LUSSO Lowdown: The Alps
With four different ski areas, there’s plenty of choice in Chamonix for both gnarly off-pisters and beginners getting the swing of the slopes. If you want a challenge, book a glacier guide and ski the famous ‘Vallee Blanche’ sea of ice. Or, to see Mont Blanc from a safer distance, book a CMBH helicopter tour. Chalet Amazon Creek, in a private enclave in Les Bossons, is great for groups: it has five en-suite bedrooms, a cinema, steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi, as well as Land Rovers to ferry guests to and from the slopes and apres ski. Hearty mountain food is served on a long dining table in the open plan living area, but if you feel like venturing out, try the following: La Cabane des Praz for an al fresco lunch below Mont Blanc; l’Impossible for food in Chamonix town centre; Restaurant Le Remise in Argentiere; and Auberge du Bois Prin for traditional food with full views of the valley.
“Ahhh it is for lovers!” said a French lady with a nod of approval when I told her I was staying at La Petite Marmotte. This ski-in converted hay barn in Belvedere (dubbed the Notting Hill of Courchevel) is a rustic but luxurious antidote to the glitz of 1850. Just one up one down, it is the smallest lodge in Courchevel and is a honeymooners heaven. Apart from excellent skiing, Courchevel is known for its food. If you have the stamina, try the following Michelin Star marathon: stop for lunch on the slopes at Kilimandjaro or Cheval Blanc’s Le 1947; book a table at the 25-year-old Le Chabichou for dinner; ski down to Le Praz at 1300 for deep-fried foie gras at L’Azimut; if you like black truffles don’t miss dinner at Le Strato; and finally Pierre Gagnaire pour les Airelles is a perfect last-night treat (Gagnaire is also Head Chef of Sketch in London).
After six years of planning and a construction period of two summers, the Monte Rosa Hut is one of the newest additions to Zermatt, Europe’s largest and highest summer skiing area. Said to be the “mountain hut of the future”, the Monte Rosa was designed to generate up to 90% of its energy needs. It does this mainly through solar power, hence the futuristic and angular glass-based exterior. Sleeping 120 people, the Monte Rosa has views of Italy and Switzerland, and sits next to the famous Matterhorn Mountain. Summer skiing means glacier skiing, and Zermatt has 25km of pistes and eight ski lifts that remain open over the summer. Europe’s highest lift-serviced summit, the 3885m Klein Matterhorn, makes this Swiss resort the crème de la crème for summer skiing.
Verbier is full of hardcore skiers and snowboarders who wear baggy salopettes and helmets, and carry ropes, ice picks and limbs in plaster casts. To see it in its element, go for the Xtreme Verbier Freeride World Tour when you can watch the world’s best freeriders throw themselves off the 600m Bec de Rosses face. Stay at Chalet Bella Coola which sleeps ten, and has an enormous indoor pool with massage jets and a sauna to ease your aching muscles. Centrally located, with an open-plan kitchen and living area, antique furniture and a large open fire, Bella Coola is the perfect chalet for entertaining.