This winter, we are following four families as they head off to the slopes with their little ones. This time, we head to picturesque Les Gets with Little Spree blogger Nicky Hornsby-Clifton, her husband Russell and their son Bailey, age five. Their second winter sports holiday as a family, this year Bailey has been learning to snowboard after taking to skiing like a duck to water last year. Find out more about the family’s adventures in their ski diary below…
We caught an early flight from Heathrow – Bailey had ski boots on in Les Gets by lunchtime!
NEED TO KNOW
Located between Geneva Lake and Mont-Blanc, Les Gets is one of the 12 resorts that make up the Portes du Soleil ski area. Les Gets itself is chocolate box pretty with typically Savoyard stone and wood chalets. It’s small, cosy and traditional but with everything that you need, including cafes, restaurants, ski shops (well stocked with tasteful skiwear for all), a pharmacy (I love European pharmacies, always full of brilliant beauty finds), not to mention the most delicious chocolatier. There’s some nightlife, but perhaps less so than other resorts in the area, still, it seems to appeal to young, old and everyone in between.
ON THE SLOPES
Les Gets is not only a gateway to skiing in the larger linked resorts, such as Avoriaz and Morzine but also a wonderful location in itself; in fact the slopes in Les Chauvanne offered more than enough variety for the entire trip. There are several nursery slopes for children (and adults!) and plenty of more challenging slopes for those with more experience (due to weather conditions, not all the slopes were open during our trip). The snow coverage was better than last year, (after a substantial snow fall at the end of November) but still less than usual for December. The pisteurs took a great deal of care to maintain as many runs as possible – even ferrying snow around by helicopter (at an estimated cost of 22,000 euros/hr!).
Les Gets has a number of ski schools which cater for all abilities, whether you ski or snowboard. All of our lessons were provide by the Ecole du Ski Français (ESF) who are extremely professional and were wonderful with Bailey – we liked the fact that Bailey’s instructor (lovely Lucas) was able to take him for both ski and snowboarding lessons. He quickly put Bailey at his ease and made the lessons fun but still instructive, and by the end of the holiday they were firm friends.
OFF THE SLOPES
It’s no exaggeration to say that Christmas in Les Gets is magical. Each day there’s a programme of festive activities from toy making to chocolate tasting and you can even visit Fathers Christmas at his cabin in the Enchanted Forest. If skiing isn’t your thing, there’s plenty to keep you occupied: sledging, paragliding, hot air balloon rides, or perhaps a turn around the lovely ice-skating rink in the centre of the town.
SNOOZE IN STYLE
We stayed at Ferme de Montagne on the outskirts of Les Gets. We’ve never come across anywhere quite like it: with only 7 rooms it has the cosy feel of a chalet, but it is run like a luxury hotel (the staff are trained at The Lanesborough before they arrive at the Ferme). The decor is traditional (without being chintzy) but the real draw is the incredible staff and the the fine dining. As part of the stay you’re paired with a member of staff as a ski guide, but in fact they do much more than that, they ensure every part of your stay is as enjoyable as possible. As for the food – sophisticated, light and Michelin-inspired; also twice a week you are treated to a 7-course tasting menu.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
Dinner is included in your room rate at the Ferme de Montagne so we only ate out at lunchtime. This invariably meant catching a snack whilst sitting in the sun at one of the slope cafes. Our favourite was ‘The Yeti’ – a small eatery where you can find homemade soups, pasta or a variety of sandwiches – and of course, should you require warming up, a delicious glass of vin chaud.
There are plenty of options for lunch at the bottom of the slopes too. From cafes and a quaint creperie to more substantial fare at some of the hotels, such as the Hotel Bellevue (perfectly situated at the end of one of the main ski runs) or La R’Mize which hosts a specialty fondue (they add an egg to the last remaining cheese to make a fondue omelet (tastes better than it sounds).
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT SKIING AS A FAMILY? DO YOU GO EVERY YEAR?
This is only our second year skiing as family, but for us both times have been really bonding. All being in the same place and experiencing the same thing is actually quite rare, so it’s wonderful when it happens. One of my favourite times of the day is arriving home for afternoon tea – happy (despite any aches and pains) to have been outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine we sit, with rosy cheeks, and chat about our day whilst eating whatever delight the chef has made.
WHAT DID YOU PACK? ARE THERE ANY ESSENTIAL ITEMS THAT MADE YOUR TRIP EASIER?
Let’s face it, for this sort of holiday, packing light is not an option! Although I pretty much loathe everything about packing, I force myself to take the time to ensure that everything we take is required. On this trip, I would consider helmet covers for Bailey as essential. Not only does it mean he actively wants to wear his helmet (which avoids the “it’s uncomfortable and makes me hot” conversation each morning) but it also makes it much easier to spot your little one on the slopes. Other essentials include a balaclava for more blustery days and a back pack for the inevitable wipes, snacks, water, spare layers, and don’t forget your lip balm!
HOW DID YOU GET TO THE RESORT?
BA flight to Geneva then a 1hr transfer to the chalet.
DID ALL THE FAMILY SKI?
We almost burst with pride watching Bailey learn to ski – it’s amazing how quickly such tiny tots can pick up this sport. Seeing him bunny hop down the slopes with his instructor, it was almost impossible to believe that a year ago he couldn’t ski at all. In fact, Russell was so inspired that on day 2 (with some trepidation as he hadn’t skied before), he stacked his snowboard and headed to the nursery slope for ski lessons. Russell would like to apologise to those people who had to unexpectedly run for their lives at the bottom of the nursery slope during his second lesson. I would like to apologise to Russell for laughing ‘til I cried during his second lesson. His humiliation was rewarded however by a run down a blue slope at the end of the holiday with Bailey as his instructor.
WHAT DID YOU WEAR ON THE SLOPES? DID YOU NOTICE ANY TRENDS AROUND THE RESORT?
The weather over the Christmas period was unusually mild, even hot in the mid morning sun (warm enough to sit and sip your hot chocolate wearing only a thin long sleeve top). However, temperatures dropped significantly in the afternoon. As fun and warmth are inextricably linked, that means one thing: layers!
Bailey wore Mini A Ture ski jacket, salopettes and gloves over thermal underwear (long sleeve vest and leggings) and in the afternoon we added a sweatshirt or hooded top. I was stopped several times and asked about his skiwear (and even more about his helmet covers).
This year Russell and I both wore wore merino wool thermals and we would highly recommend them (I’m always cold, and Russell is always hot, and they kept us respectively warm and cool).
There were some wonderfully festive outfits on the slopes including a yeti, several Father Christmas costumes and Bailey’s favourite ‘the Milka cow’ who skis around the resort handing out mini chocolate bars. The standout outfits of the holiday for me were a couple who wore fluffy wool (akin to a lamb) and gold lamé skiwear – somehow they made it work!
WHAT DID YOU GET UP TO WHEN YOU WEREN’T SKIING?
The weather was stunning during our stay in Les Gets: sunny with bright blue skies – fantastic for us (not so much for the piste) so we all spent as much time as possible outdoors. I have been recovering from an illness that meant we avoided this sort of winter holiday so it was with some trepidation that we decided to still go as I wasn’t sure how I would spend my time if I wasn’t on the slopes, but it was wonderful. I would encourage anyone who is also in that position (or feels that strapping one/two pieces of wood to their feet to be no fun at all) not to be put off. There’s plenty of gentle (and not so gentle) walking routes around the mountain which provide breathtaking views. I also took full advantage of the chalet spa treatments but my favourite thing to do was simply sitting in the sun and reading a book. Then we would all enjoy drinking hot chocolate together.
AND FINALLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY TOP TIPS FOR FAMILIES WHO ARE TAKING THEIR LITTLE ONES SKIING FOR THE FIRST TIME?
It’s hard to judge when to take your little one skiing for the first time, so before we booked our first skiing trip we took Bailey to our nearest indoor Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead. It’s a good way to find out if they enjoy being in the snow and how they react to having lessons (and falling over!). I would say book a few private lessons when your little one first starts to ski. Certainly they’re more expensive but they’re also a lot more instructive – sometimes the waiting around in group lessons means they get cold and stop enjoying themselves which can put them off having more lessons. Just don’t be surprised if by lesson 3 they’re overtaking you on the slopes!
With thanks to Nicky Hornsby-Clifton of Little Spree X