Posts Tagged ‘Three Valleys’

Ski resorts aren’t the most baby-friendly places on this Earth.

Quite apart from the cold temperatures, conditions underfoot and the altitude, you’ll struggle to get around with a pushchair and if you’re looking for a changing table or even a clean toilet floor on which to change your baby, then I’m afraid you’d better prepare for disappointment.

However… Many families, like ours, are completely in love with the snow and mountains – enough to put up with these public (in)conveniences. So we’re going to share with you the results of our painstaking research into bars and restaurants with decent-ish facilities and a warm welcome in Meribel and Courchevel. (Thank you to all the mums who helped compile this info!)

First prize for Méribel has to go to the Rond Point, as it ticks boxes for having a changing table AND highchairs. The staff are patient, considerate and helpful. You could also watch some of the live music at après time, although be aware it does get quite raucous! Well done to The Ronnie, for looking after our future skiers.

Elsewhere in Méribel you’ll find that you’re welcomed en famille by the staff at Evolution who bring over pencils and colouring for your littlies, as well as having a broad AND healthy children’s menu. There are also exciting-sounding smoothies and milkshakes. Nearby there’s a little park to burn off any excess energy. Another recommendation is Iglu, which has decent sized toilets and friendly service. In Mottaret, Crocodile comes high on the list because of the terrace from which you can sip vin chaud and watch the kids play in the snow, as does Le Brizolet for the same reason, plus it’s quite spacious inside so you don’t feel the little ones are annoying other diners! The Crismarin is good for a cheap and cheerful snack/drink outside and is close to the slopes and shops.

We’ll have a little shout out here for Courchevel’s public toilets! Those near the slopes do have changing facilities, with Courchevel Village’s conveniences even featuring a tiny loo for toddlers! In Moriond you’ll have to go into the tourist office and through the ‘Ye Olde Skiing’ display into the ladies’ but sure enough, there’s a flip-down changing table right there in the first cubicle. In Le Praz by the bubble lift there’s a whole room marked Baby Changing. OK, it’s right next to the urinals so the view’s not great, but at least that means the chaps are able to shoulder some of the nappy-changing responsibility!

We can highly recommend the Chabotté in Courchevel 1850 for its luxuriously clean toilets, smart wooden highchairs AND changing facilities (wow!) Plus the little sofa area is nice for a coffee – if you crack a smile you’ll get nibbles to go with your drinks, although the service is sometimes a little on the slow side despite the hundreds of staff. In Moriond we love the Fire & Ice Bar outside the Portetta at the foot of the slopes. Especially for the happy hour (4-6pm). Outside there are pretty trees, comfy sofas with furry rugs, and a fire pit. The hotel lounge bar inside is rather nice with little armchairs that the children enjoy, and the staff are extremely polite. And you get free cake in the afternoons! We haven’t found a changing table here, but the toilets are nice and clean (the disabled toilet on the far right as you enter is the most spacious). Rocky’s – by the main roundabout – is also very welcoming and good for the kids in the daytime if you can get the sofa area. The staff were friendly, although there’s no sign of a highchair, and the toilets are rather bijou so it’s amongst the jackets on the settee for nappy changing!

At the top of Moriond’s Ariondaz bubble you’ll find the Bel Air which is very friendly with good hot chocolate and vin chaud and great views of the skiers. It’s a busy place so it’s a good idea to book for lunch, but the staff even helped one of our customers with the pushchair. The toilets are a bit soggy from the ski boots so nappy changing isn’t easy, but there’s a sofa area under the eaves upstairs which is quite discreet.

In La Tania, La Ferme and the Marmottons restaurants are particularly child-friendly and welcoming. We definitely wouldn’t recommend changing a nappy in the Ski Lodge toilets! Although if you fancy listening to some live music, the Ski Lodge and slightly smarter Taiga are good, although be prepared to move on if it gets too rowdy for little children. The Bouc Blanc at the top of La Tania’s bubble is a lovely place to meet skiers for lunch, and very friendly. They serve lovely big mugs of hot chocolate.

In conclusion, there are lots of ‘family friendly’ venues, in that you’ll receive a warm welcome pretty much everywhere. Most places have highchairs, but it’s sensible to ask before you sit down to eat, just in case. It’s best to keep your expectations low when it comes to changing nappies. And don’t go anywhere without that portable mat. And if anyone knows where French children have their nappies changed, please divulge! It remains a mystery to us… (We recommend an ‘Oh well, no-one knows me here’ attitude!)

Please let us know if you have any other recommendations, we’re always keen to share such useful information with our customers.

Getting your children all dressed up in salopettes, boots, sunglasses, suncream, gloves and hats is a mission, we wholeheartedly agree! So once they’re togged up, how do you make the most of being out and about with your littlies? Here’s our guide to how to entertain your babies and young children in the Three Valleys:

Sledging There are numerous areas set up for safe bumboarding and sledging in the different resorts making up the Three Valleys. Investigate the foot of the slopes (the ‘front de neige’) on your first day to scope out the potential areas, then ask your chalet host or rep whether they have any sledges or bumboards you can borrow. Failing that, most of the hire shops have ‘toboggans’ for a small price, or click here to add one to your order with Holiday Baby Hire.  Our baby sledge is also a great alternative to a buggy if it’s really snowy around town – the French mums often use them! We can also provide some lovely snow toys for digging and castle building! Don’t miss: Courchevel’s 1850-1550m sledge run, then get the bubble back up to do it all over again! (Can be fast, wear ski stuff and a helmet!) Meribel has two areas at the Altiport and beside Rhodos gondola.

Bubble lifts Children love to go up high and watch the goings-on underneath them on the bubble lifts, especially if you can time your ride to watch your family whizz by on skis! Under 4s get on for free although it’s worth getting a free pass for them from the ticket office (take their passport) if they look old enough to ski. If you’re concerned about the effect of altitude then check with your doctor/health visitor before your trip and perhaps leave this activity until later in the week once they’re more acclimatised to the pressure difference, but bear in mind that lots of babies are born in the nearby hospital down the valley and go home to resort at just a few days old. If your baby is struggling to settle and take a nap whilst on holiday, you’ll probably find the gentle movement and background noise is a great place to induce a snooze and you can happily do several loops if you need to. Tip: Avoid 9.00-9.30 and 2.00-2.30 as this is when lessons start and you’ll get stuck in the queue! Also make a note of the last lift home before you get on. Don’t miss: Ariondaz bubble in Courchevel Moriond ends at the Bel Air restaurant which has a quieter area upstairs where children can be a bit more relaxed. The Bouc Blanc at the top of La Tania’s bubble is a lovely place to meet up with skiers for lunch.

Swimming Meribel’s Olympic Centre has a swimming pool, climbing wall and ice-rink so it’s a good venue should you be wanting to escape the cold or snow. The swimming pool is free to under 5s and there’s a baby pool, as well as a flume for bigger children. There are floats and noodles (we call them ‘frites’ here!) on the poolside. On Sundays there’s a fun session between 10-12 with games and floats. Tip: Take your towels in as the air can be a little fresh when you get out! We’re excitedly awaiting the enormous new swimming pool in Courchevel 1550 in December 2015 which promises all sorts of fancy things, including indoor surfing…

Ice-skating Both Courchevel and Meribel have ice-rinks and young children can join in the fun too, with the special trolleys/chairs that they can hold on to whilst wobbling around the ice. It tends to be quieter early on in the afternoon whilst bigger people are out skiing. Tip: Proper ski gloves or mittens are essential for warmth and protection, and it’s as well to take a helmet – better safe than sorry!

Indoor play area Courchevel’s La Croisette is home to a ‘soft play’ area which is ideal for little ones to expend some energy indoors; you can easily spend a good hour on the climbing/slide area, doing the puzzles and dancing in the disco! And best of all, it’s free. Visit the ponies outside afterwards, and there’s also a crepe and churros hut if you need a snack. (Drinks in the surrounding bars are rather pricey!) Tip: Unfortunately it lacks a changing area and toilets, so make sure you go before you get all your clothes and shoes off – it’s outside in the square area, down a few steps. Meribel’s Olympic centre has a ‘Kenoteque’ area for little ones with books, toys etc. which is a nice area to hang out en famille. If you’re killing a bit of time in Courchevel 1650 (Moriond) then you could pop into the Tourist Office/Post Office which has a space for children with colouring, a few building blocks and a wooden car to play in. It’s not worth a specific trip but it’s warm, dry and has free wifi! It also has a good display of ‘old fashioned’ skiing with wooden sledges, as well as toilets with a changing table!

Using the buses The free shuttle buses in Courchevel and Meribel are a great way to explore the different levels. During busy weeks, it’s really tricky to get on with a pushchair, so use a backpack carrier for little ones. Get a map from your host/rep or the Tourist Office.

Walks All the Tourist Offices will have a pedestrian/walking guide so that you can explore the woods and tracks on foot. These tranquil routes are great places for spotting animal tracks, collecting pine cones and enjoying the mountains at a leisurely pace, safely away from whizzing skiers and traffic. Plus the snow stays fresher than on the slushy pavements!

Special events Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the week’s events guide from your rep/host or the Tourist Office. There are often fireworks, torchlit descents and other ‘animations’ for children, especially during the school holidays.

Watch this space… Coming soon, tips on which restaurants and bars are family-friendly.