The Savoie faireOn and off piste

The Savoyard ski region has something for everyone. Ask ten avid skiers to name their top destinations and you could well get ten conflicting answers.
2016-12-01
Travel

But whatever your particular skiing or boarding yen, France’s Savoyard peaks can deliver. From old school to off the wall, stylish simplicity to super-luxe, it’s all out there.

COURCHEVEL

A taste of high life

A recent arrival at the Courchevel party is LVMH White 1921, designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte (the man former French president Francois Mitterrand turned to when his Elysée apartment needed freshening up). A chic, contemporary boutique hotel in Courchevel 1850, it has both skiing and shopping on the doorstep. Literally. It also has 26 compact rooms with modern alpine touches; a ski shop/service room where equipment hire is seamless and expertise limitless; a spa and gym; and, completing the wraparound ski experience, an immaculate level of service orchestrated by its effervescent director, Agnés Bouanani.

Dinner requires stepping out, but La Saulire, a mainstay of the Courchevel culinary scene since Jacques Trauchessec (still the owner) first opened its doors 40 years ago, is less than a two-minute walk away. With the arrival of chef Benoît Redondo at the start of the new millennium, truffles became the restaurant’s speciality and the prized ingredients is put to spectacular use in a range of dishes (not least the light chicken-and-truffle mousse), complemented by an impressive selection of grands crus.

Breakfast is served closer to home, in White 1921’s Le Petit Salon. Then, whether you are eyeing up the gentle runs of the Jardin Alpin or the rather more fearsome challenge of the Grand Couloir, there’s ample scope to rack up some serious mileage before midday refuelling. Delivering both the vista and the vittles, with a French-meets-Spanish-vibe, is La Soucoupe, nestling just below the top of the Coqs chair, an effusive welcome from owner Marta Pecchio is guaranteed, and with its panoramic terrace, meat grilled in front of a roaring fire and a competent sommelier, it is the sort of place for which the place “long lunch” was invented.

The haute-cuisine theme continues back in the village at Les Airelles, next to the Jardin Alpin piste. Stepping across the threshold is akin to entering a fairy tale – which is exactly what Raymond Fenestraz intended when she founded the hotel ahead of the 1992 Winter Olympics. Her dream was a castle in the mountains, evoking the 19th-century style of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and although Les Airelles changed hands in 2008, that dream lives on, with staff attired in period costume and children lavishly catered for in the grandly titled Royaume des Enfants, complete with its own miniature castle. The Pierre Gagnaire restaurant, adorned with bespoke Hermes crystal, has two Michelin stars, while each winter, Cala di Volpe relocates its acclaimed Italian cuisine from Sardinia. There is also a vast pool and spa area, including a snow cave.

Just above Les Airelles, Cheval Blanc is another hotel determined to go the extra mile; in the White restaurant, La Table de Partage seats 16. And tucked away a floor below is Two-Michelin-starred Le 1947, where chef Yannick Alléno and his team work their magic in an open kitchen.

VAL D’ISERE

Up to the challenge

Espace Killy, spanning Val d’Isère and Tignes, has some of the steepest terrain in the world, almost limitless off-piste and lift-served verticals of over 2,000m. Fifteen years ago, Val d’Isère Chalet Eagle’s Nest was unveiled as the first private ski chalet with its own indoor pool. Combined with the chalet’s position, towering over the village from a rocky perch, this created a destination with a peerless cachet. And now, the Scott Dunn flagship property, where gourmet five-course dinners by private chefs, complimentary cocktails, a team of chalet hosts and the highest-quality childcare are included, is making even more of its

lofty location. As part of a £750,000 refurbishment, a new deck was installed, with a hot tub that lets guests indulge simultaneously in mountain views and Laurent-Perrier bubbles.

Traditional Savoyard design remains at the core of the seven-bedroom chalet, but is now augmented by state-of-the-art bathrooms. The dining room’s vast picture window delivers an unparalleled prospect across the valley, while a new kitchen gives the incumbent chef carte blanche to raise the culinary bar.

To access the village from the top of the rock (down an ingenious spiral ramp), a driver is permanently on hand. Alternatively, the resort’s World Cup slope, the Face de Bellevarde is just along the road, making a fast start after breakfast quite possible. For bona fide ski in, ski out, however, the Front de Neige is the place to stay, and Le Yule, which opened late 2015, is an imposing new addition.

A vast wooden terrace slope-side is paired with a bright, stylish restaurant inside. The floor-to-ceiling window around the spa and pool afford impressive views of the face. Meanwhile, the 41 rooms and suites offer stylish boutique accommodation for skiers focused on making the most every minute.

MEGEVE

a welcome retreat

Mégève is a village with a medieval heart and its pace of life, for locals and incomers alike, reflects that. Moreover, it remains quintessentially French, and in keeping with its roots distinguishes itself by an unapologetically genteel approach. Sure, there are 450km of pistes to keep even the keenest skier happy, but there’s no pressure. Should you simply want to enjoy the surroundings – perhaps try snow polo, take to the skies in a hot-air balloon.

Few places lend themselves more to luxuriating than Le Chalet, part of Zannier Hotels. Previously a restaurant run by esteemed French chef Marc Zannier, founder and chairman of the Zannier Group. Five years later, and with Zannier’s son Arnaud at the helm, it reopened as an exclusive hotel-meets-chalet hybrid with just 12 suites and rooms, offering an intimate retreat where service is personal but not intrusive, and wellbeing is all-embracing.

Befitting its gastronomic heritage, the food at the attached La Ferme de mon Père – from the truffle risotto to the lavish Belgian waffles – does its bit to add to the experience. So too the cavernesque spa with its striking blue pool and portfolio of relaxing treatments. The accommodation is traditional and spacious with every touch – from cosy armchairs and sumptuous beds to roaring log fires – further enhancing guests’ serenity.

Thanks to a tailored ski service and driver team, getting kitted out and whisked off to the ski lift of choice requires minimal effort.

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