Wendy started her career in travel working winter and summer seasons as a rep in Greece and in the Alps before setting up a travel agency, with husband Michel. Snowbizz and Sunbizz specialised in family ski holidays in the Alps and Greek islands.
For many years she’s been telling people about what makes Puy St Vincent so special – we asked her to answer some first time visitor questions.
Q. Why choose Puy St Vincent when you could have your pick of the ski resorts?
Because it’s just perfect for families: safe, convenient, friendly with 300 days of sunshine and a micro-climate and snow record which is the envy of bigger ski stations.
I’ve worked and skied in lots of the big name resorts – I loved Austria and Avoriaz where I learnt to ski. Michel trained in Chamonix and has skied all over France but when it comes to families you honestly can’t beat Puy. It’s got the X-Factor that bigger resorts just can’t beat.
Q. What do you mean X-Factor?
It’s got every possible ingredient that a ski family need plus that extra something which makes it special. It’s why so many guests joke about Puy being skiing’s best kept secret. They tell their best friends about it, but that’s it, they don’t want it spoilt.
There was a fairly well-known lawyer who used to travel with his family three times a year. He would have us in stitches telling us the lengths he went to avoid telling his city colleagues where he skied. He was desperate not to have to share Puy.
Q. But it’s a small ski area?
Actually it’s not that small – it’s just it’s not linked into any other ski area like its neighbour Serre Cheavlier. But that’s what keeps the pistes so quiet, and there’s rarely any lift queues. During the holidays you might have a maximum wait of maybe ten minutes, which is nothing compared to many ski stations. And outside of holidays it’s a dream – sometimes on a run you won’t see a single other skier.
Q. We are a really mixed ability family – how will that work?
We get some really good mum-skiers. But our average family is usually – dad the better skier, mum bit more reluctant but would love to improve and then children in between at various levels of competence. If you want to ski as a family this is where Puy is perfect. There is genuinely something for everyone – but because it’s compact it means everyone gets to ski at their level for part of the day but then can meet up easily for lunch.
There’s no guilty feeling that you’ve gone and dumped the kids and won’t see them until supper.
Most families opt to let us look after the children in the morning in ski school and crèche. Then ski together as a family in the afternoon. But every family is different that’s why we offer flexi-childcare.
You can actually tailor all the childcare to suit you not us!
Q. But my husband is an amazing skier – I’m worried there won’t be enough for him
Everyone says this before they arrive then they are quietly surprised. The red and black runs are as challenging as anywhere – but part of the X-Factor is the amazing off-piste. Le Col du Bal is an expert skier’s idea of heaven. It’s about as tricky as it can get and a guide is absolutely necessary.
When an advanced skier mum and dad first come to Puy they believe they are doing it as a compromise because they just want to get their children off to the best possible start. They quickly realise that they won’t have to compromise their own skiing – and this is what keeps them coming back.
It would surprise you if you knew how many really expert skiers we cater for week in week out. And how many mountain guides are hired through our ski school to tackle the really challenging stuff.
Q. You’ve mentioned convenient?
Our accommodation sits on a sort of mountain quad at 1600m right in the middle of the skiing. On one side of the quad is our beautiful crèche which is next door to the Snowbizz office – to the other side is the Toton Ski Garden. And at ground floor level of your accommodation is our Club Room and meeting point for the Junior Ski School.
First timers to Snowbizz are always amazed just how convenient everything is.
You walk out of your locker room and you’re there right in the middle of everything. From any of the number of little bars and restaurants you can take a break and watch your children skiing – or even watch from your balcony.
From your apartment you can ski down to 1400m – it’s quite nice to ski empty pistes before the lifts open and have a real Alpine breakfast in the old village. Or take one of two fast quads just opposite the apartments which take you to 2000m with a choice of more lifts to 2750m
Q. And safe?
This is the best bit! Parents, at every level, have peace of mind and the opportunity to allow a little ski freedom.
Even fairly new little skiers can be given some slack on one of the 1600 blue runs – you can watch from the bar. And older/competent children are often allowed their own ski time – all the runs lead back to 1600 or 1400 – so they can’t get lost.
And as if all this isn’t enough, we’re the only British Tour Operator in resort and Michel, our director is on hand every day managing the children’s ski school. As an ex-member of the mountain rescue team, and in radio contact with all his instructors. If on the rare occasion there is ever any problem he’s the first person they are in touch with.
For safety – it can’t get any better than this!
For more information on Puy St Vincent please see our top 10 family ski recommendations – http://snowbizz.co.uk/blog/2014/02/05/our-top-10-family-ski-recommendations/