Skiing With Oliver's Travels

Back in March I succumbed to Gus' requests and went skiing. It isn't a sport or a life choice I even considered until my twenties and I used to hold the opinion of, "Why on earth would you choose to go skiing over sitting on the beach with a cocktail?" Gus is huge fan and skiing was a big part of his upbringing so I have had to bite the bullet and book it.  I've skied a total of four times. I'm not a total beginner and I can get down the mountain, but I wouldn't give myself any points for style or etiquette. In fact I'd be running into the negative points style wise. 

I decided to invite a few friends as in the back of my head I thought "If I hate the skiing or if the weather is bad (hilarious given we ended up in the one resort in France with pretty much guaranteed good ski weather from November to April) we can all chill in the chalet and catch up." I'd spoken to friends who recommended Oliver's Travels before and got in touch to see what they'd suggest for a mixed ability, arguably late season, amenity needing group of people. They ever so kindly not only assisted hugely but offered us a chalet for three nights in return for this review. Have a read...

camera link (the one I use for YouTube videos)

In case you don't know about them, Oliver's Travels is a premium property website (my own expression, quite impressed with myself) with properties in the UK, Europe and the Carribbean. Friends have used them for hen dos, and a family friend's beautiful French villa is on there. In a nutshell, I knew they were good so had every confidence in their properties. All of the ones they suggested were great but Chalet Martin in St Martin de Belleville came out on top for us especially when the team explained the resorts advantages over other places.

St Martin de Belleville is a pretty unique place as a ski resort and having been to quite a few in France (Meribel, Val D'sere, Courchevel and Tignes) it's my firm favourite. To start with, it's in the middle of the Three Valley network so you can easily access all of the major resorts within that area from the lift in the town. In terms of getting there, we flew to Geneva and hired a car (cheapest option over a taxi) and drove which took around 2 hours.

To explain the skiing options here's my take on it (as a relative novice): The slopes that go into St Martin are brilliant for a mixed ability group. There is a good magic carpet for complete beginners, an easy green/blue, and from the lift there are some really lovely blue/green/reds as well as great restaurants and bars. I particularly loved the blue run over to Le Menuires. It's got some flat bits (brilliant for trying out parallels and keeping speed for beginners) and some twists and turns for all abilities. 

The chalet itself really is quite special and I couldn't believe my luck. We actually met the owners a lovely Parisian couple, who explained how they had painstakingly sought out the right fittings and furniture to give the house the welcoming, warm feel it has.

Five double bedrooms each with their own bathroom, a cinema room, beautiful kitchen/living space (complete with chef), swimming pool and sauna. The whole place is beautifully decked out and furnished and felt like a 5 star hotel - but that kind that it was ok to walk around in your pyjama bottoms and no socks for dinner. It's perfectly located and the brilliant staff are happy to drive you around and collect you as needed. You can see a full tour of the place on my YouTube channel here, as well as a day by day break down of the trip. 

Having not skied that much (and we had a beginner in our group) finding lessons was really important. We didn't pre book and managed to get on-the-day lessons really easily. A brilliant thing about St Martin is because it was a smaller resort everything was cheaper including the lessons. Ski hire was less too - passes were the same as they are standardised across the three valleys. Even the drinks in the bars in town were notably cheaper than the larger resorts. So again, if it's your first trip I'd really recommend it there. 

I've been asked quite a lot about tips for beginners so here are my top 5:

1. Get lessons from a professional rather than a friend/partner. No matter how patient or resilient the person will be it's worth getting the basics right and hiring someone for half a day (minimum) to get you on track. I have done this every time I've skied as I'm still not quite at the "happy to just chuck myself down a mountain" stage.
2. Get a nice chalet. This sounds daft and obvious but as skiing can be gruelling give yourself a little luxury and hire somewhere decent. I loved a chalet over a hotel as it meant I could completely relax and was just amongst friends when not on the slopes. Also the benefit of having a chalet host to collect/drive you to the slopes was pretty life changing.
3. Take some Voltarol gel and even if your calves/ankles/hips don't hurt at the end of the day rub some on after a shower post-ski. Just trust me ok, you'll discover pains in muscles you didn't even know you had.
4. Sunscreen the hell out of yourself because goggle marks are a real thing and take weeks to get rid of.
5. Don't drink and drive. Apres ski is ace and a necessary part of a ski trip,  (also pack painkillers and salty snacks for morning afters) a lot of it happens up in the mountains meaning you need to ski back. Don't get yourself plastered as if you do you may end up throwing an enormous drunken tantrum, throwing your skis in the snow and stomping off crying demanding the chalet host comes and gets you (see YouTube video for reference here).

So, in summary I bl**dy loved the holiday. Having a lush chalet to come home to (also helped that the chef made us pancakes and cakes overtime we returned from the slopes) made a lot of difference. Whilst obviously a more luxurious choice we actually found that because our chalet included all food and drink the cost was the same as going a larger resort, staying in a basic hotel and paying for all meals and drinks - which is crazy!

If you don't know Oliver's Travels and fancy trying a hotel-quality house/villa/chalet then I cannot recommend these guys enough. They are also very good for wedding-related stuff - from the actual venues to good alternatives for accommodation for guests, have a look here. I'm annoyed I didn't know about them last year as have spent the same amount on a shabby B&B when I could have had a whole place to myself! I won't spoil the surprise of the additional lengths they go to to make your whole experience better, but can wholeheartedly vouch for them and have booked a holiday already having had such a brilliant experience.

This post was written in collaboration with Oliver's Travels. All content, wording and images my own.

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