The first meal the kids ordered on our family-friendly ski trip to the Italian Alps was, predictably, pizza and ice-cream.
Pizza no problem. But ice cream? Not a chance. Yet here we were in a five star hotel in the country that makes arguably the best ice cream on the planet.
We asked the waitress if the chef could be persuaded to whip up a simple vanilla or strawberry ice cream. No, came the embarrassed reply. How about a sorbet then? Another no. They glumly opted for pannacotta.
Five-star cuisine was reserved for sophisticated parents. All delicious but we felt the children deserved better service. The Grand Hotel, for all its grandeur, was not living up to its name for junior guests. There certainly wasn’t an absence of ice in the resort of Cormayeur. In mid-December it was freezing, with bright blue skies and sun glinting on the mountains. But like many resorts natural snow was thin on the ground at the beginning of the ski season.
Thanks to snow-making equipment – cannons sprinkling water that falls as snow on the slopes – boarders and skiers alike are kept happy.
Skiing through those icy showers is an exhilarating way to wake up all the senses and hone the appetite. Sub-zero temperatures guarantee the calories burn up so that even after a hearty breakfast a steaming cup of hot chocolate will be vital elevenses sugar boost until lunch in a welcoming mountain refuge.
Cormayeur in the Aosta Valley shares views of the magnificent Mont Blanc with Switzerland and France, and is ideal for families. The traditional village is car-free and has excellent restaurants on and off the mountain.
Show me a child who doesn’t like pasta and I’ll eat my bobble hat. Italian food and skiing go together like a horse and sleigh: carbs, protein and delicious desserts provide vital energy on a plate. We tucked into gnocci, potato pasta with a gloopy cheese sauce, breaded veal escalopes big enough to sole a shoe, deer from the forest, cured beef, wholemeal bread with figs and walnuts.
Dare devil Jake, 14, fuelled up for an afternoon’s blasting down the slopes. ‘My best thing was skiing really fast and doing tail grabs with one hand. It was awesome. But,’ he confided, ‘Dad doesn’t do stunts.’ Seven year old Maisie reckoned: ‘The best thing about skiing is doing hard runs and the worst is falling over.’
Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters all drove themselves up the wall, quite literally, at the indoor Forum Sports Centre. There the instructor kitted out our group with climbing shoes for the giddying ascent.
‘Stay calm, you don’t have to be frightened, open your legs, straighten them on the way down,’ she intoned, more for the adults than their plucky children, Maisie and Rory, both seven, Helena, 12, and teenager Jake.
I stayed on terra firma with a few shaky circuits of the ice rink before heading up the mountain. On the cable car we encountered Anna Torretta, 45, half buried under loops of ropes, mountaineering gear and skis. ‘I’ve climbed Monte Bianco too many times to remember,’ she said nonchalantly. The kids’ eyes widened in wonder. As they did when we took a toe-curling ascent on Skyway Monte Bianco, whose two panoramic cabins gently rotate 360 degrees for a spectacular ascent with views of the east face of the highest mountain in the Alps at 15,781 feet (give or take a few depending on the snowfall) and the mighty Matterhorn.
The aptly named Ristorante Bellevue served up a splendid lunch of traditional Valle d’Aosta fare - and long-awaited scoops of fruity ice cream for the kids. Now that’s what I call five star service.
- The cost of staying at the five-star Grand Hotel in Courmayeur on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, with price including lunchtime, return private transfers, seven nights half-board, children’s full day ski school and services of an in-resort representative, was £11,750. Seven nights half-board at the Grand Hotel Courmayeur costs from £10,450.00 during half term or £9 098.00 for Easter 2018 for up to two adults and two children sharing a junior suite and including flights and transfers. For more information see www.momentumski.com.