Fam trips: travel agent Phil Cornelius on a Ski Lagrange educational

As part of a feature on fam trip etiquette, Advantage agent Phil Cornelius of Ryedale Travel gives his account of an unforgettable educational

Ski Lagrange fam trip, 2008

I’m sure most of us who work in travel ask ourselves ‘why’ on occasions. Ungrateful clients, incompetent tour operators, mindless bureaucracy are all part of the daily grind for us poor travel agents.

Then, all of a sudden, a trip comes along and we remember why we still haven’t got around to applying for a ‘proper’ job. The first ever educational for UK travel agents organised by Ski Lagrange was one such occasion.

I met up with our group of five other Advantage Ski Specialists at St Pancras together with representatives from Lagrange, and Rail Europe. Our journey to Champagny en Vanoise courtesy of Eurostar, Rail Europe and Holiday Taxis was painless but at over ten hours, a little lengthy.

We were based at Les Alpages de Champagny, one of Lagrange’s ‘Prestige’ properties. These apartments like other ‘Prestige’ residencies we visited were light, well equipped and quite spacious by Alpine standards. Wherever we went the views from the properties were stunning.

Our first day in resort was spent snow-shoeing in a mini-blizzard at Champagny le Haut, an area used primarily by walkers and cross-country skiers. Later we visited Espace Glacialis an interactive glacier discovery centre.

The second day after more property inspections we set out on what the itinerary disarmingly described as ‘snow scooters’.

The tortuous snowmobile track of bumps jumps and near vertical descents was almost certainly a facility recently abandoned by French Special Forces. It was clear to all that only the brave or mentally deranged would dare to venture here. Alison and Laura from Lagrange led the way!

Our final day was our ski day and it was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, crisp newly-pisted snow and no lift queues – what more could we have wished for?

Toby from Wexas entertained us with his David Brent dance on skis while Emma from Colchester Travel did what Essex girls do, ignored the skiing and concentrated her attentions on Gregoire the instructor.

Although Lagrange is the second largest accommodation provider in France it is seen more as a niche operator in the UK. It was interesting to learn that its brochure prices are based on French holiday periods rather than that of the UK. This makes its pricing structure very competitive on occasions, especially during the Easter and (for their summer brochure) May half-term holidays.

Not many ski companies pay full commission rates for ski hire, lift passes and virtually everything else apart from Eurotunnel. Add to that the fact that they do not operate differential web pricing, 0870 numbers or an automated telephone service invented by headless chickens and, like me, you’re probably asking yourself why you haven’t used them before.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting trip and, a timely reminder of why, despite all its shortcomings, travel remains a wonderful industry to be involved in.

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