Winter wonderlands

PUBLISHED: 05:48 16 February 2015

The skiing resort of Megéve in the French Alps

The skiing resort of Megéve in the French Alps


A fairytale village high in the French Alps has an unexpected link with Norfolk.

The skiing resort of Megéve in the French AlpsThe skiing resort of Megéve in the French Alps

Every year Norwich-based family business Stanford Skiing sends thousands of people to Megeve.

It was more than 30 years ago that John Kinnear fell in love with the resort and eventually bought a company specialising in ski holidays to Megeve.

His daughter, Elizabeth Cahir, explains the resort was originally created by the Rothschilds, when they tired of Saint Moritz. “As you do!” she laughs.

“It was built with charm in mind. Centred round the medieval 12th century church and village square, it has really retained its character.”

However, it opens on to a huge ski area with tree lined runs, wonderful views of Mont Blanc and rustic mountain restaurants.

Elizabeth began working for the family business when it was based in London and as she moved, with her doctor husband, first to Cambridge, and then Norwich, the business came too. Elizabeth says she is particularly keen to help Norfolk people discover Megeve.

“I love the quiet pistes, the lack of lift queues, the rustic mountain restaurants and the fact that it’s a charming, beautiful resort,” says Elizabeth.

Stanford Skiing, named for the former British ski-race champion Jean Stanford, who founded the company, has three catered chalets, as well as self-catering apartments, and can book clients hotel rooms. “It’s middle of the road prices, so normal people can come and stay in a swanky resort!” she says.

Megeve is just a 75 minute transfer from Geneva and Stanford sells short breaks as well as full weeks skiing.

“Get on a flight on Thursday evening, ski Friday to Sunday and a late flight back in time for work on Monday. Ideal!” says Elizabeth.

Stanford Skiing, 479 Unthank Road, Norwich, NR4 7QN. 01603 477471

You don’t even need to ski to love skiing writes Rowan Mantell.

Warning: skiing is highly addictive.

One winter snow is for snowmen, hills are for walkers and carving is for carpenters – the next you could be obsessing over pistes, prices and ski-passes.

Skiing is no longer the preserve of the super-rich and is now, in theory, within the reach of many. I say in theory because you still need a degree of co-ordination and courage on the slopes – and not just in teaming your salopettes with your sunglasses.

My family first hit the slopes at the wonderful Norwich Snowsport Club in Trowse, just outside Norwich, and I continued hitting slopes at resorts across the Alps. However, my husband, daughter and sons progressed beyond snowplough within hours and as I fell, they fell in love.

These days I stick to sledging (if I’m going to end up sitting down, why not start out that way too) and walking (if I’m going to try standing up, it’s easier without the big slippy planks) while the rest of the family range across miles of mountains, swooping down dizzying trails from the moment the lifts start in the morning to the final ski-patrol of the evening.

Even without the skiing, the stunning views of snow-covered mountains and ice-encased forests are worth the journey. Add in swirling snow-storms, steaming hot drinks in cosy bars, and the chance to glide and slide through thousands of square miles of frozen wilderness all around and it’s an addiction.

So here are some tips for feeding that addiction without breaking budgets, banks - or bones.

<blob>Share a self-catering chalet with friends and take turns to cook.

<blob>Cut costs by driving to the Alps. (The overnight ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland, followed by the toll-free motorways of Germany was our easiest journey by car.)

<blob>Cut hassle by taking the train – no worries about snow-tyres and chains, no interminable hanging around at airports and views the whole way.

<blob>You’re there for the skiing – so don’t waste it by majoring on the après-ski.

<blob>Pack your own lunch – that is what the big pockets in your salopettes were made for.

<blob>With all that saved money - if you’re a beginner, book proper lessons.

<blob>Practice on a dry slope and you won’t be wasting valuable holiday hours struggling with boots and bindings or sidestepping up tiny inclines.

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