There are ski hotels. And there are ski hotels. Over many long years in the ski business, I’ve suffered enough from the lesser variety to know what I want now. So let’s start off straight away on a positive note.
I travel once a week to the Alps running ski events or hosting ski correspondents. So it’s always early starts and late-ish nights. And no, that doesn’t mean I end up in a nightclub all the time. In fact I tend to stay away from them, because if I’m going to function at 100% the next day – well, maybe only 99.99% – I need a good night’s sleep.
When you finally arrive in your room, and you’ve got over the awkward moment of the bell boy unmistakably anticipating a tip, there’s all that stuff – food and drink – they leave out for you. And you assume it’s covered by hospitality – a welcome from the hotel. But actually it turns out to be overflow contents of the mini bar. Which of course goes duly on your room bill. You can’t win!
And if you drove by car, the car park can be a problem. Take those pillars in underground car parks, for example. They are my personal nemesis. It’s hard enough to park in those tiny spaces – but almost impossible to manoeuvre with the pillars in the way. And then, as you try to make your way out on foot, all the lights go out.
2. Room Selection – The Answer to Avoiding Noise
It’s sometimes good to ask reception if you have a choice on room depending on whether you are with young kids and family or with a group.
To avoid the noise of people coming back late at night, or hearing the lift zooming up and down, or hearing the loo on either side or on the floor above – or other bedspring noises!! – I normally ask for a room on the top floor or at the end of the corridor.
Whilst sleeping – or trying to – in a room with a balcony, facing the lovely pedestrian zone and the surrounding peaks might appeal, it can also be your enemy in such major resorts as St Anton or Chamonix. Chances are you’ll drift off to sleep at about 11pm or midnight – only to find yourself rudely awakened, and then tortured by half-drunken revellers for the next two hours.
It’s a kind of drip-feed torture actually, with night-clubbers leaving sporadically on their way back to their hotels and chalets, singing or shouting at each other en route. So unless I’m planning to join them (trust me, I very rarely do), I always ask for a quiet room at the back.
It can even –in your worst nightmare – last till dawn, when the bin-men try to make as much noise as possible collecting rubbish. One more reason to ask for that back room rather than the view of those majestic snowy peaks!
What you really want is nice black-out shutters (maybe like they had in the war!) rather than pathetic curtains to block the noise and the street lights.
3. St Anton’s Solution
St Anton was aware of the noise predicament, and came with the ingenious idea of organising some rather more appropriate après-ski. Start the party at 3pm! And by 9pm everyone’s hammered and – with any luck – almost in bed!
The only real downside of this very civilised concept is that if you walk home along the pedestrian zone at any time during that evening period, it’s rather like being in a scene from Night of the Living Dead or Plague of the Zombies.
On the subject of St Anton, I’ve never quite understood the fascination of St Anton’s après ski. I love the place, love the skiing and the hotels and restaurants but everyone seems to want to go there for the Après. All it takes is to remain sober one afternoon and take a careful look around you. Its 80% men!
Which reminds me: naked Austrian spas – and that awkward moment when you turn up in your Quiksilver swimwear to find yourself facing men and women wearing nothing at all…
4. A Tip About Beds…
Make sure you know what room-type you’ve booked, and therefore what bed to expect – especially if you’re with a group of friends.
The situation you want to avoid is thinking you have booked a twin bed but when you and your mate arrive, you get that Austrian twin bed moment – a double bed base with two separate mattresses wedged together. The best you can do in this situation is to ask Reception for two single duvets and hope your paths don’t cross in the night!
5. Getting Comfortable in Your Room
At the other end of the scale, if you have “made it” in life and can afford 5-star luxury with best Elemis/Bulgari/Occitane etc bathroom products, after your shower you just want to switch the lights off and go to sleep.
But you need a PHD to understand the fancy iPad or switch which controls the room. The TV is sometimes impossible to switch off, or the radio comes on seemingly of its own accord, fireplace lights come on, and so on – and unlike the old days, you can’t even find the plug to unplug things!
No matter how luxurious your accommodation, I’ve got a question for hoteliers everywhere: why do the ski rooms have to be so smelly?
So, back to getting comfortable in your own room, let’s turn our attention to the central heating.
No matter how many times you turn the temperature up or down, it never seems to be what it says on the tin! So you go to reception (bearing in mind that if you’re on the top floor, it’s often quite a schlep or even a schuss!) to ask how to turn the heating up. Or even down.
And they tell you it all runs on a central control and it’s the same for every room – so they can’t! So you traipse upstairs again. And open your window. And that’s when you get the aforementioned noise problem!
Then there’s the blooming fridge. You know how they go and off all night? So you try to disarm it, only to find that the plug is always jammed up against the wall behind the fridge, which as often as not, is pretty much immovable.
So you’ve not slept that well, and then – the next day, first day of your skiing holiday – the “regular shuttle service” to the slopes turns out to be just one six-seater seater mini bus. It can only get better!
6. Dinner Accompaniments…
On the subject of dinner, do you recognise this scenario? I’ve experienced it even in one of the best hotels in the Dolomites!
Welcome (or not) to the piano bar. And the piano player.
Typically a relic from the 70s, meet Barry Gibbs’ “cousin” with his karaoke machine. Not just content with torturing guests with the worst Euro trash anthems, he always manages to be there during the most precious time of day – the aperitivo hour.
He usually gives it a break while you enjoy dinner, and then, just when you’re relaxed again – he’s back. Non-stop. With an entire back catalogue of organ and synthesiser classics. Spare us!
7. Hotel Staff
Which brings us to that strange breed of hotel workers – the night porter. This is another world you’re entering into. Night porters are a different breed. Possibly aliens?
Most of the time they’re asleep – and even when they’re half awake, if they try and make you a drink behind the bar they’re not really with it.
Especially if you yourself have had a night on the tiles. It’s pretty hard to walk straight in from the cold and ask them for a drink while pretending you haven’t had one or two already! Bear in mind that your next problem is going to be trying to find one of those wretched plastic room keys with those infuriating door codes!
8. Checking out
So after (hopefully) a great week’s skiing, what about checking out? A late check out on a Sunday night would be nice, but it’s a rarity.
It’s normal to check out by 11am in most hotels and this can be awkward if you are doing a short break with a late Sunday night flight. So it’s worth asking if you can use one of the rooms used by your party to shower and change if they don’t have arrivals that night.
Share your experiences with us!
Well over the years we at Momentum Ski have had personal experience of all kinds of hotels and chalets which is why we’re now expert at guiding you to the right ones! But even so, there’s the occasional hiccup. So please do tell us about your experiences – so we can share your funnier stories with other clients!