There is a period in your life as a parent when the holiday part is knocked right out of skiing. Not only do small kids hate the cold, but, without wishing to point out the obvious, they can’t ski either. All in all, this can be a recipe for disaster.
That is unless you have had the good fortune to discover Ferme du Ciel, a chalet situated in Samoens, France. It is run by ex-pats Su and Andy who decamped to the French Alps six years ago in search of a more fulfilling life. The chalet is their home and while you are staying with them, it will become yours, too. Their attention to detail was evident even as we stepped off our flight to discover Andy and a warm van waiting for us at Geneva airport, complete with car seats already buckled in for the one-hour transfer.
Su and Andy personally oversaw the renovation of the chalet, which has been transformed from a derelict barn into a luxurious open plan design. Inside, modern touches (video games, an oversized TV, Jacuzzi and large lounging sofas) blend comfortably with traditional features from the original building. The bedrooms are inviting with crisp linens and fluffy eiderdowns, plus each has an en-suite with a walk in shower and sunken bath.
On our first morning, after a tasty Smorgasbord breakfast prepared by live-in chef Jeremy, and his wife Danielle, it was time to take our seven-year-old up the mountain for her first taste of skiing. We had pre-arranged for a local babysitter to spend a few hours playing with our two-year-old, who waved us off without a backward glance and spent a very happy few hours building snowmen, exploring the toy box and searching for the endlessy-patient chalet cat, Lu Lu.
Samoens is linked to four other resorts – Sixt, Morillon, Les Carroz and Flaine. It’s easy to ski between the mountains on an extensive 265km of pistes. And because so much of the resort is accessible on blue runs, it makes for a perfect family adventure. By far our favourite run was the 5km Marvel, a green piste that winds through the alpine trees at Morrillon. Peppered by picnic spots and as wide and powdery as they come, it was scenic ski perfection.
Back at the chalet, the kids and I enjoyed a warm up in the outdoor Jacuzzi, bubbling away as falling snow tingled our shoulders. Kids tea was served at six – a familiar menu of Bolognese, sausage and mash and fish and chips. After nibbles at 7:30, all chalet guests and staff gathered around a huge square table for a three-course meal that, night after night, left every tastebud throbbing. A healthy chicory salad would be followed by a duck casolet and rounded off with poached pear with blackcurrant coulis.
The chalet has six bedrooms, and we shared our stay with a father of two on a week’s break experiencing Ferme du Ciel’s healthy living package (involves cross country skiing, snow shoeing and smaller dinner portions) and a father with his son and two nephews who were also finding their ski legs for the first time. Every night, Su and Andy would mix among the guests asking us what our plans were for the following days and seeing how they could help – coordinating drop offs at the ski lifts, booking restaurants (we highly recommend Mezzanine) and hiring babysitters was all part of the service. We even managed a trip down to the local ice-rink one afternoon, where our two-year-old, with blades strapped over her snow boots, did turns on the ice with the help of a balancing frame.
The warm welcome at Ferme du Ciel extended to the mountain. Samoens is a family-friendy resort and everyone we met, from lift attendants to shop owners, was helpful and polite. At Samoens 1600 beginners slopes we were met by Adrien, owner of ZigZag Ski School, for my daughter’s first lesson. Within an hour she was bombing like a ploughing bullet down any slope he put her on. And with both kids in such safe hands, my husband and I went off to do some exploring.
Five days whizzed by in a flash and back in our living room just four hours after we left Ferme du Ciel we were all consumed by the same thought: ‘When can we do it all again?’
How to book:
Prices start at £1200 per week for an adult based on two people sharing and include breakfast, afternoon tea and a four-course meal with wine for six nights and transfers. One child under 2 years stays free of charge when using existing beds.