A little story and local knowledge
Ski Peak have been asked on a few occasions to write some sort of 'Locals Guide' to Alpe d'Huez
Notably for such publications as:
Whitelines Magasine: Read it
MPORA: Read it
We have recently been asked by Alpedhueznet.com a brilliant website specific to our resort which is used as a platform for information all things Alpe d'Huez... Here are the questions and the answers we gave:
1) Tell us a little bit about your business, how it started out and where you're based etc...
The Ski Peak story began in 1988 and we have never breached the borders of Vaujany because we feel it would be impossible to replicate the unique formula we have established in Vaujany. My father Nigel fell in love with the charming skiing village way back in 1988 when it was merely a secluded alpine retreat. It benefited from the EDF energy plant at the base of the valley enabling it to invest in a state of the art cable car – the largest in the world at the time. This catapulted Vaujany into an elite resort with Ski Peak being the only British tour operator.
Vaujany is tranquil yet buzzing with excitement and activities. Seriously, look at it, why would we want to be anywhere else - nothing comes close!
2) How long have you been in your current role and how long have you been with the company?
I joined Ski Peak at birth and have lived a large part of my life in Vaujany. I managed to finally muscle into a proper role as of last October when Ski Peak was going through a bit of re-structuring. I am the self-proclaimed ‘Marketing and Sales Executive’ and am thoroughly enjoying it as I have a real passion for it and willingness to succeed.
3) What makes this resort a special place to be for someone in your profession?
Alpe d’Huez and Vaujany are renowned for a lot of things and therefore very easy to sell;
- Beginners: The bottom slopes of the resort are gentle blues and greens
- Family skiing: They can access nearly all parts of the resort easily together
- Restaurants: Very well priced and tasty food served quickly and with a SMILE unlike a lot of major resorts!
- Snow sure: Pic Blanc at 3330m ensures snow throughout the season
- Off piste: The Grandes Rousses area on the Vaujany side is an off piste heaven and a well kept secret….Sshh! A guide is imperative if you do not know the mountain range
- Tree skiing: Montfrais has some beautiful tree skiing for those snowy days
- Locals: In Vaujany the locals are a delightful bunch and happy to mingle in with the tourists
- Access: Ascend 1550m in 15minutes from Vaujany at 1250 to 2800m via the cable car
- Sun: Alpe d’Huez benefits from 300 days of sun per year! Hence why it’s French nickname translates as ‘island in the sun’
I could go on!
4) What are the best bits about your job?
As it is just my father and I in the office, I get to deal with nearly all of our guests, new and old. It enables me to really build a relationship with the customer and allows me to understand what they really want out of their holiday.
Customer retention is of course key and since becoming part of the framework of Ski Peak I have made an effort to keep in touch with our guests via the platforms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as creating a weekly blog and a monthly newsletter so that people can keep in touch with us and see what we have going on
5) And the worst bits?
Well, that same point – As it is only my father and I in the office I feel very responsible for all enquiries and bookings and therefore find myself working until quite late and reading emails over the weekend.
6) What is in store for the future with your business, any exciting projects in the pipelines that you can share with us?
We are creating some new bathrooms which will mean that across our 4 chalets and 23 bedrooms only 2 will not be en-suite. We are also building a log- cabin for storage purposes which will eventually be made into a sauna for Rostaing and Lucette. Very exciting and of course it would mean that we would then provide comfy slippers and dressing gowns for our guests… after all, who doesn’t like feeling snug!
7) What are you personal and professional goals for the future?
Personal goals in regards to skiing is to try ‘speed riding’ which is an extreme version of freeriding as you use a paraglide which allows you to go literally anywhere! It looks like the biggest rush out there at the moment and something that has intrigued me for a while now.
Professionally I have achieved a lot over the past year and I think it is time I sit back a bit and see how all the new methods and systems run. I am sure there is a lot of fine tuning to be done along the way.
8) What's your favourite piste or off-piste area & top tip to go skiing?
My favourite place to ski in the Alpe d’Huez are is the ‘Grande Rousses’ above Vaujany which I now refer to as ‘my playground.’ You can spend days skiing off piste here and still not ski the same line. Although there can be a fair amount of hiking, the end game is totally worth it. However skiing off piste can be dangerous so it is invaluable to take the right precautions - have the correct gear, know what you are doing and of course know where you are going!
My top tip would have to be skiing in Montfrais on a white out as the tree lines provide something visible to ski through and fun for everyone!
9) Where would send someone who was after that something 'something special' in resort, to stay, eat or drink?
Without a shadow of a doubt I would recommend the Chalet du Lac Besson for lunch. It is set off the main drag so you feel like you really earn your meal. You have to peel off the Chamois run below the DMC and then schuss all the way to it on a quiet path. What awaits you is a warm reception and cosy fire, which is also used to cook some of the selection of meats. The bbq taste of the brochette de boeuf is delicious and quite unbelievable when it is snowing outside… all served eloquently on a hanging ‘skewer’ with a good portion of chips and mixed salad – Just YUM.
10) Your favourite place for lunch or dinner and why?
Chalet Saskia, our flagship property, has the best food in the alps… if you don’t believe it there is only one way to find out!
11) Where will we find the best coffee or hot chocolate?
With Chantilly and a dash of Cognac – Les Airelles in Montfrais
12) What has been your best ever day in this resort?
I remember it very well – It was back in January 2013 when the powder just didn’t stop coming down for 2 or 3 straight days. When it did stop however we were stomach deep in 70cm of the fluffy stuff – perfect conditions for the bearded freeride type! I was of course in ‘my playground’ with our seasoned chef of 20 years, Marcus Cull, ripping up every last bit of it. We laughed all day long...
13) Do you remember your first trip to this resort?
I’m afraid I do not as I was still nuzzling into my mother’s bosom, but I have very fond memories of the ski school and the French bangers which entertained me for hours on end, much to the dismay of the locals and my parents.
14) What's your favourite thing to do in resort when not skiing or snowboarding?
There is so much to do to keep you entertained these days, inside the chalets there are mountains of board games to choose from or just a soak in the Hot Tub gazing up at the ‘Cascade de la Fare’ (waterfall). But if you want to venture out then the bowling alley and indoor ice skating rink is always a good option to keep you occupied and of course Stief’s Belgian beer bar.
15) What do you do in the summer?
I always visit our chalets with my family in the summer. The usual fortnight is jam packed with activities and of course great food in Chalet Saskia. My father Nigel is a keen mountaineer so we regularly hike, climb and stumble up valleys and mountains to stay in mountain huts or 'refuge' in French. This Summer we scaled a well known and renowned pic called Aiguille de Dibona, a fearsome splinter like peak which took a whole lot of concentration from top to bottom!
On our 'down days' I like to get on the mountain bike and play on the various routes throughout the Alpe d'Huez and Vaujany region. There are so many routes to choose from these days and you don't even need to ride uphill as you can take the lift back up... genius! Another family favourite is white water rafting in Venosc although we now 'hydrospeed' instead; you basically have a plastic or foam body board and are consumed head to toe in a thick wetsuit due to the freezing temperature of the glacier waters, with flippers to help with direction. You can get fully submerged at times which really get's the heart racing... prepare to drink a fair share of water!
16) Which is your favourite shop in resort?
Ride 4 Life is the best sports shop in Vaujany and I cannot seem to go a season without opening up my wallet to part with some hard earned cash for something, no matter how small or large. Last year was a fresh pair of skis – Line, Sir Francis Bacon’s and I just love them.
17) Where are we most likely to find you for après-ski?!
Well considering the Folie Douce has now come to Alpe d’Huez it’s hard to say that it won’t draw me in a few too many times… after all who doesn’t like dancing on tables and listening to live saxophones!
But back in the resort of Vaujany it will either be Arsen’s sports café or Stief’s Belgian beer bar.
18) Skiing or snowboarding? What's your preference & why?
Skiing all the way baby! It gives you that little bit more freedom, moving both your legs as opposed to being contrained. The sport itself is becoming so much more versatile as well.
However, if I am with a fairly slow group then the snowboard normally makes an appearance. I never want to stop skiing when I’m on the slope so naturally I can get a little impatient when the waiting is longer than I would like… the ants in my pants go crazy!
19) If someone was coming here for the first time, what would you suggest they absolutely must do or see in resort?
There is a 2200m pisted vertical descent that you can do without taking a lift... the longest in the world! We like to call it the ‘Champagne Run’ as that is exactly what you deserve if you achieve it… a true hero wouldn’t even stop – alas I don’t recall a time I have not stopped at some point.
The gauntlet starts at the top of Pic Blanc and descends down the ‘Tunnel,’ a mogul heavy mine-field which can be very intimidating. It ends up in Enversin, just below Vaujany via the local black run called ‘La Fare.’ A true test of grit and a thigh burning sensation.