Bear Lodge is the new piste side hotel in the centre of Arc 1950, offering the ultimate in luxury, slopeside mountain living. Breaking Travel News catches up with Andy Sturt of VIP SKI to find out about his fascinating journey making his dream project a reality.
What was the inspiration behind Bear Lodge?
A very dear friend of mine, Luigi, had built six chalets for us next to the piste in Val d’Isère twenty years ago. He mentioned to me over our regular early morning espresso in 2014 that having since built the village of Arc 1950 for Intrawest, he had some land left over, could VIP SKI do anything with it ! The rest is, as they say, history.
Bear Lodge was seven years in the making. What was the highlight of the journey?
Being able to consolidate everything that I had learned over 25 years. I started with paper scale cut-outs; a sofa size and shape that was comfortable, a coffee table big enough for both a clutter of G&T glasses and a piste map, a dining space big enough for the cornflakes but not so wide you can’t pass the wine, bedrooms for tall people and little people and bundles of storage. I also wanted to build something for everyone; rooms for couples, rooms for families and adjoining rooms for mum, dad and teenage kids, plus private suites for groups of every size.
In what ways did the pandemic affect the project?
Outside of the well published squeeze on materials and labour, it also provided every contractor with the excuse of Covid for broken promises. Delivering the building on time was extremely challenging, at times completely demoralising. First guests never care about a shortage of Italian marble or a Covid struck carpentry factory six months before. We got there in the end, dismantling scaffolding at one end of the building as guests arrived at the other.
What’s your favourite aspect of the property?
I’ve never had the freedom to design something from the inside out before, getting every small detail right and then seeing where the walls ended up. Planning regulations normally cramp every move and space, a new wing of Arcs 1950 was a completely unique opportunity to build the perfect ski homes for every type of guest.
And the toughest challenge?
Getting it all built and furnished in a budget that allows us to sell holidays with the very best facilities in an amazing location at a sensible price.
Where do you see Bear Lodge fitting into the ski market? And what do you see as your target market?
Our guests seek the comfort, convenience and cosiness of their own home with the service of a good hotel. We deliver this with engaging colleagues who really care. Simple things done really well but without the fuss. We now do this at 1950 metres altitude in the middle of one of the biggest linked ski areas in the world. It will tick alot of boxes for all sorts of skiers.
What sort of recovery are we seeing in Europe’s ski sector ahead of next winter season? And how do you see the next few years panning out?
I can’t speak for anyone else but at the end of June we are already 50% sold for next winter. We have never experienced demand like this before. I think the pandemic gave us much time to pause for thought, many of us concluded that there is nothing quite like a ski holiday as a break from the day to day. Climate warming is clearly an issue, many will continue to enjoy the charm of low altitude villages, but the majority of skiers will increasingly want the reassurance of altitude when booking one week’s skiing a year.
Bear Lodge is nominated for “World’s Best New Ski Hotel 2022” at the World Ski Awards.
For further details about Bear Lodge and for bookings visit here