Snow-capped mountains and fresh alpine air seem like a distant memory in a year when life has seemed like an uphill struggle, but now that we finally seem to be on the home stretch, a skiing holiday is starting to feel possible again.
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And for families fed up with months of lockdown, a short flight to the French Alps could be the perfect way to dust off the winter blues following months confined to our own homes.
When I headed there for a spot of mountain fun with my 15-year-old son Paddy earlier this year, we based ourselves in family-friendly Vaujany, one of seven small resorts and villages that make up Alpe D’Huez Grand Domaine Ski, a wintery playground that features 250km of runs for every taste and ability.
Family-friendly Vaujany is the perfect post-lockdown skiing destination
Not feeling the need for the glitz, glamour and party atmosphere of some of the better known French resorts, we were drawn to the easy vibe and child-friendly facilities on offer in this pretty village, which boasts a government approved Famille Plus label - awarded to resorts that meet criteria on childcare, entertainment, activities and price. Just an hour’s drive from Grenoble airport, it’s also easy to reach for those travelling with impatient little ones and means you can comfortably fit a trip into a long weekend.
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Certainly, there were plenty of ski runs to choose from across the Domaine – 112 in all, from nursery slopes to speedy black runs. From our lovely catered chalet, the slopes were easily accessible via a short walk to the lift that took us up to the resort.
Vaujany sits at an altitude of 1200 metres and its shops, restaurant, chalets, hotels and leisure facilities are connected via a series of lifts and escalators, while a cable car links it to the Alpe D’Huez ski area. There’s also a leisure centre with a swimming pool, indoor ice rink and bowling alley to keep the kids entertained when they’re not on the slopes, while the Domaine offers fun après-ski activities like movie nights, dog sledding and tobogganing.
Tracy Schaverien hit the slopes with son Paddy
The size and compact layout of Vaujany mean that older kids and teens who want a bit of independence can explore without getting lost and I was happy to let Paddy wander around the village shops and leisure centre with his friends.
For those who prefer to stay somewhere really low key and conveniently situated, the little village of Villard-Reculas has a good selection of apartments and chalets within 300 metres of the slopes, as well as a shop and café/restaurant. Buildings are low rise and the village’s authentic, Alpine feel makes it a good choice for families who want a quiet holiday, plus there’s the added advantage of a nursery slope on the doorstep.
This was mine and Paddy’s second ski trip so while we weren't absolute beginners, a refresher was in order. We began our lessons in the nursery area, which has a magic carpet and three drag lifts that are perfect for young children and novices. Young children are taught in their own groups, giving their parents a chance to do their own thing.
Vaujany boasts a government approved Famille Plus label
After a morning honing our skills, we were ready to take the gondola lift to Marcel's Farm, a fun zone that features gentle runs, tunnels, jumps and an animal-themed slalom course. While I was happy to stick to green runs, it wasn’t long before Paddy was ready to tackle the reds with his more experienced friends. Between ski lessons we also found the time for a spin on La Luge Des Bergers, a fun virtual reality ride in a sledge on the slopes.
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The conditions in early January were perfect – a fresh fall of powdery snow, with the added bonus of warm sunshine to keep us warm. This came in particularly handy as we enjoyed relaxing lunches on the wooden terraces of the slope-side restaurants dotted around the resorts. La Bergerie in Villard-Reculas is a wooden chalet style eaterie with breath-taking views from its large windows and outdoor deck, while another lovely – and convenient - lunch spot is Les Airelles bar and restaurant on the slopes of Montfrais in Vaujany, where I fuelled myself with a tartiflette – traditional mountain fare made from potatoes, cheese and bacon.
Around the village of Vaujany there’s a good selection of bars and restaurants for dinner and après-ski drinks, including the newly opened Le V de Vaujany hotel and spa, with its gourmet restaurant IDA and cosy bar.
The conditions in early January were perfect
After an exhilarating day on the slopes, our evenings were spent chilling out at Chalet Saskia, a luxury, 10-ensuite bedroom house that boasts panoramic mountain views, a sauna, outdoor hot tub, games room and large communal living room with an open fire. We joined the other families for dinner in the large dining room, where gourmet meals were served by the resident chef.
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This past year has definitely left us pining for the Alps and I can’t wait to hit the slopes again.
A three-night stay at Chalet Saskia (skipeak.net) is from £435pp based on two people sharing a double room (half-board). Six-day adult lift pass for Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine lift pass from £250, six-day adult lift pass for Oz-Vaujany from £163 (oz-vaujany.com). Flights from London Gatwick to Grenoble from £47 return with easyJet (easyjet.com). Return travel between London and Grenoble including Eurostar (eurostar.com) from £168.00pp (December dep). For more information: villard-reculas.com and vaujany.com
A seven-night stay at Chalet le Regain is priced from £152 pp based on six people sharing three-bedroom chalet (self-catering) https://www.isere-tourism.com/