A smiling driver and a champagne picnic greet us as we arrive at Geneva airport. Somewhere amidst the homemade treats and bubbles I blink (or perhaps my early morning start caught up with me) and the scenery switches from motorway to the snowy mountain scape.
We glide into Val D’Isere and straight to Oxygene Ski & Snowboard to get fitted for our boots, skis, poles and (optional) helmets. Lubricated with more champagne, it’s probably wise that we’re saving our first runs on the piste for tomorrow morning.
Warm smiles of Le Chardon’s host Luiza greets us and takes us and our bags from car to toasty chalet. We switch our snow boots for slippers and take a few moment to explore our rooms and freshen up before re-grouping for a sumptuous afternoon tea – complete with a view of a pink sun glistening on the mountains in front of the soothing crackles of the open fire.
Massage treatments in the chalet’s dedicated treatment room and a quick soak in the hot-tub revive us from our journey, just in time for pre-dinner canapés. A delicious chalet dinner follows, prepared by one of several fantastic Le Chardon chefs and presented by the very attentive chalet manager and her team. Wine and conversation flows freely, but wanting to make the most of the following day’s skiing time it’s an early night for all.
I wake to a stunning sunrise vista, a welcome cup of tea and a laden breakfast table. Taking my attention away from this glistening view to make conversation is a challenge. Homemade pancakes does it – rapidly polished off while making a plan for the day with our Oxygene ski guide John-Paul. After a quick in chalet ski fitting for a couple of late arriving guests, we’re piste bound – which I’m delighted to find is just a few crunchy steps away.
The top of the first chair lift takes my breath away – as I realise not only how quiet the slopes are, but calculate that my last (and only) ski lessons were on a school trip aged 15. Snowplow a ready and feeling reassured by the presence of our guide’s watchful eye and my steady London-bike-rider legs, it ‘s not long before it all comes flooding back. December is really a great to time visit Val D’Isere – providing there’s snow of course – we’re blessed with clear runs, very few children (though Oxygene can provide lessons for 4 year olds upwards) and queue-less lifts.
Four hours later it’s time to regroup and refuel. Our hosts have arranged a gourmet taster menu for us at Tete de Solaise Restaurant a brilliant on piste bar and restaurant, which we learn will be launching live Jazz and a piano bar for the 2013/14 season.
Our final run of the day, is an exhilarating 20 minute ride- made all the more thrilling by the emptiness of the pistes and the firm but powdery snow. Back in Val D’Isere town we leave our ski gear with our driver and have a quick footwear change in preparation for an activity that’s been intriguing all of us since we accepted the trip. – winter biathlon. Reassured that we won’t be running too far, or shooting anything with anything other than a pellet gun, we all get stuck in to the mini competition games while laughter and competitive spirits run high.
Back at the chalet we’re greeted by the smell of freshly baked brownies – and not a single doubt that we’ve earned at least one. The Le Chardon massage therapists are ready for us again, though I opt for some chill out time with bubbles in the hot tub until dinner, which is another impressive 4 course feast paired with a fine selection of wines.
An early start on our last day means we can get a couple of runs in before heading to the newly completed Val D’Isere Ice Driving Circuit. Arriving to the roar of the world number one motocross on ice champion who is hooning around the circuit, group excitement is high.
We meet the team from Val D’Isere Ice Driving and learn that the purpose of the ice driving circuit in Val D’Isere is for drivers to learn how to handle their vehicles in winter conditions and polish up on their icy road handling skills – not, as we had fantasised, to be put in the driving seat of a new and very expensive BMW and given free reign to terrifiy ourselves and our passengers with wheelspins and hand break turns on ice. Back in reality, that challenge is left in the highly skilled hands of the Val D’Isere Ice Driving team who shows us just where a few (hundred) hours of practice on the icy track can get you. Admittedly being a passenger is hair raising enough, even for an adrenaline hunter like myself.
Those who prefer less of a fear factor, will be delighted to know that under 18s can get behind the wheel of the indoor ELLIP6 simulator car and drive as badly as they like, without putting anyone in danger. Bigger kids who wish to get behind the wheel of the real thing – for the BMW driving experience, Ice Karting or Piste Bashing must be sure to bring their driving licence.
Accommodation & airport transfers:
Le Chardon Mountain Lodges (we stayed at Bergerie)
Ski hire and mountain guiding from Oxygene Ski
Ice driving with Val D’Isere Ice Driving
Winter biathlon with Altitude Biathlon at “Face de Bellevarde”
In chalet with Le Chardon
On piste with Tete De Solaise
At La Folle Douce
For further information contact Le Chardon directly, or contact your Insignia Lifestyle Boutique personal assistant.