Charlotte Seligman takes her sons skiing for the first time and is relieved that they now love the winter sport as much as she does
Pausing on the mountain on the last afternoon of our ski holiday in Tignes, France, I inhaled the lovely fresh Alpine air and savoured the breathtaking view. The sun was shining, the slopes glistened and the children laughed as they caught their breath after another exhilerating run. It was a perfect sight.
And one that made me smile even more after spotting the man whizzing down the slope behind me – his tzitzit hanging out, flapping in the wind behind him. You see, Jews do ski.
It may not be top of the Jewish sports list, but it should be for two reasons. You spend most of the time on your bottom, and there’s a drinking hole at the bottom of virtually every slope, so you’re never far from finding a place to eat. Forget counting calories. Ski hard, eat hard, that’s my (Jewish) ski motto. With all the thermals and padded gear on, you look like the Michelin man anyway. So what’’s a few extra pommes frites? You’re on holiday, darling!
Skiing really is a wonderful family break. What could be better than spending a week’s quality time with the children in stunning surroundings, 3,000 metres up in the French Alps? The peace, the quiet, the sheer silence you experience as you travel up the mountains on a chairlift is something to savour away from everyday hectic life at home.
This was our first ski break en famille, but despite being a competent skier myself, I worried whether my two boys (aged 10 and seven) would appreciate it quite as much as I’ve done over the years. It didn’t start well when I told my youngest he had to spend three hours every morning in ski school. He took my words literally – he thought he was being sent back to class – and the first tantrum ensued.
Once that was over and the boots were on, we queued for the ski passes, schlepped across the snow to the meeting point carrying both our skis and the children’s and, overheated, the holiday finally began. When we returned to collect them a few hours later at lunchtime, their little red rosy cheeks and smiling faces told me all I needed to know. They’d fallen in love with skiing.
Mark Warner promises a wonderful holiday for everyone and it really didn’t disappoint. We booked to go in April so we knew we had to choose a resort high enough to still be covered in snow. Tignes, with a variety of impressive terrain and a season that lasts most of the year, makes it one of the most dependable winter destinations in France.
The town centres around three small villages sitting high above the tree line. Chalet hotels can be found nestled in the villages of Tignes, Le Lac and Le Lavachet and forming part of the Espace Killy ski area, the locality provides a huge variety of terrain for skiers and boarders, from challenging off-piste powder to leisurely cruising runs. We were a mixed ability group of beginners, intermediates and fairly advanced and there really were runs for us all. In fact, the beauty of the resort was the fact that we were all able to ski together – and enjoy it at our own pace.
The highlight of the ski area is the Grande Motte glacier with its excellent runs all the way back down to resort. The long runs to Tignes-les-Brevieres are also a popular choice, home to many restaurants, perfect for lunch on the terrace and great for sprawling yourself out in the sun for an afternoon coffee, or better still glass of gluhwein.
Once you’re off the slopes for the day, there are plenty of places to enjoy an afternoon tipple (compulsory I’d say) and rest those weary limbs. A recent addition to the resort is the fantastic swimming pool and wellness centre in Tignes Le Lac and a great place to dump the children when you want to finish a book. Other winter attractions on offer include an outdoor ice-skating rink on part of the lake itself, husky-sledding, paragliding and riding the funicular up to the glacier. It’s an amazing view, but one we sadly didn’t get to witness – on the day we went it started to snow so heavily, visibility was down to zero.
Mark Warner has two charming chalet hotels in Tignes – L’Ecrin du Val Claret and the newly refurbished Hotel Aiguille Percée – the perfect choice for young families, being just a few feet from the slopes. The rooms have been given a stylish makeover and there’s something to suit everyone, from twins and doubles, some interconnecting and spacious duplex apartment-style family rooms.
As for the views from some of the balconies, you could barely tear me away some nights as the sun went down over the views of the Lac de Tignes and the Grande Motte glacier.
Inside, the hotel is warm and welcoming. A new sauna, steam room and swimming pool means you can soothe those aching muscles, entertain the children and indulge in a much-needed massage – all before dinner.
And so to the food. The dining room at the Aiguille Percée is the place to feast on hearty continental and cooked breakfasts before the day ahead and an ample tea of luscious home-baked cakes once you return. Dinner is a fabulous three-course meal with as much wine as you can muster before you fall off your chair (as the two mothers in our party did most nights!) Among all this, if there’s nothing you fancy, or the children are being fussy, the chefs do all they can to accommodate you.
If you have any energy left after all that – and you can still walk from the copious amount of food you’ve stuffed away – then you can partake in the après-ski in the stone clad bar next door. We enjoyed bingo, a quiz night and a dancing competition which culminated in us winning a bottle of Prosecco, slurring our words and hugely embarrassing the kids. Mission accomplished, I’d say.
Au revoir and see you next year!
• Seven nights at the Aiguille Percée start from £578 per adult and £314 per child and is based on return BA flights, resort transfers, breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner with wine and lift pass collection service.