Skiing with Pierre et Vacances
10th October 2011
The holiday giant is a household name in France but here in the UK many have heard of it but don’t quite know what it offers. Simple, it sells property and self-catering ski accommodation in resorts in France. To find out more read on……
In 1960, the Olympic ski champion, Jean Vuarnet, had a dream. To transform Avoriaz, or ‘Avorea’ as it was then known, from a small farming town in the French Alps into a ski resort.
He wanted Avoriaz to be different with a strong focus on protecting the environment; cars would have to park at the resort entrance and tourists would get around on foot, skis or on horse-drawn sledges.
The architecture was designed to work in harmony with the environment and integrate itself into the landscape.
It was a forerunner of many resorts and developments that followed.
It was an immediate hit with stars like Brigitte Bardot heading to its slopes. However, outside of the main holiday periods, the resort was virtually empty so he and his backers came up with the idea of selling apartments on lease back.
This idea set the mould for Pierre & Vacances, which launched in 1978 as a self-catering accommodation specialist featuring a number of ski properties in Avoriaz.
25 years later Pierre & Vacances had a €1 billion turnover and 6 million guests had stayed in its properties.
Today, 33 years on, the group has nearly 50,000 apartments and houses in Europe, including summer properties, and in 2009/2010, it achieved a turnover of €1.4 billion and welcomed 7.4 million customers.
Clearly it has done something right.It now has 125 ski residences in over 40 ski resorts across the French Alps and The Pyrenees. 74% are located at or over 1,800m so they have pretty much guaranteed snow.
Some British people have bought a property while many more rent them out from Pierre et Vacances for their annual ski holiday. France remains the most popular destination for British skiers and snowboarders with around a third of the market. Pierre et Vacances provides a holiday, and a home, for many of them.
The properties range from affordable, self-catering studio apartments through to luxurious four-star apartments.
Its apartments are modern; most have a balcony or terrace. Each apartment has a fully fitted kitchen and comfy living space. The residences have large reception areas, often with a children’s play area attached.
Many apartments are ski in, ski out and all are located close to the ski lifts and the town centre.
They are not the shoebox-style apartments where you can lean out of the bed and turn the cooker on that some people still associate with French self-catering properties.
At the top end it has its Premium properties.
Resorts with Pierre et Vacances Premium Residences include Aime-La-Plagne, Arc 1800, Arc 1950, Les Carroz d’Arâches, Chamonix, Courcheval 1850, Flaine Montsoleil, Les Menuires, Méribel Mottaret, Méribel Village and Tignes.
There is also a new property in Avoriaz opening in December 2011.
The Premium apartments offer at least 10% extra space compared to the standard Pierre & Vacances product with beds made on arrival, LCD TV, bathrobes and free wi-fi.
Even though Pierre & Vacances properties are self-catering, the Premium product has an optional breakfast delivery and food shopping service that is delivered to the apartment at the beginning of the week or every morning.
There is also a ‘Chef at Home’ option, where a professional chef can be hired for the night to cook for guests in their apartments.
For a look at the Pierre et Vacances web site that has full details of the company then take a look here.
For those on a budget then Pierre et Vacances offers its Maeva brand.
With 57 residences in mountain locations, Maeva is in some of the great French ski resorts including Courchevel, Val d’Isère, Les Arcs, L’Alpe d’Huez , La Plagne and Chamonix.
Maeva enables guests to make the most of their stay with options for everyone whilst staying within budget.
Families with small children can visit a resort offering childcare facilities and ski-in-ski-out convenience, whereas the more experienced skier can chose a different resort with terrain to match. With ski lessons, ski passes and ski equipment rental available at preferential rates, Maeva offers good value skiing holidays in prime locations
Recently, Maeva has had an extensive refurbishment programme with 40% of its accommodation being upgraded.
But it is far more than just renting an apartment.Pierre et Vacances offers a unique snow guarantee; not a spurious guarantee to offer money back on a lift pass if all the runs are shut but something more useful.
A refund is offered in the event of a lack or excess of snow prior to the holiday departure date. Refunds are only eligible if more than two thirds of the ski lifts are closed for at least two consecutive days in the five days prior to departure.
It also offers holidays to alternative resorts that do have snow should there be a problem.
Further details of the terms and conditions can be seen at www.pierreetvacances.co.uk
There are also plenty of special offers from discounted lift passes to ski and snowboard hire. There is up to 30% of lift passes and a 40% reduction in equipment hire.
There are also many incentives including early booking discounts.
There is 20% off skiing holidays and no booking fees for online bookings made before 31st October 2011. The discounts are available on all accommodation types and are subject to availability.
There is a 20% discount on Maeva residences for departures throughout winter 2011-12 with the exception of departures on 11th February 2011.
There is also a 20% discount for stays at Pierre & Vacances residences that are booked by 31st October 2011 for departures before 3rd March 2012. This excludes departures on 11th and 18th February 2012.
Departures on 31st December 2011, 25th February and 3rd March 2012 have a 10% discount. Bookings made by 15th December 2011 for departures from 10th March until 21st April receive a 20%.
Meanwhile Pierre & Vacances Premium is offering a 10% reduction on stays booked by 31st October 2011 for departures before 3rd March 2012. Bookings made by 15th December 2011 for departures from 10th March 2012 until 21st April receive a 10% reduction.
The following departure dates are excluded from the 10% discount: 31st December 2011; 11th, 18th and 25th February 2012 and 3rd March 2012.
Best of all for this coming winter is the fact that the main UK half term falls outside the main French half term so not only will the slopes be less busy but in some cases the holidays will be 33% cheaper.
All apartments are fully serviced with staff on hand to help out if needed.
“It is like walking into a hotel; they will have the key ready for you when you walk in and bed linen is provided at no extra charge. At the end of the week you hand your key back in and leave, and we don’t expect people to clean up for themselves at the end,” says the UK manager of Pierre et Vacances, Cathy Rankin.
For a short video interview with Cathy Rankin and further details about the Pierre et Vacances experience then see below.
People arrange their own flight and then either hire a car or use pubic transport from the airport. Others drive and with many of the popular French resorts an 8-hour drive from Calais, mainly on motorways, it is fairly straightforward.
You can of course full the car with as much as you like and even take advantage of buying food in a hypermarket on the way.
An increasing number are taking the train.
Pierre & Vacances Premium Les Terrasses d’Eos in Flaine Montsoleil has been awarded a five star ranking.
It is the first property to be listed in this category having met the 175 requirements and will maintain its five star ranking for a period of five years. The classification is awarded to those properties that show exceptional service, facilities and standards of accommodation.
The property is located in the Grand Massif area, 1,700 metres above sea level. There are 122 apartments, from one to three bedrooms. It also has a heated indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a fitness centre, restaurants and individual ski lockers.
A superior one bedroom apartment sleeping up to four people from 17th-24th December 2011 costs €990/ £863 (€891/ £777 with the early booking discount).
A three bedroom apartment sleeping up to six people from 18th-25th February 2012 costs €3,310/ £2,886.
A three bedroom apartment sleeping up to six people from 7th-14th April 2012 costs €2,980/ £2,599 (€2,682/ £2,340 with the early booking discount).
Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Chalets de Solaise, Val d’Isère
Three quarters of the 62 apartments in Les Chalets de Solaise have been renovated ready for December 2011. The spacious apartments range from studios to two bedroom apartments and each has a balcony. The health suite area has also been renovated to include a sauna and fitness room. Les Chalets de Solaise sits at the heart of Val d’Isère in the Espace Killy ski area. As well as the health suite area, the residence also has an outdoor heated swimming pool.
A studio apartment sleeping up to four people from 24th- 31st December 2011 costs €1,210/ £1,057 (€968/ £847 with the early bird discount).
A one bedroom apartment with a mezzanine sleeping up to seven people from 14th-21st April 2012 costs €1,270/ £1,109 (€1,016/ £989 with the early bird discount).
Pierre & Vacances Residence Les Bergers, Alpe d’Huez
More than a third of Les Bergers 121 apartments have been renovated to provide more modern facilities to its customers. Residence Les Bergers has a heated outdoor pool and terrace overlooking the valley and is an ideal base from which to discover the 248 kilometre trail that crosses the Grandes Rousses area. It is located less than 100 metres from the ski lifts, entertainment and shops at the resort centre.
A two bedroom apartment sleeping up to six people from 17th-24th December 2011 costs €1,230/ £1,074 (€984/ £860 with the early booking discount).
A studio for two people from 4-11 February 2012 costs €650/ £567 (€520/ £455 with the early booking discount).
Spas and health facilities are offered as part of the Pierre & Vacances Premium product.
Premium properties in Aime la Plagne, Arc 1800, Chamonix, Les Carroz D’Arâches, Les Menuires and Méribel Village, Arc 1950 and Avoriaz have ‘Deep Nature Spas’ by leading French marine cosmetics brand Algotherm. The majority of these residences also boast indoor and outdoor swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms, cardio fitness and relaxation studios.
Back to the future
This winter much is happening where it all started; Avoriaz. The resort is seen as a benchmark in terms of sustainable ski resort development.
The resort was designed so that its roads could act as ski slopes making it possible to travel around on skis.
All buildings in Avoriaz are integrated into the site’s topography with pyramid shapes and cascading roof-tops with red cedar facades which blend with the cliffs in the background.
The resort won an ISO 14001 certification in 2007, which is an international environmental accommodation standard.
It has many new buildings that open in December 2011. They have a number of technical and architectural measures such as strengthened insulation, triple-glazing, double-flux ventilation and glazed walls enabling pre-heating of fresh air. Additionally, a wood-burning stove will produce enough energy to fuel all the new constructions.
The current challenge is to extend the resort’s historical lead in being the first car-free resort whose buildings are integrated into the environment.
Pierre & Vacances has set up ambitious targets in terms of energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport.
Nearby Morzine is also continuing to favour sustainable transport by replacing the Prodains cable car with a larger-capacity car to increase access to the resort and the ski slopes by public transport.
The resort was one of the first to build a snowpark and half pipe and has been popular with snowboarders since the early days.In 2007 the first ever eco-snow park in Europe was built in Avoriaz.
The concept was originally developed by snowboard designer, Jake Burton, in the Californian resort of North Star, whose philosophy was to create an area in the middle of a forest that caters for a mixture of freeride and freestyle, whilst simultaneously transmitting messages about environmental protection.
‘The Stash’ is a mile long non-groomed slope with wooden jumps and natural gaps and has a vertical rise of over 1.400 feet.
Avoriaz is one of the top freestyle destinations for snowboarders and the Stash with its organic jumps and rails only adds to its appeal. For more information see here.
Avoriaz specialises in ski music festivals and has an exciting programme for the coming winter.
PlanetSKI will be in Avoriaz in January and we look forward to reporting back on what is going on.
It looks like an exciting winter ahead.
For the spirit of the mountains