Longer days, more chance of sunshine against blue skies and less crowded slopes or ski lift waiting lines. That’s what I like about Spring season skiing and it gets even better when ski pants and a merino sweater are ski wear du jour.
A little throwback to last year, end of March, when I spend a luxury week in the Savoie Mont Blanc region in the French Alps. About one hour drive from Geneva airport.
Three days in elegant Mégève and three days in sporty Chamonix. This ski break revolves around the majestic Mont Blanc which I admired from many angles and even from up close.
The ski lifts are open untill the first of May. No fresh snow around this time, I hear you say? Check the weather forecast …
Local hideaway Le Refuge, lunch time!
Make sure to arrive around lunch time so Le Refuge can be the first stop. This small mountain bistro just outside (or above) the village of Mégève is located in the middle of nowhere. Charming – cosy with old wood, Savoie pottery and linen – and a longtime favourite of locals and visitors alike. Follow the road and pass 3* Michelin Le Flocon de Sel, also a potential first stop but I didn’t tried that one.
Le Refuge is about traditional cuisine with chef’s specials and Savoie specialties. About good cooking with fresh, local ingredients. My vegetarian tartelette is living proof: simply delicious.
The outside terrace is full of people enjoying sun, food and snowy view. And if the sun gets to hot, hats are at your disposal!
Order tea and you’ll get some nice crisp cookies and chocolates on the side. Just saying.
Hotel Les Fermes de Marie, Mégève
Into the woods, the keyword here definitely is wood. Nine former farmhouses – some from the mountains, torn down and built up again! – form a small, intimate hotel village that yet feels open at the same time. The inhabitants – read hotel guests – walk in and out and do their thing without bothering others. You can sit or do where or what you want. I really like the warm and cosy atmosphere.
This 5 * luxury boutique hotel is the first by interior designer Jocelcyn Sibuet. Born and raised in Mégève and now co-owner of the Sibuet Hotel group.
I stayed in Chalet no. 5 with village roofs and mountain view. Nothing beats sleeping with the windows open and breathing in fresh mountain air.
Edelweiss at the Pure Altitude Spa
The current trend of small luxury hotels having their own plant-based spa brand, might have started in the early ’90’s at Les Fermes de Marie. One of the first boutique hotels with a spa, called ‘beauty farm’ in those days.
Jocelyn first developed her plant-based Pure Altitude brand before she started in the hotel business. When I asked her about her favourite product, ALP-CELLS Repair is her immediate answer. Based on both Edelweiss- and Alpin Rose stem cells and snow algae, this covers all an aging skin needs. Mountains best!
Among the amenities in the room you’ll also find different samples of the skin care products to try.
The village of Mégève
Elegant Mégève caters all shopping needs whether you’re looking for a French traditional woollen blanket or the latest Hermès bag.
This picturesque and friendly town – made fashionable by the Rothschild family in the 1920’s – simply asks for a daily stroll through the rustic, chic streets. No loud afer-ski-music, quèlle horreur, but the sound of tinkling horse sleigh bells fills the air.
Let’s ski in Mégève!
I know, it’s always a bit of a hassle before you can actually start your first descent. Rent equipment (next to Chamonix Cable Car at Ski Concept), buy a ski-pass and carry your stuff while walking on bunky boots before entering the gondola.
But then! All this is immediately forgotten and so worth the effort when the white slopes unfold against blue skies including the majestic Mont Blanc for a sky line.
This morning I discover the Mégève slopes with Frank of Evolution 2 Guides. Now we’re talking luxury: no maps, no plans just follow the leader! Local knowledge also leads to a great spot for outside lunch at Restaurant Super Mégeve, also accessible by gondola if you don’t ski.
Hotel Mont Blanc in Chamonix
Moving day… About a half hour of Mégève. literally at the foot of the most famous European mountain massif, lies the sporty village of Chamonix. Host of the first winter Olympics in 1924 ànd home of legendary hotel Mont Blanc.
This luxury symbol of the valley dates back to 1849 and has seen many cosmopolitan clientele coming from all over the world. To do the same thing I do, stare at the highest peak of Europe, the Mont Blanc and enjoy the French good life. Joy de vivre.
From my corner jr. suite, I have a clear peek at the white peak from my bed, balcony and even from my private in-room steam cabin. The latter is an absolute luxury after a day on the slopes. As is the outside pool of 28° C, all year round.
Dinner at Le Matafan
The restaurant of Hotel Mont Blanc, Le Matafan, is a well-known venue in Chamonix. Blame it on Michelin * star chef Mickey Bourdillat who cooks too good! This modern style restaurant is not too formal which is nice, you don’t have to change into black tie after a sporty day.
“At Le Matafan, I offer a cuisine that goes back to basics, both delicate and tasty, inspired on local alpine valley gastronomy”
The concept is simple with fixed prices for starter, main and dessert and discounted if you opt for a combination. Make sure to add the tuna tartar with young Spring vegetables and wasabi sorbet.
Historical Chamonix was the centre of mountaineering long before it became the mundane ski resort it is today. Chanel boutique included.
Don’t forget to look up during your daily walk through this Belle Epoque town with its beautiful facades. The traffic-free centre offers a variety of local shops and restaurants. Like Chalet 4810, a salon de thé with famous Mont Blanc shaped chocolates and an huge collection of (semi) – precious stones for sale.
For dinner outside the hotel I can recommend Le Comptoir Nordique, formerly know as Le Bistrot and founded by Mickey Bourdillat. Where Scandinavia meets France.
Let’s ski in Chamonix!
Hotel Mont Blanc has a ski storage room at the back with lockers and also provides for a complimentary shuttle to the slopes. My equipment is rented by Sanglard who delivered it to the hotel.
There are two ski areas, Brevent, and the Aiguille du Midi which is only for off-piste descents. With a total of 163 km of slopes, to throw in some numbers, this is a huge ski area for any level of skier. Brevent it is, with intermediates pistes just above pine forests. From this side you have again spectacular views of the Mount Blanc massif.
Today I ski behind my guide Frederic, and now I am really spoiled for life. From one spectacular piste to another without knowing where I am or where I go, reflects a feeling of total freedom.
L’ Aiguille du Midi and The Void
A must do in Chamonix is visit the Aiguille du Midi station at 3842 m altitude. Not for those with fear of height… Europe’s highest cable car takes you up to this station with access to several panoramic terraces and a Mont Blanc museum. Also on this side is one of the largest glaciers of Europe, very popular amongst off-piste skiers. The slopes look incredible en tempting but only accessible after a long walk along a steep path with skies on your shoulder. I think I would opt for a heli drop off.
From this platform you can overlook the high peaks of France, Italy and Switzerland. To add even more to the thrill do step out on The Void. Three glass walls, glass floor and glass ceiling, a kind of cube that hangs outside the building, guarantees a spectacular experience with 1000 meters of free air directly under your feet. Scary but exciting!
Both Chamonix and Mégève honor the well-being of their sportiveguests on many luxury levels, but most luxury can be found in the infinite panoramic mountain views. The power of a magical alpine setting.
One thing I forgot to mention, still covered in snow but both villages are blessed with an 18 hotel golf course. Enough reason for me to return in Summer season!
My stay at both Chamonix and Mégeve was by invitation of the Savoie Mont Blanc region. I only accept invites that answer positive to the question: “does it match my lifestyle, would I recommend this to a friend?”.
I will not promote anything that I would not wear, eat, sleep or see myself. Authenticity is very important to me. Words, photos and opinions are my own.