The girls had requested snow for Christmas. Snow. How on earth do you make it snow? Always up for the challenge I looked at snow based holidays, only we don't ski or snowboard. None of us do. I have a few times when I was a lot younger but nothing recently. Was it worth travelling to a ski resort when no of us would be skiing? Would there be plenty for us to do? To keep the whole family entertained? What about Christmas?
Our flight was on Christmas Eve. A fact the girls absolutely loved. They looked out of the plane window eager to catch a glimpse of Father Christmas. They were mightily disappointed when they didn't spot him but I did explain we flew in the day time. In fact we flew very early in the morning. A 2 hour flight and a 2 hour coach journey to resort. When we landed there was a distinct lack of snow, but as the coach wound it's way up the mountains it began to resemble a winter wonderland. Little man asleep and the girls in awe. Blue skies and white snow, simply beautiful
Our base for the week was the Mark Warner Hotel Berangere, a wooden chalet hotel at 1,800m and situated next door to the ski slope. Our balcony overlooked the mountains and we watched people going up the chair lift straight outside our window. If we had got any closer we would have been on the slope.
The room itself was pretty basic. Hair dryer and safe, TV with 6 English channels and twin beds. You paid really for the views and proximity to the slope. We were not complaining though. The views were out of this world and we planned to spend as little time as possible in side.
Christmas eve seemed to just pass us by. Tired from travelling and wanting to just settle in, we took the first day easy and made full use of High tea and dinner at the hotel. An early night as we watched fireworks from our balcony, and the girls wondered if Father Christmas would visit on holiday.
Does Father Christmas visit whilst on holiday?
He does indeed!
He left each of the children a few small and light gifts at the bottom of their beds. The girls were ecstatic when they saw them and could not stop bouncing around. Christmas presents opened and it was time to explore and spend the day playing in the snow.
Which is exactly what we did. The hotel loaned us some sledges and we spent out entire day sledging down the side of the mountain in the dedicated area. All 3 children loved it. Laughing and giggling all morning.
Lunch was not provided by the hotel but there was so many places to eat it wasn't an issue. Pancakes and chocolate spread for lunch before heading back to the slope again. Both girls didn't want to do anything else and that was fine by me. Everyone was happy and having fun.
We had to be back at the hotel for 4.15 as a special guest was coming for High tea. The girls had spotted some snowy footprints from the chimney that morning, as well as the crumbs from a mince pie and half drunk glass of milk but the fire place. A special guest indeed made his way up the ski slope to the hotel, and sat themselves by the fire to keep warm.
He called out the names of all the children staying at the hotel and handed each one a present. Such a wonderful thing to do. The girls loved it.
After cake and a hot chocolate we returned to our hotel rooms to get ready for dinner and to have a play with some of the toys from Christmas. Christmas dinner was 5 courses and no washing up. Win for me and for the kids too!
We discovered that you could purchase a family lift pass at a fraction of the cost of a ski pass. Little Man was free as he was under 5, adults are 59 euros for 6 days unlimited use and children are 43 euros. This also included entry to the ice caves at 3,200m. Given you can then use the chair lifts to access other areas of Les Deux Alpes and visit other attractions we thought it was well worth the money.
We decided to make the most of our passes and use them to go all the way to 3,200m and visit the ice caves. The weather when we set off was clear but as the lift got higher up the mountain the winds started. Not only the winds but we ended up with blanket snow. It was so fast we couldn't see out hands in front of our faces, the wind was harsh and the cold stung.
Part way up the mountain you have to stop and acclimatise. We later found out that at this point they should have stopped us from going any higher up the mountain, as it can cause issues to the under 2s ears. We were not aware so after a 20 minute play in the snow we made our way further up the mountain in the next chair lift to the ice caves.
We exited to the lifts and the wind and snow were even stronger. We couldn't see any signs or anything that looked like the cave, but we did spot a cafe so headed there for a hot chocolate and some cake. The owner kindly pointed where we needed to head to and after warming up braved the cold once more.
The entrance to the ice caves are behind a small wooden hut in the middle of the snow. There seemed to be nothing surrounding it apart from snow. We did wonder if we were in the right place. Braving the cold we headed to the wooden hut and were directed behind.
The entrance to the cave appeared and once inside it felt warm, sheltered from the wind and the snow outside. Statues had been carved into the ice, everything from dinosaurs and dragons to palm trees and jellyfish. A real assortment of figures, each lit with coloured light. The children loved it. Spotting the different carvings and exploring the caves. We went round a few times, not wanting to go back outside into the cold. It didn't take long to explore but it was certainly worth it.
The ride back down the mountain was very windy indeed. The girls sitting still not wanting to make the lift sway and given most people skied down the mountain we had a capsule to ourselves. My youngest asked what the toys were down below and we had to explain they were people. The girls loved watching the snow blow outside and the people far below us. My fear of heights really didn't enjoy it and I was counting down the seconds until I was back on solid ground.
Our lift passes were great. We used them to explore nearby villages, and it gave us so much freedom to explore.
The resort had put on a schedule of activities over the Christmas period and every early evening we would make the most of these. There would always be a 'secret' word and upon saying the secret word or action you were given a stick of marshmallows to toast on the open fire. We did have one day where it rained and so this wasn't possible but on this day we stayed at the hotel. Given no one was skiing either that day either meant we really did not miss out on anything outdoors.
The activities varied from painting to making candles and snow-globes. There was so much to do and it really passed the time from 4 until 6 when it was time to head back for dinner. Most days there was also a parade which walked through the resort itself with a variety of characters, one day it was frozen themed. Father Christmas made appearances and so did the husky, it was a real hub of activity for families.
We discovered a playground close to the hotel and given most people were skiing it gave us the playground to ourselves on most days. What can be more fun than slides in the snow. Sliding down into fresh snow or a seesaw into the snow!
We had a real mixed bag of weather. One day it rained and this meant we were forced to stay inside, as the sledges would not work in the snow, and no one was skiing either. A few days blue skies and sunshine and a few days of heavy snow. A mixture of everything. On the heavy snow days we had snowball fights, made snow angels and went on the sledges. On blue sky days we would explore nearby villages with our lift passes and go for walks around the resorts.
During one of our explorations we found a donkey farm. You could book rides but we couldn't find anyone to book with. There were husky rides, but they sold out before we arrived and snow mobiles which the kids wanted to do but unfortunately Little Man was poorly and rushed to the emergency doctor so we were unable to take part. In fact there was so much to do we didn't manage to fit it in in one week. We had wanted to go to the cinema, the museum and bowling but ran out of time.
One of our favourite activities was a horse ride through the snow. A short walk from our hotel and we were greeted by a beautiful horse and sleigh. Wrapped up in warm blankets we rode through the mountains and forest. Beautiful winter scenes unfolding all around us. Guided by the most beautiful dog, we headed up into the mountains.
The sleigh stopped at a farm, where we got out and were ushered inside to be met with hot chocolate and cake. There seemed to be a theme to this holiday, not that any of us were complaining. After warming up we headed back to the sleigh to be greeted by the farm dogs, who seemed to love the attention from the kids before climbing back into the sleigh to return home.
My children's faces were priceless. They were loving every second. Laughing the whole time and taking everything in. Snuggled all together under a warm blanket, it was just a perfect winter treat.
The shops in resort closed just after lunch until early afternoon, but once we discovered this we planned our activities accordingly. Either sledging just after lunch or taking the lift to a near by village to explore once they opened again. There was never a time when we didn't have something to do or a time when we wished we were skiing. Our days and nights were filled with fun and laughter. The girls experienced new things and my youngest discovered a love of ice skating.
Our week passed by so quickly. Time really does fly when you are having fun. None of us have any regrets about not skiing, in fact I am not sure we would have managed to fit everything in if we had.
Leaving resort was really hard, saying goodbye to those mountains and the views. I can see why people want to return each year. Leaving on New Years Eve was perhaps for the best, it ended 2017 perfectly.
To answer my initial questions:
Was it worth travelling to a ski resort when no of us would be skiing? Absolutely
Would there be plenty for us to do? More than enough, we had so much to do we didn't manage to fit it all in.
To keep the whole family entertained? I have never seen my kids laugh and smile so much. All 3 of them loved every second of it.
What about Christmas? Christmas was magical. Father Christmas came. We spent the day playing in snow and had a 5 course Christmas dinner cooked for us. Even had access to British TV to watch those all important Christmas films!
I would love to visit again, or even visit another 'ski' resort. To have snow over Christmas was just magical and such an experience for the children. We made so many wonderful memories and upon our return got to have a Christmas/New Year day party with our family! Just perfect.
I booked and paid for this holiday with Mark Warner, and have not been asked to write this post.