“Do you ski?” I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked this over the years, be it from friends trying to get a last minute ski holiday together to new colleagues trying to gage some common ground. It’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity, close members of my family are great on the slopes and I often had the opportunity to go on school ski trips, but in truth, it never really appealed to me – I’m more of a sunshine and sea / cultured city-break kind of girl.
That was until I was invited to visit Val d’Isere, or more to the point, the Marco Polo Chalet in Val d’Isere. One look at the uber-luxurious chalet and anyone, seasoned professional or otherwise (read: me), would snap up the chance. Plus, the jam-packed itinerary of everything from in-chalet wine-tasting to an onsite spa, dining up the mountain to fine-dining dinners each night, suggested there was more après ski than actual skiing to be had.
So I begged and borrowed everything from goggles to a ski jacket – ‘all the gear and no idea’ as they say – and headed off for my first ski trip.
After a champagne-induced snooze in the car we’d arrived at the Marco Polo. The chalet is slap-bang in the middle of Val d’Isere, but set back from the road, it feels secluded and private. The interiors are breathtaking, traditional wood gives it the rustic charm you’d expect of a ski chalet and countless artefacts collected by the owners from around the globe make it truly unique – a mosaic-tiled ceiling above the indoor swimming pool, imported from Morocco no less.
Bags were swiftly taken away by the chalet staff and unpacked in our rooms (all part of the no-expenses-spared service) as we tucked into yet more cakes and coffee at the house bar area. With wrap-around sofas made from the cosiest sheepskin for an alpine feel and beautiful dripping chandeliers hanging from wooden beams above our heads, no one was surprised that the Marco Polo has been voted the ‘best ski chalet in France’.
My room was as beautiful as you’d expect, set over a mezzanine (a single bed on the upper floor ideal for a couple with a young child), with a beautiful acorn-inspired statement lamp that hung over the bed, furniture imported from all corners of the globe, sheepskins throws and mod-cons like movies and music on demand. But it was the view that really wowed, as huge, glass doors open-up onto a balcony which wraps around the outside chalet, benefiting almost all the bedrooms with an outdoor area – picturesque church steeple, snow-capped trees and La Face piste in the distance.
We headed down to the local ski shop on the first day to get kitted out with boots, skis, helmets and boards – the chalet staff were equipped with a couple of bottles of champagne (a recurring theme) to make it probably the most enjoyable kitting-out experience the Alps have to offer. As a complete beginner, the chalet set me up with lessons from ski school, Progression and as any newbie to the slopes would be, I expected to be more ‘Bambi On Ice’ than graceful skier, but my instructor’s patience, chilled-out attitude and general enthusiasm for getting people into skiing, whether five or 50, novice or off-piste skier, shone through and made the world of difference to how I progressed.
By the first morning I’d mastered the snow-plough, the chair lift (my biggest fear!), turns and even parallel turns. It’s safe to say black runs are still a little way off, but the sense of achievement you get from going from no ski skills whatsoever to actually mastering a run gave me such an adrenalin rush I’d never experienced before - so it is well worth the lessons.
I spent my final morning at the Marco Polo soaking up everything the chalet has to offer relaxation-wise. The heated indoor pool is perhaps the most tranquil place in the Alps, with arch windows that look out into the snow and a giant screen that comes down should you want to watch a film with your swim. The chalet also has an onsite spa and therapist to soothe your aching ski muscles or tend to your cold-bitten skin. I opted for a facial – bliss.
Although the chalet itself is aesthetically breathtaking, it’s really the service that Consensio and the Maro Polo staff and owners offer that sets it apart from your average ski holiday. No expenses are spared, nothing is too much trouble (of course there is a price tag to match), and all of this is done in a fun, friendly manner. In fact, co-founder and MD, Ceri Tinley of Consensio Travel told me that “once things stop being fun for the guests, we stop, rethink and change. It always has to be fun”. A good ethos to have, no more so than on holiday.
Consensio Holidays offers a week in Chalet Marco Polo from £2,491pp based on 12 people sharing 6 rooms. This rate includes breakfast, afternoon tea, pre-dinner champagne and dinner, use of all facilities and a chauffeur driven car.