The resort is very snow-sure (this was a bad year, apparently, and seemed just fine for Europe to me) and pretty. The hotel is very close to the lifts, the town and the ski school and childcare is on site. Everything is very convenient.
My only criticism of the resort is the organisation and marking of the runs. The Swiss system is blue, red, black and yellow (yellows being ungroomed pistes that tend to be black in practice) but that's applied pretty loosely and quite often our instructor would be saying: "don't take that way down, it's marked a blue but it's very narrow and full of tight turns: the red is much easier" or "whatever you do, don't go right here, it's marked red but it's a very dark red indeed" or "this is a red now but tomorrow once the snow is packed down it will be black so don't come back till there is fresh snow" - and you'd look around and think "yes but where the hell are we?". The signing isn't 100% clear and the piste map is even harder to reconcile with reality than usual. This is compounded by the geography: the type of runs that you want to ski can be quite widely scattered and the runs and lifts don't link together particularly well. So although it is a great resort for beginners with easy runs very close to the resort, once you get to that early intermediate stage you need guidance to plan your day's skiing; it's the sort of place that is great to ski once you know it. The Esprit staff were very helpful with this and I'd strongly recommend sending at least one of your party out on their free ski hosting sessions.
We were there in half term and the resort and particularly the adult ski school was very busy. Our class size varied through the week from 9 to 13 which was too many really, but private lessons were very hard to come by.
The Rooms are fine - clean but basic though the layout of the hotel means that rooms of the same "grade" are quite varied. Our room for 3 was cramped and had shower not bath (tricky with a shower-phobic five year old) and Esprit charged us a supplement for 3 of us in a 4-person room ... when we got there we found a double and a fold-out single and simply no floor space for anything else: there is no way you could put another child in that room unless they shared their parents' bed. Words will be had with Head Office - though from what I've read of their Customer Services I expect to hear "computer says no". The towels are small, there are no flannels and though there's a table and chair tucked under a desk there's no room to pull it out and actually use it. We could definitely have done with more storage space. Having said that, given the huge turnover the hotel has in the winter, the furnishings are clean, modern and in good condition.
The staff are fantastic, I cannot praise them highly enough. Everyone we came in contact with was positive, helpful and as keen as mustard though it was getting quite late in the season and the arrival of another lot of squealing kids must have been less than exciting. Of course I can't say how many of the same team will be in place next year, but this year they were ace and whatever Esprit's recruitment policy is, it is working.
They have good relationships in place with the ski shop and the ski school (they try to make sure all the people teaching your kids are native English speakers).
The food is good. The buffet breakfast is supplemented by changing hot options, and there is always soup and bread and homemade cake waiting in the afternoon. Most days the adults didn't want lunch at all, which is handy when food in the resort is terrifyingly expensive. Children in childcare do seem to get a slightly pizza-and-chips menu at lunch, but tea time is better so unless you're very particular about their eating it's just fine. Adult evening meals were surprisingly good and wine was plentiful.
The childcare for our age group (5) seemed very good: a mix of indoor and outdoor activities and excursions and the staff who were effectively herding hyperactive cats managed this with good humor and enthusiasm throughout.
Overall, an excellent holiday and though Esprit's Ryanair-style system of surcharges and disappearing discounts meant it ended up being expensive, it was worth it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Annahof offers an unbeatable mix of the absolute prime location in the whole resort, beautifully refurbished bedrooms and lounge area, and our Esprit Chalet Hotel catering and service. Our friendly, professional team of staff look forward to welcoming you to Saas Fee and the Annahof this winter. ... more less