Peak Retreats client Claire recalls her week's ski holiday in Montgenevre.
In March, we embarked on our ski holiday to Montgenevre with somewhat of an eclectic mix of skier abilities.
The accommodation at the brand new ‘Le Napoleon’ residence was just perfect – convenient location with comfortable and well equipped apartments. It is situated right in the centre of the resort, with a Spar mini-market on the ground floor, next door to the ski shop and just the road to cross to get to the slopes and the ski school meeting points. Each apartment has its own ski room with heated boot rack and benches. It is lovely to put on warm (and dry!) ski boots. Definitely a plus.
The residence has a good size indoor heated pool, a Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room which all proved a real asset after a long day on the slopes. It was also quiet. We indulged in a few treatments at their lovely SPA – had a massage and a facial. I actually fell asleep, it was so relaxing. The place is very clean and well looked after. The reception staff were friendly and helpful. The delivery of fresh bread and croissants each morning saved us a trip to the bakery and was very efficient and the bread was absolutely lovely! Throughout our stay, we borrowed from reception a DVD player with DVDs, a raclette set and even a Wii to entertain the 7 year old in our party.
Le Napoleon Jacuzzi
Our group was varied to say the least: a 7 year old girl skiing down faster than lightning with group lessons in the morning, a complete beginner 20 year old again with group lessons, a couple of hesitant 3 timer skiers in private lessons and 2 advanced skiers without lessons… Once everyone was geared up and taken to their lessons, we set off to experience the large ski area. A great tip is to follow the sun and the conditions of the snow over the course of the day. Beautiful on the Chalvet side in the morning, moving towards Claviere and the Italian side towards lunchtime, then onto the highest slopes of the Gondrans area for the afternoon. The Italian side of the Mont de la Lune area above Claviere is definitely more challenging with steeper narrower reds through the trees offering a large variety of slopes for all abilities.
Our 2nd Star Skier
The ski lessons ending and the convenient location of the apartment meant that we had lunch most days on the sunny balcony, looking over the slopes whilst gulping our local charcuterie, cheese and ham sandwiches (fabulous bread from the ‘Atelier’ boulangerie a few doors away, the baguettes are just to die for. We heard that they use a traditional method to make the dough and only use high quality flour. This is where the residence gets the bread in the morning).
Lunch on the Balcony
Our friends ate most days next door at the Café Graal offering a large sunny terrace and good value crepes and sandwiches, to be on the slopes after a short break and practice their ski moves. In the afternoon we looked after our girls and took them skiing on gentle greens and blues, trying to catch up with an excited speedy 7 year old while keeping an eye on a very hesitant beginner. The slope layout made it possible for us all to enjoy the skiing and the snow on the Gondrans area (wide long easy greens and blues basking in the afternoon sun).
As a ski holiday wouldn’t be complete without some fun after skiing, we tried a few restaurants in the evenings: highly recommended are Le Jamy (a few metres away from the residence) offering French traditional cuisine with a modern twist. The duck magret was just perfect, as was the wild boar and the squid ink risotto. Puddings were equally a delight with a perfect fondant chocolate cake, equally succulent profiteroles and a pear/speculoos tiramisu. At €35 each it was an affordable gourmet meal enjoyed by all.
An experience not to be missed is the ‘Monsoleil’ restaurant above Claviere in Italy. We drove to Claviere (2km away), parked the car and embarked on an 8 minute skidoo ride to get to the restaurant hidden away in the forest by a ski slope. The sharp cold, the speed of the snow scooter whizzing up the slopes took our breath away. It was such an exhilarating experience!
On our way to Monsoleil Restaurant
A very warm welcome greeted us and the service was superb (despite the large size of the restaurant which was packed). We had about 8 various antipasti (from local cheese and ham to various salads, beans and polenta) followed by 2 fresh pasta dishes that no one could finish, then a superb dessert from the classic tiramisu to a succulent chocolate cake or a divine marron glace mousse. Wine was flowing and then it was time for our trip back - even more exciting as the slopes were now very steep coming down! Thought we’d lose one or 2 on the way but no, 2 on the skidoo with the driver, the other 4 on a very wobbly cart…
We also gave snowshoeing a go one evening. Oh what fun! A gentle 45 minute stroll through the forest wearing plastic snowshoes. Night fell pretty quickly and by the time we got to the ‘tipi’, our legs were warm but our noses freezing and our appetites big! Eric and Vincent, our guides from the ESF, settled us around a warming fire and told us stories about the resort, the inhabitants and a few legends. The ubiquitous vin chaud (a sort of alpine mulled wine) or hot chocolate was served together with local charcuterie, bread, cheese and tart.
Ready for snowshoeing and In the Tipi
It was pitch black when it was time to go back home and a few ‘flambeaux’ were lit for the most adventurous who had to hold it high up while looking at their feet to stay on the path. Eric and Vincent told us about the stars (it was a beautiful moonlit sky) and explained the various types of snow you can find. It was a truly lovely evening and our little girl didn’t moan once about walking that far or being cold…Really good value as well.
We also tried Le Refuge restaurant (just next door to our accommodation) where we highly recommend the beef fillet fondue cooked in mulled wine (just marvellous).
On the last day, Christian, the director of the Montgenevre Ski School took us skiing for some serious leg action. It was great to see other parts of the ski area (at high speed!) and cannot recommend enough to good/expert skiers to book an instructor for a few hours to discover other parts of the ski area. Ask for ‘Engagement’. The hot chocolate on the Chalvet panoramic terrace overlooking the resort was very welcome.
With Christian from ESF Ski School
We all met up for dinner in one of the apartments after a good spa session. We did pre-book an 8 hour spa treatment package to split between us and we all enjoyed a well-deserved divine hour of massage and another hour of a luxury facial.
We were very lucky to have a set 7 days of solid sunshine and blue sky and everyone was very happy with their new ski skills and great experiences.
A fabulous time was had by all. It was just perfect.
By Claire White – Montgenevre