by Mariella Frostrup, The Telegraph, January 25, 2018
I’d love to boast that it was the fresh fall of powder that drove me to the picturesque Alpine resort of Les Gets in France to welcome in 2018. Instead, less sportingly, I was enticed by the words “VIP Ski” and a desperate urge to escape the domestic drudgery of the preceding three weeks; holed up with bored teenagers and deluged by Amazon deliveries, each one signalling a further drop in my bank balance.
OK, so I’m a terrible person, but Christmas for me is like childbirth: the moment it’s over we forget the agony, otherwise no one would volunteer to go through it again. Family gatherings, present giving and the twinkle of fairy lights only take on a nostalgic hue once the pain of biting your tongue as old arguments flare, the relentless advertising and the stress of transforming your habitation into a set worthy of a seasonal Bing Crosby singalong are behind you. Annually in my household I beg to leave, my children and husband refuse, and on Christmas Day, elbow deep in dishes, I curse them all!
This year however a glimmer of hope presented itself when a trip to the Alps, blessed with fresh snowfall, captured the imaginations of my rain-soaked children and spurred us to fly to Geneva on the promise of full board and perfect skiing.
The company that took us in nurtured me back from the traumas of Yuletide and returned me home four days later replete, well-slept and full of the bonhomie that’s meant to mark December 25 is bravely named VIP SKI – an enticement surely for all sorts of presumptuous behaviour from self-inflated clients?
No such antics were in evidence, however, as we entered the warm Mancunian embrace of Kris and his team at the nine-room Altitude Lodge, a small hotel with a chalet-like atmosphere set on the nursery slopes high above Les Gets.
At 1,550m we were at elevated heights on the nursery slopes, needing only to slide out from under our feather-puffed duvets, tumble under the power shower and wrestle with our ski boots to hit the pistes. Along with cosy wood-raftered bedrooms and granite-styled bathrooms, an outdoor hot tub, an indoor sauna and massage room, Alex the accommodating driver to pop you down to the village and a never-ending stream of mountain fare that bulged our belts but was hard to resist, were all part of the package.
On a four-day trip there’s not a second to waste and Kris proved himself an exemplary masochist, accompanying us to the ski hire shop and streamlining the chaos of our equipment provisions. Hiring at the beginning of the season at Intersport, much of the equipment was brand new, I actually pulled tissue paper from the toes of my Nordica ski boots, the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, and realised belatedly what a difference the right gear can make.
Embracing the great outdoors creates an appetite and having spent a week trying to think of new ways to utilise leftover turkey, the avalanche of Swiss cheese in similarly desperate culinary concoctions was a welcome change. Handing over responsibility for New Year’s Eve to chef Jamie’s eight-course banquet was an even more delightful derogation of duty.
Alongside the postcard-pretty village, draped in Christmas lights and blanketed in fresh snow, easily as pretty as Verbier or Gstaad, Les Gets has further assets. The surrounding ski area offers entry to a vast 650km of pistes; taking you from Morzine to Chambéry and a dozen quaint villages along the way.
You can travel from France to Switzerland and back, but my favourite pastime was taking the same lift up La Rosta and gliding down on an easy under-populated blue with breathtaking views.
Our last day found me full of the joys of impending spring, over a jug of rosé at Le Vaffieu, a cosy mountain cabin where wooden hearts hang from raftered ceilings and getting to the lavatories, in ski boots, down the precipitous wooden staircase after a glass of wine lends further excitement! Over tartiflette with green salad and huge French omelettes oozing raclette we celebrated the start of a new year and the possibility of a new family tradition.
Frenetic festivities will take on a whole new appeal for yours truly if followed by an escape to the mountains and the sort of cosseting that makes a VIP of every guest!
A seven-night stay at VIP SKI’s Altitude Lodge in Les Gets is priced from £999 per person and includes return flights from Gatwick to Geneva, transfers, hotel half-board catering, welcome champagne and canapes, daily cleaning and complimentary toiletries. Prices are based on two sharing. Lift passes and equipment hire can be booked with VIP SKI.