to have fun while cooking and to have some quality time together. Our kitchen was full of laughter and healthy competition as we were put into two teams to see who could make the most delicious fondue.
If you’re not a ski fanatic, there are plenty of options to keep you entertained, thrilled or just relaxed. On our first evening of the holiday we snowshoed up the mountain with an experienced guide, Pierre-Andre (not to be confused with Peter Andre).
The thought of hiking uphill for an hour and a half blew the wind right out of my sails but I had to eat my words as we started the climb because the walk was, in one word, breathtaking. The forest is superbly quiet and the only disturbance was the trudging of our shoes.
Pierre Andre proved to be omniscient about the deserted forest, showing us the tracks of small animals such as white rabbits and fallow deer. He knew his way around each tree, river or obstacle blindfolded, or so he said, and we all felt entirely safe in his hands.
Three quarters of the way through the walk, just before the descent began, he whipped out a steaming flask of homemade mulled wine, deliciously warm, and we stood around in a group pretty please with ourselves at the distance we’d managed to climb.
Another non-ski, snow-based activity was sledging down the luge, the longest sledge run in French-speaking Switzerland. We hired sledges from the ski hire shop below our accommodation and got the gondola straight up Savoleyres to the top of the luge.
With 834 metres of sledging to do, a family could spend at least half a day frolicking down the slopes without the kids getting bored. It’s a perfect activity for all ages.
So whether you’re a family of ski addicts, or you’re just dreaming of crisp mountain air, give your wallet a break and make La Tzoumaz your next snowy getaway.
Where to stay: A seven-night self-catered stay at T-One Résidence La Tzoumaz is priced from £358 for an apartment sleeping four.
How to get there: Swiss airlines fly from London City, Heathrow or Gatwick to Geneva from £74pp one way. Take the train from Geneva airport to Martigny from £112pp return and take a taxi from Martigny up to La Tzoumaz.
Where to eat in La Tzoumaz: L’Auberge de la Tzoumaz for Mongolian food and La Central for Raclette.
Sledging: hire sledges for a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) from £54 per day.