The first thing to say is that the term “chalet” is to Chalet Alpages what “bijou family residence” is to a terraced maisonette on a sink council estate in Corby. The place is supposed to accommodate 10. Well it does, as long as you don’t mind having no wardrobe or chest of drawers and can make do with a tiny alcove with half-a-dozen hangers in it and nowhere to store your suitcase/ski/board bag. And if somebody wants to get up from the meal table, virtually everybody else has to as well, because it is tucked away in an inaccessible corner of the lounge . . . which has a poorly-repaired cracked tile in the middle of the floor. The pillows were a nightmare – almost literally – cheap, nasty, lumpy masses of foam rubber that were about as comfortable as a sack of East Anglian turnips. The linings of the sofa cushions were spilling out. Incidentally, the pictures of the interior of the chalet on the Ski France website are bogus and are not actually that chalet.
The electrics could be a case-study in how not to do it. I saw at least two loose wall sockets and the electric heater in the downstairs bathroom was about ready to fall off the wall. The main light circuit seemed to trip out every time the chalet host turned on more than two rings on the cooker, plunging the chalet into darkness. Talking of wall sockets, in my room it was a job actually to get a plug into the single free one.
Avoiding flooding the downstairs bathroom was a feat in itself. If the shower mixer tap was turned more than half way on, the shower tray overflowed and water covered the floor to diluvian effect. And while I am not a civil engineer, there is what looks like a dangerous structural crack in the wall terrace between the Alpages and the “chalet” above.
The chalet host was a pleasant enough young man with fairly adequate basic cooking skills: the grilled confit duck was pretty good, as was the tartiflette, even if the latter was almost as lacking in cheese as a shop in a Monty Python sketch. The “tiramisu” was very tasty, even though it lacked any hint of (a) coffee, (b) mascarpone, (c) cocoa; or (d) wine. Afternoon cakes were very good. The host did however wear the same filthy Ski France fleece and ski trousers the whole week.
We ran out of ground coffee on the last day: this would have happened sooner but for the fact there was nowhere to plug in the coffee machine near the tea/coffee station, so it had to be plugged in near the cooker; which meant it was inconvenient to make coffee when the host was cooking. We ran out of toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom on three occasions. We ran out of bread. There was no brown sauce.
It would have been a nice touch if the butter had been removed from its wrapper and put onto a dish or even a saucer; if the sugar had been put in a bowl rather than left in its bag; or if the bread had been placed in a basket or bowl that was fit for the purpose, rather than in two small cereal bowls; or if salt and pepper had been set out on the table for any of the meals; or if the chalet host had kept an eye on whether anything needed replacing so that guests did not constantly have to ask for more. It would have been even better had mugs been set out either at the coffee station or even on the table for breakfast or afternoon tea. And laying out a full nine plates for cake (i.e. one for each) rather than five, would have shown some awareness of the guests’ needs.
Dinner, which was supposed to be served at 19.30, did not appear much before 20.00 on most days; and it was rather a triumph of hope over experience to expect that the packed lunch the chalet host told us twice we would receive for the transfer back to the airport, would actually materialise. Soup was served cold twice, which is fine if it is gazpacho or vichyssoise, but not if it is tomato and basil.
The balcony although small, was pleasant. Or it would have been, had we been able to access it. No attempt was made to clear any of the snow, albeit several inches deep, from it. Furthermore, no real attempt was made to clear the snow from the entrance to the chalet or its surrounding staircase, with just a slippery narrow path being left to the front door. Heavy snow is an excuse, not a reason, for failing to keep things clear: I have been going on chalet holidays for 25 years and had never seen less of an effort made to ensure the access was free from snow and ice.
For the convenience of the guests, I would have expected them to have been given a list of important phone numbers and contact information for the chalet and Ski France representatives; details of the local amenities, etc. While the resort rep made a number of appearances over the course of the week, none of this sort of information was volunteered and we had to ask for her mobile number for use in emergencies.
There was no wifi in the chalet nor was there a DVD player. While I accept it was a budget holiday, these things have been standard in even the cheapest chalets for the last few years.
The resort rep sold me the wrong lift pass. When I queried this with her, having had to pay a €36 upgrade to go to Les Arcs, she denied that she could possibly have got it wrong. Such confidence is admirable however rather misplaced, given the large number of people on the transfer bus and the mild sexual harassment she was receiving from certain other guests at the time. While this could be classed as a case of her word against mine, I know very well what I asked for and in any event I was not aware I was involved in a game of “let’s beat the client”. A gesture of goodwill (which I suggested) would have been to offer to split the difference on the cost of the upgrade – however in the spirit of Ski France’s customer service ethic, she refused, after apparently referring the matter to her manager.
Overall, while I enjoyed my holiday, this was more down to the company in the chalet, the excellent snow conditions and the general camaraderie engendered by the shortcomings in the service and accommodation – stiff upper lip and all that. This was undoubtedly the worst chalet experience I have ever had and I would not go away with Ski France again if they were the last tour company on Earth . . . file under “Ryanair” . . .
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- Also Known As:
- Eurogroup Chalets Des Alpages Hotel Macot-La-Plagne