Winter 2013

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We did not cross the pond to Canada or the USA this winter, but had a great family holiday in Courchevel 1850 in January.
Prior to that I had a few days out in Argentiere with my old ski pal Raymond Marshall.
So far we have also been to Glencoe and Cairngorm this season.



Skiing Scotland 2013.

Its been a cracking ski season so far up here in Scotland. Because of my trips to Courchevel and Argentiere as well as work and family commitments I have not had as much time on Scottish snow as I had hoped. Still plenty of time for a few more days yet and as I write this (20th March) the snow just keeps coming.

Had a day at Glencoe late Feb when the cover was really good, it was almost possible to ski below the access chair all the way back to the bottom. Lift tickets are normally £25 per day midweek but as this was Holiday half term they were up to £30 which is the weekend price.

Having skied almost 200 ski resorts/ski hills in Europe and North America this place is still my favourite for scenery, on a good day the views over Rannoch Moor are stunning and the Buchaille Etive Mor is such an impressive mountain. From the hill you look south towards the snow covered tops near Crianlarich and round towards the Perthshire hills, then you look down to the Kingshouse Hotel then up again to the Aonach Eagach ridge and further over to the Mamores and the Nevis range with the Ben standing highest of them all.Glencoe, a truly wonderful place.

We managed to have a family trip to Cairngorm in March. Lift passes cost £84.50 for two adults and a Junior with under fives free. Best to book tickets online and pick them up at the Ranger office ( just before the main ticket office and entrance to the funicular), friendly welcome when we picked up the tickets.

We stayed at the Dunroamin Guest House in the middle of Aviemore where we had a friendly welcome, a lovely family room upstairs with one double bed and two single beds as well as plenty of storage space and an en-suite bathroom. A great breakfast is served in the mornings. It cost £100 per night for the four of us.

We ate one night at the Mackenzies Inn and the second night at The Winking Owl. Both were ok but nothing special.

The daylodge at Cairngorm was quite busy on Saturday afternoon and the bar area is small with not much seating, although you can also find more seats upstairs.

On the Sunday we payed £26 to get into the MacDonalds Hotel Swimming pool, it’s a decent sized pool, warm in and out of the water with a waterslide. The kids also got to play in the soft play area which is also quite a decent size and the parents can sit and watch from the adjacent coffee shop.

Glencoe Feb 2013

Cairngorm March 2013

Craig at Cairngorm March 2013

Courchevel 1850 - 20th January to 27th January 2013


Having previously used Esprit Ski two years ago for a trip to Belle Plagne, we had no reservations about booking with them again.

After a great month at Red Mountain in 2012 it was a matter of cutting expenditure for 2013.

We eventually decided to book our trip for January and chose the Hotel Crystal 2000 at Courchevel 1850. With children aged 6 and 3, travelling from Manchester with ski carriage and the kids both in snow club with ski lessons on 5 days came to a total of £3200. We probably spent around another £600 on trip for airport hotel, fuel, drinks and lunches.

We travelled down to Manchester and stayed at the Marriott Hotel on the Saturday night, this cost £89 including parking and transfers to T2. The kids had to share a double bed so had very little sleep and were therefore very tired the next day as we had a 4.15am rise to get to the airport.

Check-in at Manchester T2 was quick and easy with minimal fuss. The flight was with Monarch and we had no problems with baggage, two large bags at 20kg and two ski/snowboard bags weighing about 24kg each were accepted with no problems.

Arrival at Geneva.

We landed at the charter terminal at Geneva and it was over an hour before we collected our luggage. We then met the Ski Esprit rep and got shown to the coach, it was then another 45 min wait before we moved. It was a good scenic drive to Albertville and Moutiers and on to Courchevel. We had to leave the coach and complete the last part of the trip on a minibus to get us up to the hotel which sits just below the Altiport.

Arrival at Hotel.

The Esprit staff helped us up to our room with our luggage after we had checked in. We were then given a time to go to the in-house ski/boot hire shop to get Anya (3) fitted with her skis and boots. We arrived in plenty of time but there was a long queue and it was well over an hour waiting to get everything done. The guy who runs the ski shop was excellent, very friendly and helpful.

Hotel Room.

We had suite 209 on the second floor. There are two lifts serving the five levels, three levels of rooms, lounge/bar/reception area plus the lower level where the pool is situated.

Our accomodation consisted of a WC, separate bathroom, large storage area in the hallway leading to a twin bedroom then a door through to the second room where two twin beds were pushed together. Both rooms were large and spacious with lots of storage, there was a tv in each room with three English channels available. Our accomodation was clean and tidy but with slight signs of wear here and there. The large windows in both rooms had wooden frames which could do with repainting but on the whole everything was good. Large curtains down to floor level concealed the windows. The view was great looking over Moriond (1650) and down to the valley and over to La Plagne.

Hotel Facilities.

There were double doors from the hotel entrance and up a few steps to the reception. All the kids who were in ski lessons for the week had an area with their name on it where they would keep their ski boots, helmets, goggles and other outdoor footwear. They also had a rack with a hanger further up to put ski jackets and trousers and they were also given a blue Ski Esprit bag to put indoor clothing in.

The area was a bit on the small side and there was not much room to move in the mornings when getting kids kitted up for skiing, but everyone seemed to manage ok and nothing got lost, its just a matter of being really well organised and on top of things.

The lounge area had a real log fire as the central focal point with a few comfy sofa’s around it, the bar was just round the corner with another area for sitting and also the pool table. It got quite busy at times but was fine.

The in-house snow club was a decent sized room located through a door at the rear of the lounge and it also had an interconnecting door to the dining room. The nursery for the younger ones was located next to the ski hire shop and in the evenings was used for the kids cocoa club while we were at dinner.

The bar was run by Matt and he ran a tab system which you cleared at the end of the week, he would make fruit flavoured slushies for the kids ( 2.5 Euro), Amstel was the beer on tap at 6 Euro but during the happy hours it was 5 Euro a pint. Happy hour was from 4-6pm then again from 10-11pm.

WiFi (free) was available in the bar/lounge area and worked pretty well most of the time, we also got a good signal in our room but this was not always the case in other rooms.


The hotel restaurant was simply decorated and had a selection of tables of various size. At breakfast there was a good selection from the buffet, cheese, ham, salami, croissants, pain au chocolat, fruit, cereals, yoghurts and fruit juice as well as tea and coffee. There was also the option of a cooked breakfast each morning but we never took it up.

Before leaving breakfast you would be shown the menu for dinner that evening and asked to make your choice, there was generally a choice of two starters, two main dishes as well as a vegetarian option and then a couple of deserts.

Pre dinner canapés and drinks were served from 7.30pm in the lounge then everyone would move through to the dining room and be seated by 8pm. On our first night we were at a table for eight then the following evening it was six before we eventually sat at the same table of eight for the rest of the week, all of whom were great company.

There was always the offer each evening of upgrading and buying a premium wine but almost everyone stuck with the wines served, there were two whites, two reds (Merlot and a Cab Sauv) as well as a rose. The wine was always available and when bottles emptied they were replaced at the table. The service from the waiting staff in the restaurant was very good.

The food was exceptional all week, very good quality and very well presented. I enjoyed excellent dishes of Pork, Lamb, Duck and Venison during the week. The deserts were also excellent with some unusual touches and always perfectly presented. There was then a cheese board followed by tea and coffee.

The standard of food and presentation was excellent and way better than I had imagined.

Kids Clubs.

Our son Craig had his ski lesson in the morning, so after breakfast he was kitted up and joined the ski rangers who accompanied them to lessons with the ESF. They would leave in the mini bus to go to lessons and return prior to lunch.

After lunch the Sprite snow club kept him occupied and entertained with both indoor and outdoor activities, the Esprit staff all seemed very enthusiastic and were always having fun when we saw them.

Anya, our daughter who at 3 years old had only been on small plastic skis before had a great time here. She would be dropped off after breakfast into the Spritelets snow club where they were entertained by great staff. All the kids would then be supervised at lunchtime in the restaurant where they were given a good wholesome lunch to keep the energy levels up. After lunch the little ones were taken on the minibus down to the centre of Courchevel for lessons, these took place in the ski d’enfants area behind the ESF building. This area was quite secluded and safe from the main ski runs through the village. The gentle nursery slopes wound there way down through the trees to a small lift of “yoghurt pots” which would bring them back to the top.

We managed to watch (from a distance) on a couple of afternoons and we were very impressed by the enthusiasm of the ESF instructors, they really were making it fun for the kids.

Anya had a great week and it was lovely to be able to go skiing as a family (for the first time) on the Saturday morning where we were pleased to see that her skiing was pretty good.

After we returned from skiing each day we would relax in the lounge where afternoon tea was served at 4pm. There was always a good selection of biscuits and cakes as well as hot soup and bread. I never managed to sample any of this as I was usually still full from our nice lunches on the mountain.

The kids would then be taken through for High tea at 5.15pm. We would go and sit with them so they could talk to us about their day, parents did not have to be there as you could collect and sign them out after they had eaten if you so wanted.

We would then take the kids down to the pool. It was a decent size and never really too busy. The Hotel had two saunas and a hot tub (this was out of action during our stay). The pool area was nice and warm and except for one day the water was also lovely and warm. There were also showers down there and fresh towels were provided.

We would then get Anya ready for bed, she was booked into the evening mini cocoa club but she did not want to go and after a full day of activities she was ready for bed. We would get her settled then meet the “baby listening” staff out in the hallway and register with them. I don’t think they ever had much to do as the kids seemed to fall asleep quickly.

We would then take Craig downstairs where he could not wait to get into cocoa club which ran from 7.30pm till 10.00pm.

We would then enjoy pre dinner drinks and canapés before going in to eat. After dinner we would pick up Craig from cocoa club and head to bed.

Boot/Ski room

The Hotel ski and boot room was located through the far side of the hire shop with an access straight out onto the slopes.

It had a racking system for the skis and boards and a similar set-up for the boots. It was a narrow room with benches on one side, fortunately we were always in quite early in the mornings and managed to get our kit and get out the door before it was busy, I could imagine it would be a bit of a nightmare when lots of people were trying to get booted up at the same time.

Hotel Location

The Hotel is situated just below the Altiport next to the 5 star Hotel Annapurna. It is a great ski-in, ski-out location with the Ferme and Altiport button lifts only a few metres down from the boot room door. It was also a nice easy traverse over to the Pralong chair for easy access to wherever you were heading that morning. Jill and I had first chair here every morning all week.

It’s a long walk to the centre of Courchevel 1850 from the Hotel and an even longer one on the way back.

On the staff night off people got the chance to book a local restaurant or have pizza delivered to the Hotel, with two young children we felt the best and easiest option was to eat in. The Pizzas arrived at 18.40 and by the time they were all given out they were almost cold (not really any persons fault). They cost around 30 Euro for two.

Ski Hosting

The Esprit reps done this on 3 days during the week but we did not take up this option, much preferring to find our own way around.

Our Ski Days.

Day 1 - Monday. Courchevel and La Tania.

Took Pralong chair from outside Hotel then cruised down through Courchevel to the Village at 1550. The slopes were very quiet and the snow in excellent condition. We headed up on the Chenus gondola and cruised down the Bouc Blanc red piste to La Tania. Stopped at the Chrome bar (central location) for a Vin Chaud (3 Euro) and a Café au Lait (4 Euro).

We then had lunch at the lovely Bouc Blanc restaurant above La Tania. Lots of reserved tables inside but friendly staff got us seated at a nice table and we had a lovely lunch. A Pichet (50cl) of Rose was 7 Euro and we had an omelette fromage (11.70 Euro) and an omelette with mushrooms ( 13.50 Euro), these were both excellent with salad and fries.

We then cruised around on quiet slopes above 1850 in the afternoon.



Day 2 - Tuesday. Meribel and St Martin de Belleville.

Fresh overnight snow was then followed by clearing skies after breakfast - perfect.

Again we took the first chair on the Pralong lift and at the top there was about 20cm of fresh snow.

We made lovely fresh tracks on deserted slopes down to the Chenus gondola and the views were great in all directions, we then took the slow old two person Col de la Loze chair and dropped down towards Meribel. The slopes were much busier down towards the Altiport area.

We stopped for two coffees at Le Coeur de Cristal, a lovely slope side restaurant above Meribel. Here two Café Crème cost 14 Euro, this was a bit steep but the place was lovely and the washrooms down in the basement were very nice and on the way to them you went through a magnificent wine cellar.

On leaving Le Coeur de Cristal we skied through Meribel to the Tougnette 1 gondola then the Tougnette 2 chair up to Tougnette at 2434m.

We then had a lovely run down to restaurant Loy by the side of the Biolley piste just above St Martin de Belleville.

I had the lovely lamb casserole (plat du jour) for 13 Euro. Jill had the Tagliatelles Bolognaise for 11 Euro and a 50cl Pichet of Rose was 8 Euro.

It was a lovely place with great service in a beautiful location and stunning views. The only expensive part was that we arrived just before lunch service started so we went inside to the bar and had two large glasses of Orangina (poured from a plastic bottle ) and they cost 11 Euro.

After lunch we made our way back over to Courchevel to see Anya get her lesson in the kinder ski garden.



Day 3 - Wednesday. Moriond, La Tania, Le Praz.

As usual we got first chair on Pralong lift. It was a cold and clear morning with great visibility and as on every other day so far, deserted pistes.

Got down to Roc Mugnier chair and then onto the Signal chair above Moriond (1650). Snow was in excellent condition and it was still easy to find untracked off-piste under the Chapelets chair. We stopped for coffee at L’Ours Blanc where a Café au Lait cost 4 Euro each. It was a nice place to sit outside and watch the world go by for a while.

We then headed back up to Courchevel (1850) and on down to La Tania for lunch. We went to the Chrome bar where we sat outside in the sun and had a great value lunch. An excellent large burger, fries and a bottle of beer for 10 Euro.

After lunch we headed down the Jockeys piste, this is the black run down to Le Praz (1300) where the snow was in great condition. We headed back up to Courchevel and cruised around then watched Anya at her ski lesson before calling it a day at 3.15pm.


Day 4 - Thursday. Moriond.

Pralong chair first thing then we headed down to Gravelles chair (this area is cold and in the shade early on January mornings). We then took the Suisses chair to Vizelle (a great viewpoint) then headed down on perfect snow to the Chanrossa chair and up to 2540m. From here the Roc Merlet red run and onto the off-piste by the Pyramide run was skied on lovely untracked snow. We then headed down through the Indiens run with all the pictures then the authentic Indian village complete with an archery area. It was a coffee stop at L’Ours Blanc (4 Euro each).

It was then time to head back over to Courchevel where we were picking up Craig after his lunch. We grabbed a bite to eat from the snack bar at bottom of Pralong chair, had a chicken mayo baguette for 6.50 Euro which was really good.

We picked up Craig and spent the afternoon skiing with him going down the Proveres blue run (steep at the bottom) to the Gragettes gondola at 1550.



Day 5 - Friday. Val Thorens, Les Menuires (Reberty)


From Hotel we got first chair on Pralong lift at just after 9am and by 10.15am we were sitting having a coffee in Val Thorens.

Only 4 lifts (Pralong, Vizelle, Plattieres and the long and cold Cote Brune chair) before you drop down via some flat blue runs onto Plein Sud and into Val Thorens.

We stocked up on some snacks for the kids at the excellent little “Carrefour” supermarket, there is also a “Spar” opposite.

We headed back up and made our way down to Reberty above Les Menuires. We stopped at La Ferme for lunch where it was a little breezy when we sat at a table outside but the waiter moved us to a sheltered spot out of the wind.

We had a lovely Tartiflette and salad (35 Euro for the two of us) and a 50cl Pichet of Cote de Provence Rose ( 13 Euro). This was a lovely spot for lunch, excellent food and service with stunning views over towards the Glacier de la pointe Renod and the pointe du Bochet (3420m). We headed back on the Bruyeres gondola and then a nice cruise down to Mottaret before getting the Pas du Lac gondola back over to Courchevel.


Day 6 - Saturday. Ski with kids, La Tania.

After breakfast we got ready to go skiing with the kids, it was then that I realised that Anya did not have a lift pass. At start of the week the Esprit staff took photocopies of passports and said they would get all the children’s free lift passes the next day. Most parents assumed this had been done but come Saturday morning a lot of the little ones did not have a pass. Luckily some kind lady lent us her sons pass as they were not going out that morning, other parents had to trek to the ticket offices to get theirs. This was the only bad point/mistake that Esprit made all week.

We had a good morning skiing after getting a lift down from the Hotel Annapurna courtesy bus which stopped while we were waiting on the local (irregular) ski bus.

Anya loved showing off her new found skills on the green runs from the Jardin Alpin bubble lift. She managed to ski all the way back to the Hotel, not a bad first weeks skiing for a 3 year old.

I left Jill and Anya at the Hotel and Craig and I went over to ski down the Indiens piste above Moriond before lunch.

Once the kids were out of their ski clothes and back in the Hotel for lunch Jill and I went back over to La Tania and down to the Chrome bar for lunch. We had a nice bottle of Rose for 13 Euro and the Burger/fries/drink deal for 10 Euro.



This was a really good family ski trip. Almost everything went as planned. It was an early rise to get out to Courchevel and the same to get back home again with young kids but it was well worth it.

Geneva airport busy at weekends.

We will back with Ski Esprit again in the future. (Probably 2015)

Most of the bubble lifts/gondolas in the area are difficult to put fat powder skis (Line Influence 105s) on, the rectangular boxes are just too small to fit the ski in so you have to put them in the larger slot used for snowboards, they then sometimes fall to the side on way up and have you worried that they are about to fall out !

It was quiet on our trip so mostly had a bubble lift or gondola to ourselves but this would have caused more of an issue at the height of the season when its busier.


Next Winter.

Flights are already booked with Air Transat flying from Gatwick mid March to Calgary, returning mid April.

We will spend two weeks at Red Mountain, Rossland, BC before heading down to Phillipsburg, Montana to ski Discovery Basin then onto Big Sky before returning to Calgary.








Argentiere - January 2013.

This was a short trip prior to going to Courchevel with the family. I had booked Easyjet flights to Geneva from Edinburgh for £141 return including extra legroom, speedy boarding and ski carriage. (allowance of 32kg in total).

I used Cham Express from Geneva for the transfer up to the Hotel Couronne at Argentiere, this is an old favourite of mine where I have stayed on many previous trips to the valley. The Cham Express transfer was 65 Euro return and the Hotel was 63 Euro per night for a twin room with private bathroom.

I bought a two day Mont Blanc unlimited pass including insurance for £98.51 (114.80 Euro).

The Hotel Couronne has a new ski/ boot room since my last visit, its big and warm with lockable storage for skis. Its also got a small bar in the refurbished lounge. This is a great place to stay with lots of character and sits just across the road from the popular office bar which is now run by a great Aussie called Dave who is friendly and welcoming.

I had a couple of fine days with great snow and fine weather with few people on the hill.

We love Les Marmottons restaurant behind the Grand Montets lift station, excellent value at lunchtime and frequented by plenty of locals and ski instructors.

Prices include 3.40 Euro for a Grand Café Crème.

1.80 Euro for a Café.

4.20 Euro for a Vin Chaud.

Plat du Jour of Lamb, vegetables and pasta was really good and cost 11.50 Euro.