Yorkshire-based Le Ski is celebrating 40 years of taking skiers on holiday to the French Alps
Nick, who was just 21 at the time, placed an advert in Private Eye saying ‘If you want to go skiing call Nick Morgan.’ He says: “When I started, I was 21, I really only had a fiver. Mum and dad didn’t have big cash piles to say ‘here you go son’ so if I lost my fiver, that was it. It really focuses your mind to give everyone a really good time and do as much as you can.”
Over the years, the selection of chalets has grown from a sprinkling to more than 30 across three famous French ski resorts – Courchevel, La Tania and Val d’Isère.
More than 70 seasonaires are hired each winter to work as chalet hosts and support staff, while at Le Ski’s Yorkshire office the long-serving team has clocked up a combined 184 years for the company. Backed by such a mountain of experience, the business weathered the storm when a double whammy of the pandemic and Brexit left some operators on thin ice.
Nick says he and sister Liz have “a fairly Yorkshire attitude to things” which remains a bedrock of the business. “You have got to be really straightforward, honest and direct with the customers. If we get something wrong, we just fix it,” he says.
Le Ski has an incredibly loyal client base, with some 73 per cent of customers either returning or recommended by a friend. Remarkably, one family has returned every season, celebrating engagements and reunions over the years in Courchevel. Nick says: “They have come with us every single year, it’s just unbelievable. I say ‘I really won’t be upset if you want to go somewhere else’ but they come every year. They have become really good friends.”
As Le Ski’s 40th season took off this winter, I decided to head out to Courchevel, to see why so many keep returning. Weekly charter flights, from Manchester and Gatwick, fly to France’s lakeside Chambery Airport each Sunday. The cheery team greet guests at Chambery, accompanying them by coach to the picture-postcard ski resorts of Courchevel, La Tania and Val d’Isère.
A white carpet of snow lined our route, through an Alpine winter wonderland into the snow-capped mountains. We were destined for Courchevel Moriond, where 16 Le Ski chalets are dotted across the picturesque resort, ranging from two-person Chalet Les Marmottes to 22-person Chalet Rikiki.
A roaring fire was warming Chalet Le Notus for our arrival. Freshly-made afternoon tea and cake had been laid out and the delicious aroma of dinner was drifting from the kitchen – bliss! We hastily unpacked so we could return to the fireside for champagne and canapés - a nice treat before our sumptuous home-cooked three-course dinner.
Sharing the cosy wood-clad chalet with my husband and I were a family from Suffolk and a young couple from Nottingham – all lovely people we would share many laughs with as unlimited wine flowed freely at dinner.
Conveniently, our rental skis were delivered to the chalet by ski shop White Storm. This saved us trekking to the shop, when we’d rather just chill out with our new ski friends. Meanwhile, our ski passes had been delivered by Le Ski so we didn’t have to traipse to the lift office. We had been waited on hand and foot - we could get used to this.
Courchevel Moriond (also known as 1650 after its altitude in metres) is part of France’s vast Les Trois Vallées – the world’s largest ski area. If you want to ski across Les Trois Vallées, taking in Europe’s highest ski resort at Val Thorens, you need an area pass covering the vast 600km of pistes (six-day adult pass approx. £320). Les Trois Vallées has a magnificent seven resorts including Meribel, which co-hosts the 2023 Alpine World Ski Championships with Courchevel in February.
However, many skiers are happy with a local ski pass covering the four Courchevel villages and neighbouring La Tania, with 150km of superbly groomed pistes (six-day adult pass approx. £288). This local area is a paradise for skiers, with a great array of tree-lined and open slopes for all abilities.
At upmarket Courchevel 1850, jet-setters fly into an altiport spectacularly located next to the pristine piste, where skiers pause to watch the small aircraft on Europe’s highest runway. Fabulous restaurants are sprinkled around the slopes, including a galaxy of Michelin-starred venues.
VIP visitors to Courchevel include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Sir Lewis Hamilton – you never know who might be whooshing past you. Courchevel 1850 may be festooned with high-end hotels for the glitterati but we would not swap the cosy, sociable atmosphere of our catered chalet, in the less pricey village of Courchevel Moriond.
Our brilliant chalet hosts Ella and Emily cooked tasty three-course meals for us on five nights, as well as making hearty English-style breakfasts, delicious afternoon teas and then canapés served with fizz before dinner. On our hosts’ two days off, breakfast and afternoon tea was laid out for us and we enjoyed eating out at local restaurants at night.
We were so well looked after and the skiing was so good, it’s no surprise Le Ski’s clientele are left with an appetite for more - we loved the warm, friendly atmosphere of our chalet and can’t wait to join the returners!