When I was a teenager I was lucky enough to be taken skiing by my parents. To save money we went with a now defunct ... Read Feature
I have a friend who works in logistics.
Every day he moves millions of bottles of shampoo around the world and at any one time he can look at an
“app” on his phone and tell you how many crates of a particular size and brand have just been delivered in Kuala Lumpur or are about to arrive in San Francisco.
He’s right at the top of his game and is a “go to” person for major corporations when they need something really complicated to work really well.
And even though he was a mad keen skier in his youth he now refuses to take his family of five to the Alps.
“I just don’t have the energy to organise it all,” he told me.
“By the time we’ve got the children into their snowsuits, checked helmets, gloves and ski passes and then delivered them to their lessons we’ve got almost no time to ski before we have to undo the whole process again for lunch.”
And that’s a shame because his five year old is a ski nut.
The turning point, he realised, was when his eldest left his helmet on a navette and he spent three hours sliding and creaking around the resort in his ski boots trying to track it down.
“It’s just not how I wanted to spend a holiday,” he told me and, as I write this, on a plane back from a whistle stop tour of Scott Dunns Val Di’Isere chalets, I’m making a mental note to tell him I may have found a solution.
He’ll need to sell a stack of those corporate stock options to pay for it, because it’s not cheap, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t very very good value for money.
So lets get that bad news out of the way first.
Scott Dunn is upmarket.
And that can make it expensive. The price point can be reduced, more of that in a moment, but it’s priced to sit above that regular family ski favourite Mark Warner and to justify that premium they need to demonstrate some pretty significant features. And they do.
I stayed in Eagle’s Nest, one of their three flagship chalets in “Val” as the locals like to call it. It’s perched high above the town, hence the name, and as such enjoys panoramic views from its various balconies, picture windows and the hot tub.
The overall feel of the place is “Hogwarts” meets “Frozen” assuming Dumbledore was pretty keen on interior design and Elsa was a wellness buff with a penchant for balcony-based Jacuzzis in her ice castle.
Four floors twist around a central staircase and there are plenty of rustic nooks and crannies to relax into. The bottom floor has a swimming pool, sauna and steam room, the top floor has a vast comfy seating area by a real fire and the dining room boast a lovely picture window staring straight down the valley where the rest of Val D’Isere can be seen twinkling away in the dusk or dawn.
There is a small mezzanine area perfect for skulking teenagers and the whole house is wired up with Wi-Fi, Sonos and goodness knows what else.
If all those stairs sound intimidating don’t worry, there is a lift and to top it all a huge statue of the Eagle guards the front vista, scowling down the valley at all the other chalets beneath you.
But that physical infrastructure is only part of the story.
Inside the chalet live a team of extraordinarily helpful staff for whom nothing is too much trouble. The Scott Dunn staff/guest ratio is 2:1, which is significantly below the industry standard and it shows.
Don’t want to travel to the ski shop to get your boots fitted and pick up your skis?
You don’t need to.
They’ll bring a full range to the chalet’s boot room for you to try and even mark up all the kit so your little one’s aren’t arguing about helmets and poles at 8am.
Can’t be bothered to queue for your ski pass?
Check out the welcome pack by your bed and you’ll find it in there.
I spent a good hour or two trying to think of things they’d missed and I drew a blank. Their marketing boss Graham neatly summed it up over breakfast when he told me “the only effort we expect any of our clients to make is getting to the airport, we take it from there.”
And moving on to the food, what a breakfast that was.
Meals are prepared in a large professional kitchen “below stairs” and they will take your understanding of “chalet food” to a whole new level. If I’d been told that Hester was behind the hob I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid and in reality we had the next best thing: menus that had been created by Ping Coombes, last years Master Chef winner. In practice that meant five-spice pork spring rolls with plum chilli, spiced braised beef ribs with star anise carrots and chocolate lava cake with black-sesame ice cream. Oh and sallopetes that almost refused to fasten the next day.
But it’s not all fine dining.
Lasagne and “spag boll” are certainly on the menu if that’s what you want, it really is a case of the customer is always right.
Or full in my case.
So back to my logistics friend, how would he find the childcare?
Well he could choose between a private nanny in his chalet or the dedicated Scott Dunn day care centre in the middle of town. Again, flexibility is the key word with staff happy to entertain your little ones in the nursery if they want to keep their feet off the piste or escort them to lessons if you’re raising future downhill champions. One option I particularly loved was nannies will bring your little ones up the mountain to meet you for lunch, giving everyone not only the opportunity to eat in a marvellous location but to steal a march on the afternoon lift queues when it’s time to hit the snow again.
So would I want to take my family?
Absolutely. The flexibility and attention to detail is a joy. Scott Dunn have built an incredible in-resort “ski machine” which exists only to make your holiday easier, less hassle and more fun. That in itself is invaluable but once the hospitality and accommodation are added to the mix, it’s irresistible. It may seem pricey but they offer a range of chalets which, if shared between a couple of families, would give you access to the same childcare, meals and service for an extremely reasonable outlay. Oh, and they all had swimming pools too!
tel. 020 8682 5050.