The foyer of Passo Tonale’s Grand Hotel Paradiso, where we stayed for a week over Christmas, gleamed with understated opulence. A few seasonal touches dotted around the reception gave a festive feel. The ski resort is set in the Italian Alps, on the Lombardy/Trentino border, and sixty cm of snow had fallen just before we arrived. After unloading our cases from the coach, we stamped the snow off our boots inside the vestibule, before walking through swooshing automatic doors into the airy but toasty-warm interior.
Our hosts, Crystal Ski, offer packages in several of Passo Tonale’s hotels. Paradiso is the only one where Crystal’s Whizz Kids childcare is available. (You can read more about Whizz Kids here). As a family hotel, we found it comfortable and well-positioned. You could ski in and (practically) out of the hotel, which made the morning journey onto the pistes remarkably pain-free. The hotel’s heated locker room was a busy thoroughfare first thing, with everyone kitting themselves out in boots and skis. The rest of the time, the hotel felt spacious, calm and quiet.
The Grand Hotel Paradiso offers a range of accommodation, from basic single or twin rooms, up to Princess suites for four. These are set over two floors, with two separate bedrooms, a lounge, two bathrooms and a hot tub. All rooms have their own toilets, and separate bath or shower facilities.
We stayed in a deluxe twin room with a balcony, which had phenomenal views across the valley and onto the Adamello mountain range.
In the room was an easy-to-use, very secure looking safe. The mini fridge was just big enough to store a few snacks and drinks from the local convenience store (including light, frothy Prosecco, which we picked up for the bargain price of €4).
It was a real treat to pop back to the room at different times during the day, and watch the light playing across the mountains. The large balcony window framed the scene like a painting.
Crystal’s ski packages at Paradiso are half board, with breakfast and dinner both served in the hotel restaurant. For each meal, a wide-ranging buffet gave plenty of choice. In the morning we tended to fuel up for the day with warm chocolate croissants, a medley of fruit, and scrambled eggs on toasted local bread. The restaurant was set up on the first floor. Panoramic windows ran along the entire length of the room, so everyone could look out onto the mountains they’d soon be skiing down.
The evening buffet was full of regional specialities, like beef cheek in red wine with polenta, deer stew or truffle soufflé. Paradiso provided a separate vegan menu, which you had to ask for. Vegetarians could choose from at least one hot option, and a wide range of salads, including mixed beans, grilled aubergines, quinoa, salad leaves and tomatoes. The cheese board was local fare at its finest. It was heaped with mountain cheese, as well as a colossal gorgonzola, which grew smaller and smaller as the week wore on.
The restaurant served meals at set times, but it ran flexible hours on the first and last day of our stay. On the morning we left, when we had to drag ourselves onto coaches at 6am for the airport transfer, breakfast ran from 4am. And on the first day, dinner was served at 6pm rather than the regular 7pm, so the children could eat and get into bed early after the long journey.
Although I personally thought the food was delicious, a few of the other guests had a bit of a grumble. I guess beef cheek and some of the other very traditional food might not have been to everyone’s taste. In the second half of the week, more standard fare appeared on the menu – like macaroni cheese, pizza, and spaghetti in tomato sauce. Whether this was in response to guest feedback, or something that was planned from the start, I don’t know. But it seemed to make people a little happier.
Paradiso’s Christmas meal was a merry feast, with a stomach-groaning range of decadent desserts.
Spa and bars
For an extra €50 per room per week, or €15 per person per day, guests could access Paradiso’s spa. This included a wellness centre with a hot tub, a Finnish sauna, aromatherapy suites, a fitness centre and a grotto-style pool.
Like most ski resort spas, the facilities were busy on the ‘snow days’, when heavy snowfall made skiing tricky. From 5-8pm, under-12s weren’t allowed in. If you went towards the end of the day, you could end up almost having the place to yourself.
Three different bars provided a bit of aprés ski entertainment. Ombrella, at the foot of the slopes next to Paradiso, served the scrummiest thick hot chocolate and warm, spiced wine. It stayed open until late afternoon. Inside the hotel, the movie-themed, quiet Lounge Bar usually had a handful of customers at lunchtime eating paninis fresh from the counter. And the lively Vinae Franciacorta bar was set out in the style of a cosy wine cellar, with delicious local tipples on offer.
The Grand Hotel Paradiso was a comfortable place for a family ski trip. Its wood and stone decor was fresh and polished rather than cosy and intimate, but the staff more than made up the warmth quotient. They went out of their way to be helpful and charming, even down to noticing our daughter’s cough one morning, and offering to make her a special honey drink. With the exceptional Whizz Kids club on the ground floor, it was a place we’d definitely return to as a family.
Ski packages to Passo Tonale and the Grand Hotel Paradiso are available from Crystal Ski. We travelled as guests of Crystal Ski. All views are my own.
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