23 Feb Two Nights in Courchevel
You don’t have to love skiing to fall in love with Portetta Mountain Lodges. Of course, they boast all the requisite attributes of great ski accommodation, including ski-in, ski-out access to the stunning slopes of Courchevel 1650, a fully equipped boot room, a heated drive, and a roaring fire. But it’s all the other comforts and touches that make them just as irresistible to lounge lovers who appreciate the restorative delights of a luxury escape somewhere beautiful. Either way, skier or slacker (you’ll often find both represented in a family or group holiday), you won’t be disappointed.
We stayed in Chamois (named after the charming little goat-antelope that makes it home in the mountains), a slice of seven-bedroomed heaven nestled amongst the trees in the peaceful hamlet of Le Belvedere in Courchevel Moriond. Super spacious – and able to sleep up to 14 people – the lodge covers around 350 square metres, but thanks to its cosy furnishings, chamois-adorned walls and central feature chimney, it couldn’t feel more intimate and inviting.
We were welcomed into our home for the next two nights with a glass of champagne and some delicious nibbles that our lovely butler Jerome had rustled up. I have to say that they were very much appreciated and devoured with enthusiasm following our smooth two-hour transfer from Geneva airport that morning.
Much to our delight it had already started to snow and we were itching to get out on to the wooden deck and into the hot tub to take in the full winter wonderland vista that literally surrounded us. First things first though, and Laure, the lady who manages all four of the Portetta lodges with precision and aplomb, was keen to show us around and get us fitted with boots and equipment for skiing the next day.
Every one of the bedrooms has a real cosy wood-cabin feel about it with soft wool throws, crisp white sheets and plump, feather pillows. The bathrooms were large and perfectly appointed with gorgeous Bamford bath products. A feature common to all Limewood Group properties, from Pig-on-the-Beach to Portetta on the piste!
The main living area is open plan with a huge comfy corner sofa at one end and a smart well-equipped kitchen at the other. Our Alain-Ducasse trained chef was already preparing dinner and we watched in awe as he made perfect ravioli pasta parcels from scratch with the greatest of ease.
Next stop, the spa and home cinema. Yes, this place really does have it all! There’s a private treatment room for post-ski massage and a sauna to warm up the bones and get rid of any aches and pains. But by now, big, fat snowflakes were falling thick and fast and we could resist the hot tub no longer. It was magical and so worth the wait.
Dinner that evening was another magical experience, from the fresh ravioli starter to the beautiful sea bream; the melt-in-the-mouth selection of French cheeses to the wonderful chocolate dessert, all washed down with an exquisite Provencal Rose that ensured everyone slept very well that night.
We woke early to the deepest blanket of fresh powdery snow and a beautifully presented breakfast of bread, cheese, ham, fruit and yoghurt. Eggs and bacon, anyway you like them, were on offer and some of us succumbed to freshly-prepared omelette before venturing out into the biting cold and hitting the slopes.
Our extremely skilled driver drove us to the bottom of the ski lift where the experienced skiers and snowboarders amongst us headed up to 1850. That left two novices in the capable hands of Yohan, a local ski instructor and friend of Portetta who thankfully demonstrated enthusiasm and patience in equal measure. We had a great few hours out on the nursery slopes and even made time for the obligatory hot chocolate before rejoining our teammates for a visit to the highly-recommended deli in Moribond and –of course – a spot of lunch.
I started off by saying that the Portetta lodges were a great spot whether you wanted to ski or not, and the addition of an amazing indoor water park and spa called Aquamotion, just minutes from the accommodation more than supports my theory. If you fancy a day away from the slopes; if the kids want to do something different; if you need some serious pummelling and pampering; even if you want to go surfing, Aquamotion is a brilliant. It’s a great value destination in its own right that the whole family can really enjoy. And, along with the slopes, it’s right on your doorstep.
It was great to get the ski boots off and unwind in the warm, bubbling waters of the Jacuzzi before slipping into something slightly less practical for dinner. We dined as guests of Le Portetta Hotel, which is just a couple of minutes drive from the lodges. A more welcoming, warm environment you would be hard pushed to find and if you’ve been to any of the Limewood properties in the UK, such as the Pig Hotels, you’ll recognise the rustic, relaxed ambience and immediately feel at home. The food was fabulous at Cucina Angelina, the Italian restaurant run by Michelin-starred Gordon Ramsey protégé, Angela Hartnett. There’s a lovely family atmosphere in the dining room and bar, but it remains low-key and sophisticated despite children of all ages and groups of friends swapping ski stories fuelled by the local red wine.
After another extremely comfortable night’s sleep, we headed back to Geneva to catch our flight home, but not without enjoying one more very special treat. Just five minutes from the airport, located on the picturesque shores of Lake Geneva, sits La Reserve Geneve, a wonderful, luxury hotel that boasts exceptional service, a spa to die for and Switzerland’s only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant. It’s the perfect place to spend a night or two at the beginning or the end of a skiing holiday, before flying in or out of Geneva airport. Relax in the sophisticated spa and indulge in some seriously good food in fabulous surroundings while you contemplate rejoining the real world. Talk about a perfect finish.