A hotel chalet is an excellent place for a family, writes Justine Halifax.
Two words proved a revelation to my young family on a recent skiing holiday to the breathtaking Swiss Alps.
And it came as the result of our inaugural experience of staying in a “chalet hotel” with Inghams.
Although at first it seems like a contradictory concept, they married together perfectly. For they are based on the same principles as a small chalet, they are just bigger, and in many ways rather like a small hotel.
Yet although they cater for more guests than in a chalet, they still manage to retain a personal and cosy family feel.
And while most chalets don’t take children aged under 12, chalet hotels do accept younger guests – which was ideal for us with a six and four-year-old in tow.
Our destination for a comfortable, and enjoyable week, was the four star Chalet Hotel de Verbier in the beautiful Verbier resort, which is regarded as a family friendly mecca in the picturesque French speaking Swiss Alps.
After a two hour flight from Birmingham, and two and a half hour transfer from Geneva Airport, we arrived in the bustling resort.
Our home for a week was a family room which, although basic, was clean and the beds were comfortable. Our open plan sleeping arrangements featured two single beds and a double bed (two singles pushed together).
Although there was limited wardrobe and storage space, no safe or fridge, and the room was more akin to a three star venue, we found it adequate for our ski break.
We had a private balcony overlooking a side street and access to a shared balcony overlooking the hotel’s roof.
On arrival, the hotel manager had warned it might be a bit noisy on the first night, as it was a Saturday, and advised us to close the shutters on our balcony doors.
Having done that, I had no problem sleeping, and neither did my two young children.
Like most hotels, our rooms were serviced every day – except the one day our chalet hosts had off.
The venue’s communal areas included a rustic Swiss-style lounge with open fire – which guests can light as desired – with comfy leather sofas, a DIY hot drinks station and bar with television and DVD player.
A large dining room with wooden floors and wrap around windows which treated us to a wonderful view of the mountains was our daily destination for breakfast and dinner.
And the food here scored highly with my family.
A buffet breakfast served 7.30am-9am featured cereals, fruit and yoghurt, and a hot option that changed daily, cooked fresh by the chef – which included croque monsieur and scrambled eggs on toast – as well as hot porridge and hot pancakes.
There was afternoon tea to welcome us off the slopes too with homemade cakes and a different daily choice of homemade soup and bread. The DIY hot drinks station was available throughout the day.
Although children are free to sit with parents for dinner at 7.45pm they had a choice of high tea at 5.30pm instead, which both my young – and all other young guests – opted for.
You need to pre-book the following day’s high tea during the main dinner service the night before.
There was only one set choice for high tea each night (we were able to request a substitute if the choice was something our children didn’t like) but it did include fish goujons and chips, a pork dinner and cottage pie. Pudding ranged from fruit jelly to chocolate biscuit cake.
Canapes and aperitifs were served in the lounge each night ahead of our five course evening meal, from which we could select (again the night before) our choice of two starters, mains and puddings.
Complimentary wine was also included during dinner with a choice of more than one red and white and one rose - while not all were to our taste they were certainly drinkable. The Chalet Hotel de Verbier proved a good ski location as it was just a 10 minute walk to the main gondola station or a few steps to a free shuttle bus stop.
With a guaranteed snowfall from December to April, our trip was more than satisfactory.
Home to the 4 Vallees, the largest ski area situated entirely in Switzerland, we had 410 km of pistes at our ski tips which we reached by a series of 89 ski lifts.
The 4 Vallees is made up of six resorts, Verbier, La Tzoumaz, Bruson, Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon – and apart from Bruson, all can be reached without taking off your skis.
Not the faint hearted is the Mont-Fort run, dubbed “one of the steepest in the Alps”, at 3,330 metres which even many seasoned skiers dare not attempt.
Attracting some of Europe’s best skiers – it’s where XSpeedski 2012 took place – it is often the first run to open launching the area’s ski season as early as November.
But you can also get here without skis to enjoy the breathtaking view from the top.
Verbier has something for skiers and boarders of all abilities as well as a host of off piste family suitable activities, including swimming, skating and fitness suite. Ice karting at the sport centre was an off piste highlight as was a trip to the Bains de Lavey thermal spa. Nestled in the mountains visitors benefit from the warmest thermal water in Switzerland.
Back in resort, there’s also a wide choice of supermarkets and shops to browse and free buses running throughout the day to get you to the different gondola stations.
As well as a nursery slope, Savoleyres/La Tzoumaz is an ideal choice for families and a great place to get your ski legs back as nothing is challenging here, being reserved to gentle, picturesque, runs.
Although we had free ski and boot room in the hotel we opted to hire lockers at the gondola station so we did not have to lug four sets of skis and boots with children in tow every morning.
This was also where L’Ecole Suisse de Ski children’s ski school classes gathered for morning ski lessons. It was only my four-year-old daughter’s second season on her skis but she really improved and by the end of the week was able to ski on her own without support.
• Travel Facts
Prices based on winter 12/13: Inghams features 11 ski resorts in Switzerland, including the resort of Verbier. Travel with Inghams and stay at the 4* Chalet Hotel de Verbier on a catered basis with prices starting from £619 per person, including 7 nights, return flights from Gatwick to Geneva and resort transfers. Flights are also available at a supplement from regional airports. For more information and bookings visit www.inghams.co.uk or contact 0208 780 4447. Justine Halifax travelled courtesy of Inghams.