Firstly one must remember that the UCPA properties are not traditional 'hotels'. They are properties which are run by young people, for young people and the running and upkeep of these properties is largely sponsored by the French government. They are designed for young people from 18 to 38 to get out and see the world, go snow-skiing, go hiking etc - all at an affordable price.
Now, we don't fit into that age group. Every year the UCPA has a 'family week' where anyone can go. The 'hotels' are run in a basic way, where you maintain your own room, you don't have people serving you in the restaurant etc, but you do get a clean, comfortable room (if small), the food is fabulous (we are great food & wine lovers), the facilities are well maintained and most of all, WOW, the price is fabulous. We travel from South Africa, so for us to go snow-skiing is really expensive, as the ticket prices are horrendous - but we flew Etihad via Abu Dhabi (brilliant airline) at a reasonable price and that combined with this family week at the UCPA - you just cannot beat it in terms of value for money. I have snow skied in Austria (St Johann & Saalbach a few times), Switzerland, Czech Republic & USA (Vail, Breckenridge & Beaver Creek) and while the UCPA is not as comfortable as a proper hotel, if you look at what you get for what you pay, you can't compare them.
The rooms: Small and basic, and bedding is basic, but it was warm and comfortable. We were 3 in the room - my husband, son (4yrs) and I. The only down side was that you share a bathroom with another room (only 1 other room). At your room door number, you open the door from the main passage to enter into a small 'foyer area'. To the one side is a toilet room and the other side is a shower room. Then you have 2 more doors leading into 2 separate bedrooms, each having their own basin in the room. I hate sharing a bathroom, but since we were quite a large group, we shared with people we knew, so it was not a problem. Not sure I'd want to share with someone I did not know. Not all UCPA's have shared facilities, but this one does.
Location: Village is pretty and bus trips are free of charge. You need to walk (in your ski boots) to the road (not far +/- 200m) and then catch the free ski bus to the ski lift (5 min). It is run very well. The ski lifts are modern and well maintained. There are not many of those 'hut type restaurants and pubs' like you get in Austria, but there were some, and they were fine.
Food: WOW - the food at the UCPA was fabulous. It is buffet style, which we normally do not like, but it worked quite well as they had different areas with the same food, which meant people did not all crowd at one area.
Entertainment: they have a large game room at the UCPA. The kids could do wall climbing, play football (soccer), play on some large play-station type thing (too advanced for me), play board games - whew, there was a lot to keep them entertained.
Service: The hotel does not have room service or restaurant service, but there is a staff compliment. They clean the 'hotel' daily, man the reception, help with booking of various extra's you might want, prepare and facilitate entertainment evenings (karaoke etc.)
SO, being a '5 star sort of girl', would I go back? In a flash! In fact, we have booked for the family week at UCPA in Flaine for 2013, which is apparently even nicer than Les Contamines. This is NOT a 4 or 5 star accommodation trip - but it is clean, comfortable, well located and the best value for money I have ever spent.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The UCPA center is classified Contamines comfort comfort quality label 3. This is a type of center very nice and friendly chalet with wellness area and south facing terrace to the Glacier de Miage . The situation Contamines offers a 100% natural setting at 1165 meters : in the Mont Blanc , the village offers all the riches , charm and personality of a station - village of mountain. ... more less