I first heard of this small village from a friend who took his family there the year before. The trip is organized by Source Holidays, an agency from Kent. What attracted me to the deal was the opportunity to bring my seven-year-old son and have him learn to ski, without a hustle of chasing arrangements, ski passes, and instructors by myself. The fact that I’m also a non-skier only made this variant more agonizing. Once I heard that there is an agency that will take care of all that, and much more, for me, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Source Holidays have gone above and beyond my expectations. From securing the equipment, ski pass, meals, and accommodations to providing ski instructors, everything was taken care off, without me having to spend a single minute worrying if everything will be all right. We parents had enough company during our stay, while there were plenty of kids for my son to play with.
The holiday was advertised as a “ski, circus and yoga holiday”. The fact that these three activities rarely go together in the same sentence, let alone on the same trip, only added to the allure of the deal, but I must confess, I was a bit worried. Unnecessarily, as it turned out.
Spending seven hours on a train from Paris to Le Buet may sound excruciating, but thanks to Saskia Anley-McCallum, the trip organizer, who put me in touch with another family consisting of a mum and her daughters, it went a lot faster than I have originally anticipated. We switched trains at At St Gervais-Le Fayet and boarded Mont Blanc Express, which runs through Chamonix Valley and pass it into Switzerland. The small train provided us with a breathtaking view of the Alps. Le Buet is one of the last stops the train makes in France.
Le Buet is well-known among mountain climbers. The village often serves as a base for the Mont Buet climbs, which are an excellent training grounds for a more demanding Mont Blanc expeditions. Due to its small size, it has remained largely undiscovered by the hordes of skiers that occupy French Alps every year. The only accommodations that Le Buet offers are a 130-year old Hotel Le Buet and Skiroc outdoor center. During the non-winter months, Skiroc accommodates underprivileged kids on their school trips, which has left its marks on its facilities. Bedrooms are worn out and the food has a distinct smell of a school cafeteria, but everything else is perfect. The staff is more than welcoming and experienced with dealing with the first-time skiers, like the majority of our group was. The location is excellent, providing an easy access to La Poya nursery slopes.
The location has earned several offers from prospective buyers, but the owner, Philippe Bidault, won’t even consider the idea. He says that selling the center would destroy its original purpose, providing skiing opportunities to children who wouldn’t otherwise have them. The rebellious spirit of Mr. Bidault isn’t unique among the villagers of Le Buet and their neighbors in Vallorcine. Both villages have been resisting any attempt at commercialization for years. Often cut off from the rest of the world during fierce winter storms, they have grown resilient to the outside influences and are accustomed to relying on themselves for their every need.
Our ski instructor was a typical representative of these people. His expert guidance was instrumental in developing our love for skiing. Each morning my son and I spend in our separate classes, while the more experienced skiers from our group sought more exciting blue and black runs on neighboring peaks. We spent our afternoons exploring the valley or simply practicing our new skills.
Another highlight of our stay at Le Buet was a snowshoe walk to a restaurant overlooking the frozen Cascade de Bérard. We went there in a company of a father and his two daughters. All three children consumed large quantities of hot chocolate and chocolate cake, which were needed to sustain them on the way back. The scenery of a forest encased in snow and ice was like something from a movie and both the adults and the children appreciated it.
It took me five days to gather courage and some skill to try something more demanding. Accompanied by two other moms, we hired an instructor and took the ski lift to the slopes above Vallorcine. We had a misfortune of finding the top of the slope completely covered in fog, but with the help and encouragement of our instructor, we managed to get down. About halfway down the slope, the fog cleared and we were awarded with a beautiful sight of the entire valley below us.
Evenings were reserved for yoga and circus classes. While the latter aren’t something one would expect on a ski trip, they proved to be extremely entertaining, especially when the older crowd started participating in various clown activities. The highlight was a 70-year-old grandma riding around on a unicycle. My efforts were limited to devil sticks and pathetic attempts at juggling. These activities weren’t mandatory, but it was hard sitting around and watching everyone having fun embarrassing themselves and not take part. The end of a day was a special time for the adults. While kids watched a movie or getting ready for sleep, we get to enjoy some excellent red wine in the bar, at €4.50 a carafe.
At the end of the day, ski, yoga, and circus holiday was an amazing experience for both my son and me. Prices, at £825 per adult, 7-11 years £665, 3-6 years £520, were more than reasonable. Considering they include accommodations, meals, and ski pass, which alone is £250.