I was a little nervous as I secured a place in the Alps; this time last year I was being helicoptered off a mountain having fractured a pelvic bone. Set me back a little but didn’t take the passion away. I’d always wanted to return to this little place in the Aravis Mountains not far from Annecy that I visited some fifteen years earlier so with only a five hour car journey between myself and the Hotel and Chalets Le Croix Fry it was the right time to pay a visit. Fruit tree orchards merged into the Southern Alps as we drove along the A51 to Grenoble and approaching Albertville we were encircled by the majesty of the mountains in this truly spectacular place. 45 minutes later and high in the sky lies the village of Manigod and the Col de croix fry.
Far away from the glitzy russian hang-out of Courcheval and the high rise, ski-package ugliness of many other French ski resorts, this area breathes charm into the soul. La Clusaz, St Jean de Sixt and my absolute favourite, Le Grand Bornard are true mountain villages and have retained their tradition aside from the relentless march on of tourism.
The hotel and chalets, for me at least, is the sort of find that fills me with joy. Far away from hotel chains and packaged ski breaks it’s an individual standing proudly. It has been lovingly cared for through the generations of the Veyrat family and Isabelle and Eric (forth generation) continue the success, Isabelle in the hotel and Eric as the chef. Their well known Marie-Ange Veyrat restaurant is the most perfect experience of savoyard cuisine both in eating and ambience; I enjoyed truffle risotto, an exquisite beef dish with gratin mami (a family recipe of potatoes with cream and cheese), cheese board with truly delicious goats cheese with truffle and dessert of oeufs a la neige. (eggs in the snow made with egg whites and a little cream).
After that, time for some exercise. There’s plenty to do from skiing to nordic walking to all manner of other snowy activities. The ski station is close, five minutes by car or their own shuttle every half an hour and ski rental and ski school are all close together making the preparation to ski straight forward. My family took off while I hesitated wondering if it was a good idea to get back on skis. Not much time to think there as I’d booked my first ever ski lesson with Samuel who whisked me off. Six pommel rides later and I was carving happily down through fresh snow. My success didn’t last though and I fell and badly twisted my knee. ‘Oh not again Mum’ shouted the kids as they whizzed past. I’ll get them back……..one day! The ski area is made up of 132kms of piste incorporating Manigod, La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornard. Their aren’t as many high speed gondolas as other resorts but the charm and beauty makes up for all that.
Back to Hotel Le Croix Fry, the best bit for me. We didn’t stay in the main hotel as the chalets (adjacent) suited us better as a family with young children and were also better value. They are Hansel and Gretel wooden cottages nestled on the side of the mountain where imagination can run riot. Isabelle had thought of everything even down to the sheepskin slippers. Cozy corners, an open fire, soft blankets, candles and the most fabulously stocked kitchen I have ever seen and a gigantic bathroom. It snowed when we were there and the kids disappeared with the chalet toboggan. The hotel was a five minute walk away for the outdoor ‘under the stars’ jacuzzi experience and we could order take out savoyard meals from the hotel. Every morning baguette and a patisserie magically appeared outside the door; it was if a little elf had delivered them.
The location, however, was the real gem; away from the villages it felt like just you, the mountains and the stars. Peace and serenity; something quite rare nowadays. As for my knee, well the jacuzzi helped that. I guess my ski passion is fading a little but my mountain passion is even stronger. I have my eye on nordic skiing – its even better than skiing for those ‘difficult to tone’ areas. Excellent!!!!!’