There are some holidays where almost nothing goes right. Our Christmas trip to Morzine was one of them. The fact that we all came back still loving VIP Ski, the tour operator who took us there, says a lot for them!
It started the morning before we were due to travel, when I came down with a violent tummy bug. I took to my bed. The next morning, still feeling pretty wretched (and I am sure looking even more so), I somehow scraped myself onto the plane.
I was cheered up when we arrived at our chalet – Valdez Suite – all decked out with a Christmas tree, twinkling lights and tinsel. Actually, it’s probably more accurately called a ‘chalet apartment’ – and it’s a bit of a gem. It sleeps just four people (two bedrooms,two bathrooms) and yet you get the full-on chalet service. It’s slap in the middle of the High Street, too, so you are a mere totter away from all the bars and restaurants.Thankfully the double glazing is so good that you don’t get to hear other people’s merriment.
I’m a reasonably sociable person, and we have stayed at lots of shared chalets in the past, but there’s something marvellously decadent and relaxing about having the place to yourself. There’s no having to make small talk (I was very grateful for this when I was still feeling a little green) and we could slob around in our crummiest clothes and watch crap Christmas TV to our heart’s content!
The chalet is warm and cosy and tastefully decorated and comes with its own handy boot room for all your ski paraphernalia. The only slight criticism if I was being extremely picky is that the bedrooms are a tad bijoux and compact. We struggled to find somewhere to put our suitcases but then realized that the boot room was the perfect storage spot.
Our chalet ‘host’ was the wonderful, ever cheerful Scotty. She came in every morning to cook breakfast , cleaned the chalet, then disappeared for the afternoon, leaving us with a freshly baked cake or biscuits ready for our afternoon tea. She’d return a little later to cook up four course dinners and ply us with wine. What’s not to like? When I explained that my tummy wasn’t quite up to the sumptuous feast she had prepared for us on arrival, she instead whipped up a fresh soup for me instead. Now there’s good service…
Next day, I was starting to feel a whole lot better…so nothing too disastrous…yet! We collected our ski gear and headed up the mountain. Sadly we were there before the recent huge dumps of snow, so skiing in Morzine itself was not really an option. No matter, because the neighbouring resort of Avoriaz is much higher and had enough snow to keep us happy. VIP Ski laid on shuttles for whenever their guests wanted them – a bit of a logistical nightmare, but it was all done with a huge smile.
Avoriaz, like Morzine, is part of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area which encompasses a dozen or so resorts and hundreds of kilometres of slope. I highly recommend a lift pass for the whole area rather than just the local one.
It was a beautiful sunny day and we decided to start on an easy blue run. So far, so good. However we had only gone about 50 metres when the usually super fit Mr Gallivant stopped, complaining that he couldn’t breathe. A couple of puffs of an inhaler and we were off again…but another 50 metres on he had to stop again. Something wasn’t right. Our descent down the mountain was extremely slow from there and when we got to the bottom, the VIP resort manager Hannah was waiting to whisk us off to the medical centre. Diagnosis? He had probably had a bad asthma attack, his oxygen levels were low, and he was ordered not to ski at all for the rest of the week. Terrific! What else could go wrong? Quite a lot as it happens…
The following two days, I managed to ski with Master and Miss Gallivant with no mishaps (unless you count Master Gallivant complaining about his knee hurting!). Mr Gallivant was warm in the chalet, catching up on sleep, reading and films. He was a disappointed not to be skiing, but I think secretly enjoying the enforced rest.
On the first of these two days it was Miss Gallivant’s birthday. VIP Ski had been in contact with me before we even came away as they had noticed from her date of birth that she was to turn 12 during our trip and they asked about her favourite cake – yet another indication of their great customer service. Sure enough when we got home that day, Scotty had made a magnificent Victoria sponge.
Christmas Eve arrived and with it…disaster again. Miss Gallivant took to her bed with a tummy bug…not sure whether mine or someone else’s! So no skiing as I had to look after the two invalids. We all hibernated in the chalet, playing board games thoughtfully provided by Hannah. VIP Ski had laid on a mulled wine, mince pie and carol singing get together that evening in one of the bigger chalets which we sadly had to miss out on, but we did get to stand on our balcony and watch the village fireworks display.
Christmas Day – and Miss Gallivant was feeling sufficiently recovered to open her pressies from Père Noël, of course. We went for a wander around the very pretty centre of Morzine which, despite the sultry conditions still looked Christmassy, and along the river bank. Then we went ice skating! I was amazed that the incredible rink (which incidentally has an equally swish Aquatics Centre next door) was open. When we arrived there was only one other family on the ice, but it got busier as the afternoon went on. Mr Gallivant used to skate as a child and puts us all to shame – he can go backwards and everything!
That evening Scotty magically produced (and maybe it was magic because she was wearing an elf outfit – proof below) a perfect Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings without once swearing – not audibly at least – or looking even vaguely flustered. I need to take tips!
I was looking forward to getting back on to the slopes on our last full day – Boxing Day. But fortune was not looking down on us again. My father-in-law was taken into hospital back in the UK and Mr Gallivant was sufficiently worried about him for us to hotfoot it home a day early – at a cost of over £500. Ouch. Again VIP were amazing – sorting out an airport transfer pronto and even coming to wave us and our bags off …no doubt with a sigh of relief.
So, it was perhaps not the most successful of holidays. However, a bad situation was made a whole lot better by the kindness and support of VIP Ski. They really are a fantastic company – big enough to have a good choice of chalets in resorts across France, Switzerland and Austria, small enough to put real emphasis on customer care and satisfaction and great staff training. When things are going wrong is when a company shows its true colours, don’t you think?
Prices at the Valdez Suite this season start from £909 per person. This includes return flights from Gatwick (or from Manchester at £30 pp supplement), transfers, cooked breakfast and four course dinner with wine daily (except chalet host’s day off), £75 discount for 2-12 year olds. For details visit www.vip-chalets.com or call 0208 875 1857.
For more information on Morzine, visit www.morzine-avoriaz.com