I love an alpine view and snow-topped peak, preferably from the cosy interior of a mountain top cafe where I’m holding a hot chocolate between two hands or in a chalet-chic hotel bar at the bottom of a glorious ski run. But the rest of my family do seem to have skiing in their blood, which is why I’ve asked the Hotel Guru, who really does know where to go skiing and when, for ideas. So these are the recommendations I’ll be proudly taking to my family this year:
Courchevel Moriond 1650
Courchevel 1850 has been the St. Tropez of the alps since the end of WW2, with two six-star hotels and eleven five-stars, but its exclusivity is the gain of Courchevel Moriond 1650, which is becoming more and more popular. What it has to offer is proper French alpine charm in lovely wood and stone chalets, excellent restaurants (which are more affordable than the Michelin stars at 1850) and great skiing both above and below the resort. Plus, you might not have considered it before because of the distraction of Courchevel 1850…?
Where to Stay:
If you want to ski-in and out in the Three Valleys, Le Portetta is certainly a resort to check out, with its classic ski chalet look of rustic wooden interiors in big cosy lounges with huge fireplaces. Its 38 rooms overlook either the piste or the mountains, and most have private balconies. Six loft rooms have open log fires as well as the best views, being at the top of the hotel. The restaurant, overseen by chef Angela Hartnett, is also excellent. Rooms start from €260 per night.
Practical Details: You can travel to Courchevel Moriond 1650 by train in about eight hours from London St. Pancras, or fly in to Geneva, or Lyon and take a shuttle bus, which, by the time you’ve spent more than three hours on the bus, ends up taking about the same time as the train. But of course it really depends where your starting point is.
Courchevel is high enough to have fairly regular snow, even early and later in the season, and because many of the slopes are north facing, they tend to keep the snow, with the help of snow machines, once it’s there. So during February and March you can expect sunshine and snow, with the lifts staying open longer because of the longer days, and a few spring snow dumps to keep the north facing pistes topped up with deep snow. If you’re thinking about next season already then you can usually start booking in from two thirds of the way through December, fingers crossed.
Morzine has all the traditional trimmings of a French alpine town, just a short dash from Geneva airport. And it’s got a fantastic range of runs, with plenty of opportunities for beginners and intermediate skiers, and around 70kms of cross country ski routes.
Where to Stay:
La Ferme du Lac Vert is a carefully renovated chalet just behind the church in a pretty, traditional village just outside Morzine, the interiors are wonderfully cosy, and quite traditionally woody, and so are the views. There are 12 bedrooms, with an eclectic mix of original features, antiques and contemporary art and colour, and a separate three bedroom chalet which is ideal for families. Return from the slopes and you’ll be greeted with delicious afternoon tea, followed by drinks, canapés and four-course dinners prepared by AA Rosette standard chefs. And they have outdoor hot tubs. Rooms start from around €266 per night.
Practical Details: Like Courchevel, if you’re travelling to Morzine and your starting point is close to London, the easiest route might just be by train, which takes about nine hours. It looks like it would take about six hours to fly to Geneva and catch the bus from the airport, but the bus from the airport takes an hour and a half and only leaves five times a day so it could end up taking longer while you wait for a bus…
Morzine is really charming around Christmas, but if you’re serious about skiing then you’re better off holding off until January at least. February is a really popular time, but that’s probably partly due to school holidays. By March the days are longer and sunnier, but by the end of March and into April (most years) things are getting slushy, which can be fun, but it’s not so serious.
With views of both the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, Verbier has a reputation for being all things to all people: ritzy, gorgeous and high end, with vibrant après ski, but with hostels to support those who really, really love this beautiful spot with its fantastic skiing conditions too. It’s open for most of the year, and its highest slopes wear snow for most of it too.
Where to Stay:
The Hotel Montpelier is a traditional, 49 room chalet hotel right on the slopes. As well as the fantastic location, with its wonderful views, and the fact that all the rooms and suites have private balconies or terraces with the same view, this hotel has a great pool and spa, and a cosy yet lively, and reasonably priced bar and restaurant. It’s great for families too. Rooms start from around €210 per night.
Practical Details: There’s more of a difference between the time it takes to travel to Verbier by train and by plane, with the train running at about ten and a half hours from London St. Pancras, which is about the same as the time it would take to drive from London. If you fly you’re aiming for Geneva, from where you can catch an hourly train which takes just over two hours to reach Verbier, and all up this takes about seven and a half hours, depending on which airport you’re leaving from.
Verbier’s highest slopes are over 3000 metres, so the top slopes are pretty reliably snowy in the early and late season, but lower down many of the slopes are south or west facing, so the cover is usually pretty good, but the quality is variable when it comes to later in the season.
Jackson Hole is a vast valley at the foot of the Tetons. It’s a well known ski resort, an adventure sports playground, an outpost of the old west, and very close to both the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. If you want the full American skiing experience then Jackson Hole is for you.
Where to Stay:
The Teton Mountain Lodge is right by the slopes in the heart of Teton Village, with incredible views and a cosy, rustic alpine-style throughout. The lodge has 145 rooms and suites, some family sized. All the suites have their own open fireplaces as well as cosy living space, so this is an ideal base for an extended trip. Plus there’s a fantastic hot tub on the roof terrace. Rooms start from around $339 per night.
Practical Details: To get to Jackson Hole from the UK you’ve a choice of US airports to head for, including Moab, Grand Junction and Montrose. Moab is closest, but it’s still about an hours drive from the resort. So you’re looking at about a day’s worth of traveling.
January and February are the best months to ski Jackson Hole, but December is when the region gets the most snowfall, and there’s still regular snowfall into April, so the ski season is long here, especially at the higher altitudes.
Telluride is an old mining town separated from the rest of the world by the incredible peaks which surround it. And it’s just really, really spectacularly beautiful. The fact that it’s not that easy to get to really goes in your favour if you’re travelling here from the UK, because it’s just too far for most folk to come down for the weekend, so there are whole swathes of great skiing where you’ll have no wait time at all for the lifts. Imagine!
Where to Stay:
Dunton Town House is a chic, five room home from home in a fantastic spot close to Telluride’s slopes. Rooms are cosy, and individually decorated, as if they’re part of an elegant family home belonging to parents of friends and rates start from $475 per night.
Practical Details: The travel time to Telluride is similar to Jackson Hole, though more convenient because it has its own airport. There are also shuttle services from the airports at Montrose, Durango, Gunnison and Cortez.
Telluride’s high altitude and north facing slopes mean that the snow here lasts well into March, in fact March is often when the snow conditions are at their best. If you’re looking for the smallest crowds the best time is mid-to-late January, when it’s too difficult for people to get to for just a weekend.
One of the most important things to get right when you hit the slopes is to ensure you have well fitting, comfortable ski boots. Check out this advice on ski boots for beginners here.
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