Hotel Tarentaise, Mark Warner - Review
As soon as I step off the plane onto the tarmac I am hit with a fresh cool breeze. It's as though my skin can finally breathe. The coolness of the air is mulled by the bright sun peeking over the mountains and prickling the hairs on the back of my neck. Already, I’m excited. Having already met the rest of the group (and discussing the hot guy from Coronation Street who was also on the same Mark Warner charter flight) I feel happy enough to sleep on a few of their shoulders/laps accidentally on both the flight and the transfer.
The transfer from Grenoble airport to Meribel is three hours but the Mark Warner coach is comfortable and it has a toilet. I think many would view a three-hour transfer with trepidation but you needn’t worry, the views from the bus were so spectacular that the time flew by. As I had never been into the mountains before I was constantly on my phone trying to take a picture of the scenes flying past my window. Craggy peaks of mountains frame the entry to the valleys and spurts of trickling water escape from the side of cliffs and meander to the streams passing us.
Quaint villages of clusters of dark wooden chalets can be seen on both sides, some adorned with heart-shaped lattices decorating their façade, some with horses grazing in the paddocks. Fluffy white clouds disguise the tops of mossy green mountains and snow-capped peaks peer through. As we continue to climb the mountain the scene in front of me melts from a summer scene into a stunning winter one - snow-capped mountains, treetops still shaking off frozen coats and a valley of white blinds us with the bright, white snow.
Once a private transfer has taken us from the bus to the Hotel Tarentaise, I cannot believe how beautiful the valley is. Our hotel, a warm dark brown chalet is surrounded by the thickly snow-covered mountains and snow is piled up by the door. Once we have met the friendly Mark Warner staff we are taken to our rooms. Each room had a double bed and a single bed, a sofa chair, en-suite bathroom, TV and double doors to a private balcony that opens directly onto the slopes. I can’t emphasise how long I stood on my private balcony, watching people ski for the first time. They seemed to slide so effortlessly across the snow as though commanding it themselves. With the slightest bend of the knee, they glided around each other before disappearing down the slopes. Over the course of my stay, I watched children ski past me in a caterpillar while I watched the sunset cast a pink glow on the tops of the peaks.
After my long stare out the window, the group and I gather downstairs to collect our ski equipment. Conveniently, a company called “Ski Higher” are based at the bottom of the hotel and we go straight in and get measured up for skis and boots. After measuring my feet, checking my height and weight for the right skis, the sun-blushed pair of ski specialists show you to your own locker, a place to store your skis. This room leads directly onto the slopes so you can literally “ski in and out” of the resort with no hassle of trying to carry your skis (which I admit were heavy). We then took a gondola from right outside the chalet to Mottaret, a village at the bottom of the slopes with valleys either side, drenched in sun.
The hotel is not all-inclusive but it feels as though it is. You receive breakfast from 7:30-9:30 (which consists of fresh pastries, juices, coffee, fruit, cereal and a selection of baked beans, sausages and bacon), afternoon tea from 16:30-17:30 that includes an array of cakes - chocolate cake, banoffee muffin, shortbread biscuits, tea and coffee. High tea for the children is from 17:00-17:30 and Dinner from 19:30-20:30. On Sundays the dinner is a buffet but is just as amazing as the other nights. The menu includes soups, chicken and fish dishes, pasta and veggie options.
The next day we had a tour of the chalet. The bar and reception area opened out onto a sunny deck which had direct access to the piste. The reception had a huge fireplace that crackled cosily every evening and made the chalet smell warm and inviting. Below the reception area there was a sauna, wellness room and several children’s play areas. Childcare is provided for children from 4 months to 12 years. There is 3:1 rule for young children and 5:1 for older children. Tiny camp beds were set up for nap time and a hand-painted Mickey Mouse scene was on the walls.
The next day, after a hearty buffet breakfast, we went our separate ways to tackle the slopes. Our instructor, a smiling Frenchman with sunglasses, met us at the bottom of the slopes and led us to the top of the mountain where we learnt to stop, fall over correctly, scramble to get back up and how to hold the correct ski stance. Once we were confident in the basics, we began our descent down the mountain. Nothing can describe the feeling of control when you can confidently adjust your weight from one foot to the other and you glide sweetly past the snake of weaving children. Nothing can also describe the panic when you tumble into the off-road snow by the slopes and are left with your skis in the air shouting “Francois! I’ve fallen!”. After an intense 3-hour lesson, I was ready to meet the group for apres-ski drinks at the hotel and to gorge on a selection of cakes, tea and hot chocolate that was laid out for afternoon tea.
A quick change and transfer took us to the charming Chalet Loden for dinner. Nestled in the mountainside, this chalet is cobblestoned, wooden, snow-frosted and overlooks the valley below. Inside, a huge open hearth and a crackling fire welcomes us and cosy armchairs and a glass of champagne seem to lull us into a deep relaxation. Entrees are served with canapes and smoked salmon that tantalise us before dinner, which is served around a grand table. The friendly Mark Warner staff chat to us enthusiastically as each dish is served. Bottles of wine flow endlessly as my group chats, laughs and eats the delicious food.
A tour around the chalet proves to be just as evocative as the sitting room, each room is decorated with traditional sleigh beds, charming wooden furniture and a wraparound balcony allows you to admire the stunning view further.
A hop, skip and a taxi ride into town led us into Meribel, the postcard-perfect town with dark wooden chalets, shops, bars, restaurants and boutique shops. Laden with snow the chalets were quaint warm and welcoming. Jack’s Bar was where live music is played, and those who could still move their legs after skiing were enthusiastically dancing and singing along.
The Three Valleys is so conveniently placed that part of the group took the gondolas further to see Val Thorens and Courchevel. Another day of skiing led to another afternoon of apres-ski drinking at “The Ronnie” (Le Rond Point), where you can literally ski into the bar and not even bother with pesky steps to the toilet. You slide to the toilet with the convenient red slide that leads to the bottom floor of the bar. A stunning view, live music and pitchers of beer put everyone in a fantastic mood as we reminisced on our trip.
Finally, as our final day drew to a close, we met for dinner in the Tarentaise Hotel. We selected our choices from a menu that offered a three-course meal that ranged from soups to antipasti, pasta, salads, risotto and meat dishes. The table service was excellent and it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to the charming chalet the next morning.
For more information on your holiday to Mark Warner Hotel Tarentaise please call 0800 707 6229 and click here to see the resort >>
- 4th August 2017