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Self-catering - share your experiences please!

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I've been self-catered twice, and all the other times in catered chalets.

Once was in an apart-hotel type place in Les Arcs. It allegedly slept 4, but would have been pretty chummy as 2 would have slept in the living room (we dropped from 4 to 2 due to a last minute injury). There was a tiny kitchenette, like the sort you'd have in a self catered hotel room in the Costa del Sol (this was a 4* apartment btw). There was only a 2 ring hob, a tiny fridge and a kettle. I think we tried to cook one night and ate out for the rest of the week. My advice is to avoid this type of accommodation if you actually intend to self cater!

The second time we stayed in a lovely apartment in Alpe d'Huez - belonged to a friend's boss who rented it out through one of the websites. That was ideal - basically a proper apartment designed to be lived in all year round. It had a tiny, but fully equipped kitchen and also a washing machine etc.

My basic point is that if you actually intend to do your own cooking, look for either a chalet to hire or a privately owned apartment in an actual apartment building, not a purpose built holiday complex type.
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@Hells Bells, snowHead
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Hells Bells wrote:
@CaravanSkier, you can't make mash with scrubbed potatoes !!! And that potato peeler is most definitely used for other things.



Indeed, again fair enough! Smile I am not prone to making mash whilst away but it can be done without peeling potatoes whist raw, there again this is going rather off topic Laughing
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@CaravanSkier, yep that would be a bit of a hot potato though.
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Can people genuinely not use a paring knife to peel raw spuds?*

*Being Irish I could probably manage with a blunt bread knife. We like our spuds. Toofy Grin
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Back on topic, if you plan ahead a bit SC gives you more freedom. You can eat what you want when you want it. You also have the option to eat out a couple of evenings, sample the local produce that you think you might enjoy and the food disposal units we call children never go hungry. Never been to one with a hot tub though......and you can manage in a small kitchen with two pots (and a paring knife) easily for a week. You aren't making Christmas Dinner.
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@Hells Bells, lol lol lol

@Thornyhill, Embarassed Apologies to the OP. Smile But actually, thinking about it, I have done Xmas dinner Laughing I`m sure other have too Laughing
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@Thornyhill, I can, but I'd have to take that with me too. Laughing Laughing
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@under a new name, looks wonderful. Unfortunately, I don't think Cham would be the best place for my wife. Looking for something a bit more "cruisey" for a 3rd week of March trip.
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There are some truly horrible 'shoe box' apartments in France, but there are also lovely places. And there's Residence L'Oxalys for the EoSB, which promises a pool and hot tub full of SnowHeads.

Slightly off topic question - is there any real advantage in doing a big supermarket shop in say Albertville, compared to bringing a load in the car from Tesco or Waitrose, and then picking up the perishable stuff like milk and eggs in resort? Pasta, rice, porridge, most veg, some fruit should be happy enough packed in the car for the day or so it takes to drive down?

If we stop for the night en route, we can usually get going after an early breakfast and be skiing that day. However if I get side tracked into visiting a hypermarché then that's the morning gone.
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@mr. mike, well Chamonix valley is a little deceptive.

We were up Brevent/Flegere with friends on a blue sky day on Saturday and honestly (having, for many good reasons mostly skied around Monterosa, PdS and Mürren) this year - we'd forgotten that although there are not so many runs on the map, they are long and wide. Admittedly a Cham blue is a little harder than say a Les Gets blue, but not as much as folks talk (brag?) about.

In fairness however, what we'd sort of forgotten was just how much skiable terrain there was off piste...
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
As a family of 6, we have self-catered for years. Never had to compromise on space - but then we stopped going to the popular French resorts once we had the kids, preferring Switzerland (and sometimes Austria). Always had a properly and fully equipped kitchen. Then again cost is less of an issue than getting the right place. Probably eat out 3-4 times in the week on average and use local supermarket for the rest of the time. Trust me, it is much better for the kids to have their own space and schedule and it has never felt like work to knock breakfast and the odd dinner together (and we are real foodies!). Really important not to be tempted by cheap apartments with limited space, as a rule of thumb we need c150 square metres minimum - and that is on the edge of being enough (our apartment in Sass Fee has 210 for example).

Happy to help with further advice if needed, but in general if you put the time into researching the right properties you will find what you want (not sure about the hot tub though!).
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@tomj, we tend to take lots with us for cost, convenience and also knowing exactly what you will have. Choice in resort can be limited and mean last minute recipe changes. We have a decent quality cool box, then buy some Cravendale long dated milk (or own brand equiv), freeze it and pack it in the cool box to use as big ice blocks. It'll be partly defrosted by the time we get there but will have kept everything else cold. As it's long dated and not yet opened, we just put it in the fridge and use it. Make sure you keep the bottles upright, we had a disaster once. Sad
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
We SC with young children in Spain, it allows us to feed and bed the children by 8pm when several places haven't opened for the evening yet. Much later to bed means tantrums by Day 3. Our cooking is no more technical than pasta, tom sauce and ham; after a real meal on the mountain at lunchtime, no need for lots of food then washing up in the evening.
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tomj wrote:

Slightly off topic question - is there any real advantage in doing a big supermarket shop in say Albertville, compared to bringing a load in the car from Tesco or Waitrose, and then picking up the perishable stuff like milk and eggs in resort? Pasta, rice, porridge, most veg, some fruit should be happy enough packed in the car for the day or so it takes to drive down?

.


Probably not, if you can keep fresh meats etc cold enough for the journey, decent meat in resort tends to be pricey though. I like the shop in the hypermarche. There are often foods that are not readily available in my local supermarket for example lots of different types of garlic, potato varieties good for boiling and serving with raclette, ready cut raclette cheese, round courgettes, duck breast strips, and lots of other things. I do love cooking a really nice meal, glass of wine in hand, mountains outside my window!

Laughing I know Laughing I`m probably rather sad to get excited about such things rolling eyes Laughing
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@zikomo, you like your space, don't you!
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Even if I'm flying out I'll often pack things like risotto and paella rice and a few of the harder to get things in the resort like smoked paprika. Makes the job of cooking a few decent meals that much easier. I've not gone as far as packing my chefs knives yet though I'm always tempted given the ones in self catering apartments and chalets are always blunt to the point of being useless Smile
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@bigtuboflard, take a sharpener...you wouldn't need one at my place though
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This is absolutely brilliant everyone - thanks so much.

It sounds like we can get what we want...with exception to "wellness" amenities. That might be a deal breaker for some.

But at least the whole thing looks very do-able, if not in some ways preferable.
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A quick advert for Arc 1950 ( yes , declared interest etc.) self catering.

1) The apartments are (nearly...) NA size, and hence you are not in a shoe box. Sufficient catering capability, ( oven , microwave, 4 ring hob, dishwasher, all utensils) sufficient storage etc. OK, so the TO's may expect you to sleep 2 in the lounge when pricing up, but even that's nothing compared to the rabbit hutches of the earlier developments in France. The bathrooms are en-suite as in 'part of the apartment'. (so for example, our apartment 1 double, 1 twin, and potentially 2 in the lounge, 2 bathrooms, one en-suite, one shared amongst remaining guests. 56sq metres + 18 sq m balcony.) But no, not shared with any other families! 1, 3, 4, 5 bedrooms options are available.

2) Hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms in all blocks. Yes, you share them with other apartment users, but it is rarely a problem.

3) Ski-in /out like nowhere else in the Alps. Seriously. Well located? - you can hardly get better.

4) Soap / towels / toilet rolls / cleaning pack all supplied , and refreshed mid week.

Yes you can, as above, get 'staff' in to cater for you. We find however, the ski in/out aspect normally means we can get back for bread and soup lunch: and for the evening, we take in turns to cook (so the others of the party can go for a cheeky apres - or be responsible for dispensing the G&T and Pringles in the flat) and once or twice a week have a meal out. We do this with family, group and 'boys trips'. Group works really well, as you not only rotate the cooking, but also the apartment you're cooking in, so take in turns to host the evening.

Load up at Bourg supermarkets on the way in, and top up on a daily basis (if necessary) at local 8-a-huit supermarket up the hill. There is no value in re-visiting Bourg for a s/market trip alone. You're here to ski, not shop! so the odd euro saving here and there isn't worth it.

So can you make s/catering work, and still have a fabulous relaxing, great, amazing holiday? Absolutely.
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Quote:

I do love cooking a really nice meal, glass of wine in hand, mountains outside my window!

I know I`m probably rather sad to get excited about such things

Not at all, it is all part of the holiday for me too! As is the planning, if I'm honest.
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Hells Bells wrote:
@CaravanSkier, you can't make mash with scrubbed potatoes !!! And that potato peeler is most definitely used for other things.


I haven't used a potato peeler in years. I always make mash with the skins on, it adds a lovely texture, particularly if you use electric beaters to make the mash. My mash is excellent and nobody has ever complained. There is no circumstance under which I would peel a potato. What else would you use a potato peeler for (hint: the clue is in the name). Toofy Grin

I would take tea towels and a small selection of herbs and spices, dishwasher tablets (if relevant) and a bottle of duty-free gin (if flying to GVA).You don't want to be trying to buy, for instance, star anise. I've never dared take a knife, when flying, I'm always a bit concerned about travelling with offensive weapons.


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Tue 14-02-17 14:30; edited 1 time in total
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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@bigtuboflard, if you're driving out from the UK and you have the space in your car then it's worth stocking up with many items such as you describe.

In fact the whole self catering gig is far easier when driving out.

Whenever people drive out I always ask them to bring a leg of lamb as it is so expensive here, though actually the frozen legs in Aldi are not too bad. So if coming out for a week bring a leg of lamb and a joint of beef, (pork here is not too bad), and you're more or less fixed for the week with shepherds pie / home made pasties.

Coming out for the season (bearing in mind I'm also shopping for Kenx) think we had 32 cans of beans, three massive packs of tea bags, ten or so boxes of various cheese biscuits, two or three large blocks of cheddar, various quantities or real ale, various elements for Thai and Indian cooking, whole load of cooking sauces I know we can't get here and loads more other stuff.

For sure you can get baked beans and now real ale, but you pay a massive premium.

When you see the Frenchies turning up to the self catering appt they bring so much stuff with them, we had two couples staying next to us and they had two pressure cookers!

Again driving out you can bring sheets etc as well. though obviously depends on how much available space you have in the car.

When we used to come out to the same appt I'd bring a couple of decent knives, sharpener and a cutting board, I also bought a decent casserole dish and of course, the can opener in an apartment is usually fecked rolling eyes


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Tue 14-02-17 12:28; edited 1 time in total
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@James the Last, can't imagine cooking Tartiflette or Dauphinoise with skins on rolling eyes
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Good call on packing a sharpener! Don't know why I'd not thought about putting a decent steel in!
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It's outrageous how few s/c apartments have an olive de-stoning tool these days. This years did have an oyster knife at least.

How few s/c apartments have a proper over is another matter though. We rocked up on our new year trip and had done a big en-route supermarket shop which included a couple of pre-prepped pizzas to find the apartment only had a grill microwave combi. That was a laugh cooking them. Just about managed.

On about half the days when self catering though, we'll have a full lunch out on the mountains, a good plat du jour & cafe gourmand etc, and then in the evening just gorge on fresh bread, cheese and charcuterie, olives, salad & faff. Easy. And what could be better?
Maybe we'll feed the kids some boiled up pasta or some grilled sausage or fishfinger or something. Typically once in resort we only need to top up shop fresh with bread each day.

Those big cans of pre-prepared cassoulet, are straight forward and easy for self catering trips. They aren't bad given they are just a grand version of a tin of beans n' sausages, admittedly with some confit duck thrown in. About 12-15 euros in the big valley supermarkets, the shop in courchevel was charging over 25 euros !

We only tend to to s/c when driving though, so the en-route shop works well, and we bring tea/coffee and a few bits from home.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
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We have been on four catered chalet ski trips to french alps & one self catering house in Canada. i must admit all of our catered chalets have been excellent with very good food etc (skiworld, Ski Total, Iglu ski). When you break it down I find it excellent value for money. But maybe we have been lucky. Have booked a catered chalet in Tignes in April for sole use (party of six). My wife is a good cook but prefers to have time off cooking on holiday; but happy to give self catering another go as our experience in Canada was excellent.
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I've never yet been to an apartment where I didn't know what facilities were waiting - has always been in the booking details and the one time it wasn't clear an email to the agent cleared it up.

As with many other things, catered v cooking will come down to what suits you - there is no right answer
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In my case, Self Catering was the most pragmatic way of taking 3 kids skiing to a decent French resort...both from a cost perspective, as well as a practical one (feeding the kids what they wanted to eat, when they wanted it).

It generally involved the typical shoe box French apartment (the only exception being Arcs 1950)...and a lot of hard work.

It would be nice to see hotels giving much more favorable discounts when having young kids in the same room as yourself...especially as young kids eat very little and not necessarily what is available.
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My kids have now grown up but we still self cater. Just fits better for us as we like to eat out as well. Had some great places for the last couple of trips. Looking forward to Easter. We have pool, sauna spa etc , can have breakfast brought to us etc.
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Weathercam wrote:
@James the Last, can't imagine cooking Tartiflette or Dauphinoise with skins on rolling eyes


No need to imagine it. rolling eyes Try it. rolling eyes

If you put the potato pieces on end - rather than flat - you'll get the odd crispy skin too. And all the extra flavour that comes from eating the skins. There is nothing you can do with potatoes that doesn't taste better, and look more interesting, if done with the skins on. (I concede that if you're aiming for Michelin-starred presentation you might go for the extra faff and loss of flavour.)
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Interestingly, said shoe-box apartment I described was in quite a posh block in Arc 1950 Shocked

Obviously the Tesco value apartment of the development Smile
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@rossyl, We stayed in Chalet Koala in La Tania for New Years on a self catering basis - ticks all your boxes including a hot tub! Was great!
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The house wine of catered chalets tends to be bargain bouquet.
In the mid-noughties, large producers started selling AOC wines in BIB (Bag in Box) so if you go SC, you can get half-decent stuff.
Also many chalets that offer "Cordon Bleu" could not even tell you the locations of this chain of cooking schools, let alone have chefs who attended them.
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We have all made our way back to the apartment. Sprawled in our longjohns, fridge full of beer and cokes. Salami and crisps on the table. Pasta and pesto last night and a movie on the laptop. Husband and I out to the hotel across the road to eat tonight, eldest making pancakes for the other 2. I just can't imagine getting properly dressed every night after skiing or being on someone else's schedule. Self-catering works for us with a family. If you have a healthy budget you can get some gorgeous places.
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So much depends on your companions. With people who enjoy taking a share of the cooking - especially if they tend to do things differently to yourself - it's a great source of pleasure. We had a holiday, years ago, in a big s/c chalet in Les Gets with 6 double bedrooms - each room was entirely responsible for planning, preparing and clearing away the evening meal. The last evening we ate pizza out altogether. The upshot was we ate really well every evening at little cost and little effort - and we didn't all go daft and competitive about it. And I like having the option to eat out sometimes - I have always disliked being on HB in a hotel and feeling a "captive" - even if the food is good, I don't always want to eat it.

But if preparing and sharing a meal with family/friends is just a chore, then you're not going to enjoy a s/c holiday.
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@nem, +++lots. We have younger daughters so don't head out and do our own thing just yet, but everything else in your post rings true for us! We've got lots of skiing friends who couldn't face having to cook on a holiday, but for us, whipping up a spag bol/pizza/chilli is easily worth the benefit of having your own space/time/company/dress code/bed times.
Using EasyJet, AutoEurope and HomeAway, we do VT every Easter for around £350 per person for the TO package equivalent (including food and a 2 bed apartment) of flights, transfers and accommodation.
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Good reading this thread, as S/c and self drive is on the cards for me and my family next year.

i am considering taking 2 or even 3 frozen meals with us (lasagne/bolognese/shepherds pie that sort of thing) prepared at home and carried in a cool box in the car....
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@rossyl, like most things in life "its horses for courses", self catering suits some whilst catered chalets suits others. in a previous life I worked for a T/O in a chalet so I know how hard it is to run these and what you get for your money.

@WindOfChange, the chalet wine used to come in refillable "magnicubes" about 20 litres in each if memory serves me right, not the highest quality of vin blanc/rouge but guests still manage to knock it back!!

Personally I prefer self catering (and driving to the alps) especially with a family tied to school hols as it gives us more options when eating and can generally keep costs down, although you can occasionally get a good deal with a T/O in a chalet but rarely in peak weeks.
last couple of trips we were able to load up my pick up truck with most of the foodstuffs we are going to need.

last year to France we even took 2 slow cookers with us, one for spag bol etc. and one for mulled wine for the week!!

with regards to apartments, in France it was 2 families in a large apartment and it was a large well equipped kitchen with all the mod cons you could wish for, 2 ovens a large fridge/freezer and 5 ring hob.

This year in Austria it was just me, my wife and 2 daughters and we had a 10 bed chalet to ourselves, from what I could tell on a couple of rental sites when I was booking the trip to Austria, you seemed to pay a base price for the chalet (it was for 5 people on our one) then pay extra for each additional guest. not sure whether this is always the case, but it meant we could get a decent size place and not have to squeeze lots of people in to make it affordable. Again we had a large kitchen/diner and a separate living room so we could spread out and relax.

I must admit, am not bothered about a hot tub but would liked to have had a fire/wood burner that you would normally get in a chalet, not sure if many self catered places have them for insurance purposes, one and only S/C place I have been with a wood burner was several years ago in Val Thorens.


either way, hope you enjoy what ever you choose to do and look forward to a trip report in the future
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Where do you want to go. Eurekaski in serre chevalier offer a number of options in monetier. Zenith ski offer whole chalet rentals on a self catered basis notably in alpe d huez . Ther are a number of companies like ernalow who can offer large apartment rental i.e. 3/4 bedrooms.
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