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When I started considering a ski holiday en famille (cos that’s how they say it in the Alps, innit), I considered our accommodation carefully. Basically, up in the mountains you have a few options: a self-catered apartment, a staffed chalet or a hotel.
For me, self-catered was out. When you’ve spent the day on a mountain, the last thing you want to do is return to an apartment where you’re expected to cook and clean as you would at home. This is a holiday, a very physical holiday no less, but a break from the real world. No cleaning or cooking allowed!
I considered a chalet, a small one that came with its own staff to take care of the cooking and cleaning, but was slightly put off by a friend’s experience: apparently they spent their week having their food cooked by a gap year student who really wasn’t that interested in, you know, cooking. By all accounts a week of skiing becomes a little less fun when it’s fuelled by dodgy Spag Bol.
But then I didn’t want the anonymity of a large, faceless hotel. I wanted the proper Alps experience: cosy fires, Vin Rouge, exposed wood.
Which was how we arrived at our choice of the Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin in Tignes Val Claret for our recent ski trip with Mark Warner. Taking the best bits of both a big hotel and an intimate chalet, the Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin promised a cosy setting with all the amenities of a larger property.
We flew very very early (5.55am early) to Grenoble airport, then had a three hour coach journey to our home for the week in Tignes. While I was apprehensive of such a long transfer at first it was actually a wonderful opportunity for us all to have a wee snooze and enjoy the gorgeous landscape and we arrived at lunchtime ready to explore – though there is a later flight that I’d definitely look in to if you have younger children. The coach was very comfortable and I was surprised that it was full, but the young chap Elfie sat next to was very accommodating of her chatter.
Tignes is not known for its looks (in fact I was told it was ‘modern, concrete and ugly’), but when you’re surrounded by those mountains and that snow it becomes the most magical place in the world. I found it breathtaking: yes, there was the odd high-rise but there were more than enough chalets to make up for it.
We arrived around lunchtime – and what a sight! The hotel was everything I’d hoped it would be: it was decorated in the Savoie style of the region, which basically means wood, wood and more wood. We were greeted with cosy sofas, roaring fires and smiling faces… lovely.
Our room was perfect for our needs. It was a generous-sized double with all the amenities you’d expect from a lovely hotel: huge bed with comfy linens, TV with British channels (I was almost miffed to turn it on and find Call The Midwife rather than be forced to watch ‘proper’ French TV). And the best bit was the little annexe on the side! Under the eaves Elfie and Hux had their very own room which they (and I) were thrilled about. They loved the fact it was permanently dark thanks to the heavy dusting of snow on the Velux windows ;)
We had just enough space to store all our ski-related stuff as well as a balcony, where Hux wasted no time in playing on. And three seconds later? “MY HANDS ARE SOOOO COOOOLD”… repeat ad infinitum, thanks to a refusal to wear gloves when throwing snowballs. Our view was out to the side of the mountain and it was lovely to see the odd off-piste adventurer swish down (technical term) in the afternoon.
The Kid’s Club
Hands down, when it comes to Single Parenting holidaying the best thing about Mark Warner properties are the incredible Kid’s Clubs. It’s like going on holiday with an extra six pairs of fully first-aid trained and childcare qualified sets of hands.
As it’s just me and the children, the Kid’s Club is a vital part of my holiday enjoyment, and this trip was no exception.
The children were welcome at Kid’s Club from first thing in the morning until teatime, which was actually a bit much for us on some days when we snuck out for a bit of family time (read: pizza, walks and snow fights).
Otherwise, in the morning their nannies delivered them to the slopes to meet their ski school teachers before collecting them to feed them lunch and warm them up, meaning I was able to enjoy my own packed itinerary of ski lessons, massages and, erm, Vin Chaud. There was also the option to drop the children at the evening video club, too, where they’d watch the finest Disney Pixar movies before snuggling into sleeping bags and camp beds, leaving their parent(s) to be social with the other grown-ups. That was awesome.
The kids club itself at Chalet Hotel l’Ecrin was fabulous, and catered for all kids from babies up to teens. We so enjoyed meeting all the staff there (each child has the same keyworker over the course of the week) and we’re mega excited to be seeing one of our keyworkers on our summer holiday to Levante in June.
As a foodie, the food at the Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin would make or break our holiday experience. Included in the price of our holiday was breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner with wine, and boy was it good.
Breakfast was a buffet affair with all the gubbins you’d expect: bacon, eggs, beans, mushrooms, toast, pastries, fruit, yoghurts, cereals…. everything you needed to fill up before a busy day on the slopes. I always went for the full English, with Hux enjoying a steaming bowl of porridge with honey and Elfie favouring dippy eggs and bacon, always bacon.
Afternoon tea was always made up of homemade biscuits and cake – these were different every day and delicious.
Supper was a three-course affair accompanied by local wines: red, white or rosé. All the staff in the hotel are English, as well as the chefs, and they cooked a real mix of British and French favourites. Think duck confit, tartiflette, steak and dauphinois, chicken and mushrooms. I always left dinner with a very happy belly – the quality of the food was top-notch.
Not once did I feel single or alone during dinner time at L’Ecrin. Each evening there was a ‘social’ table where couples and singles (though I was the only one) could be merry and raucous. I met some absolutely fascinating people here and we all got on like a house on fire.
Go. Just go. The spa uses Elemis products and the massage I had from the therapist was one of the most wonderful I’ve ever experienced. Almost worth skiing hard for… ;)
The Hotel Facilities
Adjacent to the spa is the hotel’s gym and pool area, both gorgeous and well-maintained. The pool was large, clean and relaxing (and looked out over the mountains!) with the jacuzzi area slightly warmer and a lovely area to relax. Though not if you go swimming with a four year old who goes mental over bubbles.
The bar area was warm and welcoming, with cosy furniture and open fires really bringing home the fact you’re in the Alps. Hotel guests gathered for happy hour every evening, nobody batting an eyelid at the kids and their apple juices, and they had a great time unsuccessfully learning how to play pool…
Again at every turn were glorious views, and I enjoyed catching up on emails while gazing over those gorgeous mountains.
In the basement of the hotel was a huge area to store our boots and skis. Every morning we’d slip our equipment on here and scoot out the back door for the five-minute walk to the lifts. Perfect!
In a Nutshell
The Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin was the perfect place to base ourselves for our first ski holiday in Tignes. It was an absolute stunner of a hotel, made spectacular by the brilliant Mark Warner staff who looked after our every whim (seriously, I asked for flannels for our room and our chambermaid spent two days trying to find some for me).
This was the first ski holiday we went on as a family and it really was wonderful, and I put a lot of that down to our hotel experience. I’ve gone from a fairweather skiier to one who can’t wait to get back to The Alps, and when we return you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be back to a Mark Warner property.
We’ve been working with Mark Warner this year as part of their ambassador programme and couldn’t be happier about it!