Paul Malik and his girlfriend enjoy a week skiing in the French Alps
Our trip had started somewhat ominously – when, touching down at Geneva Airport – we were greeted by a headline on the front page of an imported British broadsheet shrieking wildly about the lack of snow in the vast skiing area known as Port de Soleil.
Standing at the door of our traditional wooden chalet, cranking our necks wildly in search of an inch of ground not covered in a layer of powder, we wondered whether the London-based papers might have made a mistake. There was snow. And plenty of it.
Nestled at the foot of the spanking-new express cable car, the Chilly Powder chalet is ideally located in the hamlet of Prodain to the north of the popular tourist town of Morzine.
A beautiful, exceptionally designed blend of old and new, the chalet hugs tight its surroundings, offering both breath-taking views of stunning French Alps and quick access via a well-maintained road to the ski lifts.
Owners Francesca and Paul, who have run their business in Morzine for over 20 years, pride themselves on the relaxed, family orientated atmosphere which pours from the walls, bricks, and wooden beams of their beautiful accommodation.
We visited Chilly Powder as a young couple with no children, and felt as welcome as a family of six. Children at the chalet are at the same time both there and invisible – a grand, nanny-run children’s area located securely at the front of the building providing more than enough entertainment for kids ranging from 6 months to 12 years-old.
On our first morning, having had our fill of continental breakfast, coffee and French toast, we were met by a representative of the ski-hire store, who had lugged a set of skis and boots from his shop to our resort.
As I’m sure anyone who has spent hours queuing in overwarm, crowded ski-rooms in resorts across Europe will attest, this is a service which cannot be over complimented. Before leaving for France we had provided the various details needed by the hire company – Doorstep Skis – and within 10 minutes of his appearance at the chalet door we were ready-to-go, suited and booted and fluster-free. Having grown up witnessing tantrums and rattle throwing in various hire shops (and that’s just by the adults) this service was a particular highlight in a holiday full of them.
Port de Soleil is an expansive skiing area straddling the border between France and Switzerland, and includes popular French resorts Morzine, Avoriaz and Les Gets. Our location, based at the foot of Avoriaz, offered a choice mix of treeline and relatively high altitude skiing. When you are choosing to ski in the region, you have the choice of a pass which will keep you close to your resort, or the full Port de Soleil area. A six day pass for the Morzine-Les Gets area will cost 162 euros for an adult. A six day pass for the whole of the Port de Soleil area costs 230 euros. Complete beginners would get away with buying the cheaper pass, but to really benefit from the seemingly endless skiing on offer, the slightly more expensive full-area lift pass is highly recommended.
A personal favourite was the run on the cusp of the Swiss-Franco border, after taking the Chavanette chairlift to a height of 2,250 metres. From there, an ambling traverse across a beautiful wide blue run – or a detour through a moghul-field for the more experienced skiers – offering spectacular views down the Avoriaz valley to the south, and a glimpse of the majestic Mont Blanc to the west, almost superimposed in the distance. As Europe’s largest mountain, Mont Blanc’s awesome silhouette forever broods over the French Alps, ever watching, reminding you of its grandeur and splendour, daring you to look it directly in the eyes.
Once you have finished your staring competition with the white mountain, and all of the other, closer mountains of equal spectacle, the descending run suddenly becomes lined with trees, offering knee-deep detours through the branches. After what seems like an eternity, you reach the bottom of three chairlifts at Brochaux, where you can stay and enjoy a French/Swiss Alpine lunch, or take the chair back in to Avoriaz.
The restaurants, a mere 10 metres from each other, offer different variations on mountain food, and are reasonably priced for shops located up the mountains. A pannini, soup and a bottle of skiers favourite Rivella (a soft-drink derived from milk extract – me neither) will set you back about 11 euros. There are other drinks available, like a vin chaud (mulled wine) or Edelweiss (wheat beer), but with such wonderful views and plenty of skiing to be had, you will want to save yourself until the last lift has taken you safely down the mountain.
Another run of note is the well-loved “home run”, which takes you from the Avoriaz resort to the back door of the Chilly Powder chalet. The Crot run is littered with hide-away cabins and chalets, each as welcoming as the last and offering a wide range of apres aperitifs and beers.
The run also served as our late-night toboggan course, which involved speeding down from the top of the Prodain gondola back to the chalet under cover of darkness. Protected only by a crash helmet and steered with nothing more than your feet, sledging on a ski-run through the trees lead by a suitably French mountain guide named Herve’ is an exhilarating experience. Myself and another journalist, Ramsay, rather haplessly followed Herve’ down the mountain, laughing with an odd mixture of fear and adrenaline. Having managed to come off my sled after an over enthusiastic shush, Harve’ was required to trundle off into the woods where my toboggan had run off to on its own accord. With a smile, we were back on our way, and before we had time to realise, we were back at Chilly Powder enjoying the snug-bar and the seemingly endless amounts of pre-dinner cakes.
Each night, having dipped in the hot tub and sampled the bar, a three-course dinner cooked by experienced chefs is served. As well as enjoying succulent cuts of lamb and pan-fried quail, a raft of French wine was uncorked at the table, carefully chosen by the chefs and owners and poured with abandon by the friendliest of staff.
When you are choosing a chalet, one of the key things to ask is whether you can ski to the door. If you can’t, you might as well stay in a hotel. A chalet is supposed to immerse you in the mountain experience, and part of that should be channeling your dormant mountaineer – who, after a long days ski – wants nothing more than to settle down in an open-air hot tub surrounded by snow being brought cold beers and glasses of prosecco. Chilly Powder offers all of this and then some. A relaxed, welcoming, friendly, wonderfully run and beautifully located Alpine retreat which offers something entirely unique and at the same time wholly recognisable.
Paul and Louise stayed at Chilly Powder’s Au Coin du Feu chalet, which starts at 625 euros per person off season, for breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner.
Bookings can be made through chillypowder.com, and the company provide a smart phone app updating you off snow conditions, piste maps and a location tracker so you can measure how far and fast you have skied per day.
They flew with easyjet from Glasgow to Geneva, £91 per person one way.
Transfers were organised by Chilly Powder.
Ski Hire was provided by doorstepskis.com with expert performance skis and boot hire available from 130 euros.
Night time tobogganing can be booked via alpiraquettes.com with prices starting from 25 euros per person and includes toboggan hire, crash helmet and head torch.