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Ski in style at Chatel
9:00am Tuesday 1st January 2013 in Travel stories
The word ‘luxury’ is often bandied around in ski brochures, but whether the hotel or chalet it’s describing is worthy of such a label is another matter altogether.
“Take my word for it – this chalet is real luxury,” says Jimmy MacDonald, interior designer and proud co-owner of Maison Blanche et Verte, in the Alpine village of Chatel.
There’s no doubt MacDonald knows a thing or two about quality design: the 36-year-old founded Tent London, described as one of the most creative events in the design trade calendar.
On paper at least, Maison Blanche et Verte, one of his more recent projects, certainly sounds promising and enticed me to book a short stay.
The chalet is actually rather unassuming from the outside, tucked among its similarly shaped and coloured neighbours.
Granted, the setting is spectacular, looking down on the village with an uninterrupted view of the surrounding snow-topped mountains.
Blanche et Verte’s convivial staff, ready and waiting on arrival, step forward to take cumbersome luggage, skis and snowboards from travel-weary arms.
Inside, the hallway is rather ordinary, but I quickly discover it leads down to an extraordinary living space, with a roaring wood-burning fire at its centre.
A huge dining table in the corner is spectacularly framed by floor-to-ceiling windows that show off the Alps to their full glory.
There are two sitting areas on either side of the hearth, one with a massive widescreen TV. There’s also a high-end music system.
As you’d expect, the decor is chic and stylish but the interior still has a wonderful, authentic chalet feel – all exposed wood beams and panels and soft, cosy furnishing. A kitchen leads off the living space, but guests need never go there: the seemingly-omnipresent staff are always prepared to fetch a Kronenbourg, can of Coke, slice of cake or cup of coffee and, of course, there’s also an excellent chef.
Maison Blanche et Verte also features an impressive fine wine cellar, heated indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a spa room and fully equipped gym.
Indeed, as I continue to explore, I find myself gasping at the sheer – and genuine – luxury of it all.
First impressions suggest this is a hedonist’s paradise.
‘Don’t dare bring any worries of home and work through my doors’, it cries. But it’s also very family-friendly and has been thoughtfully designed to suit families, or groups of friends, travelling together.
Stairs from the lounge lead up to a mezzanine platform which serves as an ideal play area for kids, complete with its own massive TV.
On top of that, there’s also a mini cinema, fitted with proper cinema seats with popcorn holders! There’s a stock of DVDs too, so you don’t have to bring yours.
The chalet sleeps up to 12 and there are six en suite bedrooms and bunks for kids. All come with their own TV and doors leading out onto the balcony or terrace.
The biggest luxury of all, though, has to be the service and all the food and drink that’s included. Breakfast, afternoon tea and champagne and canapes are served daily. Plus, it’s an open bar, and spirits and wines are in full supply.
The chef serves up gourmet dinners and is happy to chat with guests.
Before my first meal he launches into an impromptu cooking lesson, demonstrating how to prepare the perfect apple tarte tatin.
There’s no danger here of the stodgy, carb-heavy dishes found in so many chalet kitchens. The meals are a real treat and guests gorge on Thai curries, crispy quail and Moroccan lamb – all accompanied by some splendid wines.
As impressive as Maison Blanche et Verte is, nobody chooses a ski holiday based on the accommodation alone. Thankfully, that box is ticked, too...
Chatel is part of Portes du Soleil family of ski areas, with more than 400 miles of perfectly interlinked slopes, taking in the French resorts of Morzine, Avoriaz and Les Gets and Swiss resorts of Champery, Morgins and Torgon.
Perched at around 1,000m above sea level in the Haute-Savoie region, Chatel has a more relaxed atmosphere than some of its neighbours within Portes du Soleil, such as Avoriaz, which is just a short lift-ride away over the Pte de Chesery.
Split into two sub-sectors of Super Chatel and Linga, the rest offers five exhilarating blacks, 16 rapid reds, 17 breezy blues and 11 gentle greens with a total length of 56 miles and 45 ski-lifts.
It is also scattered with cosy, picture-perfect restaurants for mountain-top lunches – such as Chez Denis or Bois Pin.
Neighbouring Avoriaz is well worth a visit, though it isn’t as pretty as Chatel, composed predominantly of high-rise apartment and hotel blocks that appear suddenly like mysterious monoliths.
But once in the thick of it, a more electric, bustling and fun character emerges.
The runs are fairly similar with five greens, 25 blues, 14 reds and six blacks – a total of 46 miles.
But while Chatel appeals to more experienced skiers, Avoriaz is more a base for young winter sports fans in their 20s and 30s.
If you want a break from the slopes, the resort offers a smattering of alternatives to pass the time.
We find time to visit an Abondance cheese farm where we meet the 30-odd cows who produce this delicious, semi-hard, fragrant cheese.
It’s difficult to stay out too long, knowing what treats await at the chalet. A private masseuse is on hand – the perfect remedy for aching bones and stretched muscles after a long day on the slopes.
You pay extra for this, but an invigorating boost is welcome before an evening of eating and drinking.
For the average skier or snowboarder, of course, the cost of Maison Blanche et Verte might be out of the question. In any case, Chatel and Portes du Soleil are packed with hundreds of more affordable options.
But if you and your friends or family decide to splash out on something extra special, Maison Blanche et Verte will not leave you disappointed.
In fact, it’ll leave you with memories which will last for decades.
Key facts – luxury skiing in Chatel
BEST FOR: All levels. Beginners through to advanced skiers as well as snowboarders will be right at home.
TIME TO GO: December to April for best conditions.
Jamie Grierson was a guest of Maison Blanche et Verte, which sleeps up to 12 in six luxury en suite rooms and costs from £1,250pp per week in winter, rising to £2,910 in peak weeks.
Includes breakfast, afternoon tea, champagne and canapes each night, gourmet dinner on six nights, house wines, open bar including spirits, wine, beer and soft drinks, transfers from Geneva airport and chauffeuring around the resort.
Travellers make their own arrangements to reach Geneva.
For reservations visit
maisonblancheetverte.com or call +44 (0)7917 660 440.