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Monday August 7, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The Alpaka which has been owned by a British couple for more than 30 years is to be demolished to make way for a new hotel.

For many years it was the base for the Ski Club of Great Britain in Tignes.

Owners Jill and Sander Carling have sold up and will spend one more winter at the hotel in the Lac area of the French resort before handing it over to developers.

They've been talking to PlanetSKI about the past and the future.

The plan is for the 30-bed Alpaka to be replaced by a 180-bed hotel with a spa and underground parking.

Alpaka Hotel, TignesThe Alpaka - a big plot ripe for development

It's expected to be named the Hotel Cristal.

Leaders and members of the Ski Club of Great Britain - the country's oldest ski club - were regulars at the Alpaka for around 15 years.

The Club's leaders had their dinner in the hotel restaurant and held their social hour for members in the bar.

Members on Freshtracks holidays also frequented the establishment.

We can confirm that the hour often turned into several hours....

In the Alpaka 2010Jane with SCGB leader Roo Thorncroft at the Alpaka in 2010
















The gatherings began to tail off after the Ski Club leading service ended when the French authorities took legal action to ban it.

For the past three winters the catered chalet company Ski Val has rented the hotel for its guests while the Carlings have continued to run the bar.

Jill and Sander - who have been amicably separated for 16 years but remain business partners - bought the hotel in 1984 from Jean-Claude Revial.

Carlings at the Alpaka 1984The Carlings with their new hotel in 1984
















Revial had built the Alpaka in 1964 to replace his Hotel Du Mont-Pourri in the old village of Tignes.

He and his family had been forced to move out when the old village was flooded in 1952 to make way for the building of a hydro-electric dam.

Sander (Alexander) Carling, a former British Army officer, had been spending every winter in Tignes since 1968, working as a ski instructor. 

He was good friends with Revial, who told him he wanted to sell the Alpaka after becoming ill.

"I had no ambitions to run a hotel, but when he said 'why don't you buy the hotel?' I said 'good idea'," Sander told PlanetSKI.

The Carlings have many anecdotes from their 30-plus years at the Alpaka.

Alpaka Hotel, TignesAlpaka Hotel














A newly separated Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, had lunch there while in Tignes to present the medals at the Combined Services Ski Championships.

But hosting the former Royal was the least of their worries.

The ex-Lieutenant Colonel Sander Carling had to deal with no fewer than five Major Generals who were in Tignes for the Championships.

"We did this huge dinner for them," he recalled.

"I had 18 stars sitting round the table.

"One led the British operation in Kuwait in the Gulf War, one was Commander-in-Chief Germany and went on to be Chief of the Defence Staff, one was head of Strike Command, and we had a couple of Navy guys too.

"I thought if anyone lobs a bomb in here I'm going to be in trouble."

Sander also remembers "trading jokes and copious amounts of Cognac" with the BBC Ski Sunday commentator, David Vine, who enjoyed the Alpaka's hospitality after covering a men's downhill race in neighbouring Val d'Isere.

Many Tignes regulars, including PlanetSKI, will be sorry to see Jill and Sander move on, but they're convinced the time is right.

Jill Carling, Jane Peel, Sander Carling in Tignes July 2017Jane with Jill and Sander Carling 
















Jill will be 60 this year while Sander turns 80 next January. Their two sons have grown up and flown the nest.

Both plan to stay in Tignes initially after they hand over the Alpaka in May 2018, but will go their separate ways eventually.

"As one door closes, another opens," Sander told us.

We wish them both luck, wherever the door leads them.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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