Pampering on the piste: This luxury chalet will have you skiing in style in the French Alps
In the French Alps, Stella Forte discovers a ski holiday with a difference at luxury chalet La Ferme Du Lac Vert
Every ski lover knows the struggle of lugging your gear from boot room to first lift. Of figuring out the shuttle bus while daunted by a vast piste map. Of having no idea what the runs will be like until you click on your skis and start to slide.
But then you slide! The breeze begins to whizz past your ears. You glide along the snow and all that hassle melts away.
So what if you didn't have to deal with that hassle in the first place? Imagine having your skis put straight into a chauffeured vehicle after you've been fitted in the hire shop. Imagine being picked up outside the boot room and having your own concierge decide where to start the day. Imagine not even lifting your skis until you arrive at that first lift.
At luxury ski chalet La Ferme Du Lac Vert, imagination is reality.
You can thank Lucy and Rob Mundell for that. The couple's destiny was made after they won a ski holiday competition to Morzine, in France. Never having skied before, they fell in love with the Alpine lifestyle and packed up their life in England to head for the village of Montriond. There, they took on the mammoth challenge of converting a rundown 19th-century farmhouse into a luxurious boutique chalet.
Salvaged items from the original farmhouse and quirky objects d'art in every corner beautifully showcase what was clearly a labour of love. With eight, individually designed en-suite rooms, faux fur, paintings of deers and chandeliers, the surroundings are opulent while retaining a cosy chalet feel.
'The Apartment' is a space with three bedrooms in the lower level, with a shared kitchen and common area ideal for families and for those planning to self-cater. A new addition, Petit Ferme, is a three-bedroom mazot chalet which sits beside the main house like a little sister. It's equally stylish, catering for up to six people. Alongside his team of proactive staff, manager Tadhg Ryan from Tipperary runs a tight ship ensuring guests' needs are catered for with a side of Irish charm.
On the slopes
Nicolai Evquoz, our dedicated ski concierge, acts as our personal piste map. A quick ski with the charming 'Swiss Nic', as he is called, along with Morzine's Ecole du Ski Français manager Jean Marc, sorts the skill level of our group and sets the course for the days ahead. Some of us are pre-booked into the Easy2Ride ski school (morzineski.fr/en/); the rest are intermediates here for a more relaxed short break, so we head for soft-pace blues and more forgiving reds.
Montriond is quieter than bustling Morzine, but well-placed with access to the French Alps region of Les Portes du Soleil. This extensive ski area crosses the border into Switzerland, providing skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels a seemingly endless choice of runs and off-piste powder. The option to get a ski pass covering only the French areas, Avoriaz, Morzine and Les Gets would be sufficient for beginners or intermediates - but expect busier slopes and lift queues.
Over the border, the Swiss areas of Les Crosets and Champéry are quieter, with wide reaching runs and plenty of off-piste for the more adventurous. Most notable is Le Pas de Chavanette, or 'The Swiss Wall' - a 1km long mogul field sweeping down into Les Crosets. Luckily for us, it can be admired from the safety of the chairlift, which offers stunning views and, on a clear day, the peak of the Matterhorn peers over the distinctive Dentes Du Midi. Sparing us the trauma of 'The Wall', Nic and Jean Marc decide to test our groups' adventurous side with a naturally formed half pipe in Les Crosets. Nerves start to settle once I realise that gravity will only allow me go so far, stopping me before swooping back into the gulley.
This lower-lying region of the Alps has its advantages, as we discover when wind speeds pick up. This is an opportune time to head to the eastern side of the region, covering Morzine and Les Gets, where tree-lined slopes provide the shelter to keep lifts open. Previous seasons haven't been great for snowfall, but early 2018 saw creamy conditions all the way to the bottom.
Unwind and Dine
Don't expect to shed pounds on the slopes. Staying half-board at La Ferme, we're offered an extensive choice of hot breakfast and evening cocktails before delectable four-course dinners lovingly made by on-site chefs.
Out on the slopes themselves, we break with a hot chocolate, locally made cheese and cold meats at Alpage Lapisa restaurant in Champéry with a shot of Gentian to finish - all before lunch! After a few more runs, we head to Le Chaudron Restaurant to warm up with a pot of veggie broth, served with the obligatory side of cheese, making for heavy legs on the run down.
Foodies may also like a pitstop in La Paika Restaurant in Les Gets, or lunch in Le Vaffieu, where you can sample the local Parmentier (think a duck version of Shepherd's Pie) to warm up from the inside out.
Back at La Ferme, there's another Irish connection in massage and beauty therapist Kerri McAuley (kerrimcauley.fr) from Tyrone. Kerri can be booked to the chalet to provide much needed pampering.
Oh, and did I mention the outdoor hot tub?
Sitting back in some hot bubbles with an intercom to order drinks while looking up at Nantaux Mountain, ski troubles (and struggles) seem far away.
How to do it:
Stella travelled as a guest of Skizeen, Vallee D'aulps, Montriond Office de Tourisme and Aer Lingus, which flies from Dublin to Geneva from €49.99 each-way. Visit aerlingus.com.
With early morning flights to Geneva and at just an hour and a half's transfer (skiidygonzales.com) to the Portes Du Soleil, you could be on the slopes by afternoon - making a short break feasible.
Ski hire: ardent-sports.com
Ski pass: Vallee D'Aulps Tourism (en.valleedaulps.com/tourist-office)
Apres Ski: Sample a locally brewed Ibex IPA or warm up with a vin chaud.
Visit: Montriond: Marmotte Bar. Morzine: Tremplin Bar. Ardent: Happy Hours Bar
Where to stay
Two people sharing half-board (breakfast, afternoon tea, pre-dinner cocktails and 4-course dinner with wine) from €1,095pp for seven nights, €675pp for four nights (Sun-Thurs) and €715pp for three (Thurs-Sun). Short breaks from €595pp available on occasion. NB: Wednesday is the chef's day off, with limited catering.
See lafermedulacvert.com for more.
Thinking of a summer Alpine break? Morzine takes on a whole different scene in the summer with trekking and mountain biking trails. Summer weddings are catered for at La Ferme with ceremonies possible on-site, outdoors lakeside or at the local Baroque village church. See: lafermedulacvert.com/weddings
Read more:On the Piste: Six ski tips (and six of the best deals) for the 2018/19 season