Most guests that book a budget snow holiday with us have a reasonable amount of skiing or boarding experience, but that doesn’t mean that beginners can’t have fun too. Serre Chevalier and Les Arcs are two fantastic resorts for all levels from beginner to advanced.
Our lodge in Vallandry (Les Arcs) is set right beside a green run, providing a perfect opportunity to enjoy some lessons close to your accommodation. The area is great for families too with excellent local shops, cafes and restaurants all within its own hub. Everything is pretty much at your feet.
Serre Chevalier is a less known ski resort, but one of the largest and packs just as much as Vallandry with its affordable accommodation and 1,013 acres of pistes. Our chalet in Villeneuve is just 250m away from the areas three lifts and ski schools. Compared to Vallandry, Serre Chevalier has a more laid-back style of living, and snowboarders will love the dedicated freestyle zone. Enjoy easy trails close to the village or for the fearless, blast down the Olympic Luc Alphand run – it’s one of the fastest in the area!
With that in mind, we invited one of our marketing team along on our latest trip out to Serre Chevalier and Vallandry to check out the April snow and as a beginner, experience skiing at its best. We asked Kate to share her experience of trying out skiing for the first time, and what she thought of the ski resorts. Here's what she had to say...
"When Chris invited me out to the French Alps to try a bit of skiing, I accepted with excitement and a little of trepidation! The last time I’d experienced skiing was on a dry slope, some 20 years ago where I failed miserably trying to learn how to snowplough (for the very novice like me, I learnt that this meant stopping – somewhat important to know!).
Flying into Geneva airport, the journey to Serre Chevalier is fairly straightforward and the views are simply stunning! Hucksters’ chalet, Le Sporting can only be described as cool chic with eclectic décor and modern charm. Dave and Christine are great hosts and really do love what they do. All accommodation in the chalet is en-suite, sleeping on handcrafted beds. There are three self-catered (although you can upgrade to half board too) apartments named after Cornish places (the hosts are from Cornwall) sleeping between four and six people, which offers plenty of space and comfortable living throughout your stay. All guests can help themselves to tea and coffee making facilities in the Dining Room, where everyone’s seated together for breakfast and dinner (the afternoon tea treats I spotted looked delicious!). There’s also a newly converted apartment that sleeps four guests.
I was booked into an hour’s ski lesson with Ski Connections in Villeneuve so off I went to get fitted and kitted with my ski equipment. I think they underestimated my level of knowledge and experience as some help was needed knowing what went where! Following my instructor out onto the beginner’s slope, clicking on my skis felt somewhat alien, and the heavy feeling of clomping in the snow (think walking in diving flippers) took some getting used to.
We started off learning the basics of moving uphill, snow ploughs and 180 turns to move into position. Once he was confident I could stop, we set off for the surface lift. After briefing me on getting onto the lift and off again, I was sure I knew what I was doing. Boy, was I wrong! Somehow I thought you sat down on the button shaped hanger and fell splat onto the snow.
For anyone as inexperienced as me on the slopes who hasn’t used these lifts, remember this tip well. Shaking off any embarrassment (I have to say that the instructor didn’t break into laughter at all, whereas I would have!), I got up and tried again successfully. The trick is to position the button ‘seat’ under your “bottom” (as was described) keeping your skis together pointing forward and letting yourself get pulled upwards. Dismounting from the lift with a bit more decency, we practised using snow ploughs, making turns as we went until we reached the bottom. Trying this a few times I thought it was time to get some snaps and a video as proof that I really did ski.
My video went well until I fell over at the end, but hey ho, you get up again and brush yourself off. By the end of my lesson, I was bitten by the skiing bug and happy to stay on the slope all day. I felt a bit more experienced, and my instructor was a great teacher, as well as very patient! Well worth using. The slope was right next to the Aravet lift, where my instructor recommended taking up for some amazing views and to practice my newly acquired skills on a flat slope. Sadly there wasn’t time, but I will definitely try it on my next visit.
Exploring the village, I stopped at a little café next door to Ski Connections - for a good coffee and then lunch at the local creperie, Le Jardin. Le Jardin is well worth visiting for a good crepe – try goat’s cheese, spinach and bacon lardons like me, or ham and cheese, there are lots of good options. Of course, you’ve got to try the sweeter versions too along with their rich hot chocolate. I would say that it would be great after a cold day on the slopes, but it was actually very mild being Spring – for April there was still plenty of snow on offer. Before long we were setting off for Petit Mont Blanc, Hucksters chalet in Vallandry. The region of Les Arcs is set high up on the mountainside, so our drive ascended to 1,600m.
Like Serre Chevalier, Vallandry is also set within a series of villages and originally created to house press and athletes at the Winter 1992 Olympics. Petit Mont Blanc is a more traditional chalet with a bar right next door and the closest lift just metres away. All accommodation is again en-suite with a nice lounge area, and there are also two lodge apartments for guests wanting more space and self-catering.
Dinner was 3-courses with a delicious mushroom starter, chicken, ratatouille and rice main, followed by a warm Tarte Tatin and Vanilla Ice Cream. I found myself sitting with guests until late and having a good chat with them on their past week’s skiing and everyone’s backgrounds. Some guests had stayed before (some have been visiting for decades!) and spoke highly of Julie, the host, who will often go out of her way to make sure you have everything you need.
The accommodation itself was very comfy, and I definitely slept well. Breakfast in the Dining Room was a warm, friendly experience being seated next to other guests. I found that the other guests staying throughout the week had got to know it each well and were definitely leaving as friends. The breakfast menu is varied with cereal, local pastries, fresh porridge and yoghurts available. Or you could upgrade to a full English breakfast. For anyone wanting a fresh baguette for lunch, you could order one the night before, so it was ready before you left.
My trip was truly a flying visit, so it was time to leave after breakfast. As a complete novice to skiing, I have definitely learnt what to do and what NOT to do, and if you’re still reading this, I hope you have too if you are a beginner and considering a Winter Holiday in the French Alps. After all, making mistakes is all part of the learning curve and part of the holiday adventure. And if you’re already an experienced skier or boarder, I hope my story has taken you back to your own memory of starting out or at least made you smile."