The Alpine Club indulges you in five-star cosseting. Let’s set the scene. I’ve just had a flight and a transfer, and arrive a little weary to the chalet that is to be our base for the next few days. My chalet experience so far has been of fun, basic places that you booked with friends. Not somewhere to dwell for too long, but adequate to meet your needs during your time in the mountains.
But this was to change. I was about to get an education in the art of fine chalet living and to feel that the fellow guests, hosts and chalet team that I met became friends.
Chalet owner Helen greeted my pal Kate and I personally and ensured we were happy with our rooms. We each had double ensuites with every convenience, from super-comfy beds to deep baths (always sought after on ski trips), under-floor heating …and English plugs. So, what was not to like?
I should at this point explain we are in France, in the Three Valleys, but had kept away from the bigger purpose-built resorts to try some time in Saint Martin de Belleville.
Helen and her architect husband, Chris, took the plunge and started The Alpine Club in 2004, buying their first chalet, Abode, in 2009.
Two further period conversions followed, with Chamois Lodge opening in December 2012 and The Ecurie in December 2015.
The couple initially spent six months living in France, and six months in England, but have been living year-round in the small hamlet, Villarabout, for the past seven years, where they are very much a part of the local community. The three chalets are also in the hamlet.
It was lovely to spend time with people who had uprooted everything to follow their dream, yet had clearly considered the impact their plans were to have on those around them who were born in these mountains.
Each chalet offers attentive service and exceptional food and wine, managed by friendly, professional team that includes a manager; fine dining chef, host and chauffeur. Our team included our chef and host, Dan and Abi, chauffeurs, Will, Joe and Kaleigh and resort manager Kate.
But let’s get back to the beginning. Once our check-in had been sorted (which was simply Helen popping our bags into our rooms) it was upstairs to enjoy the incredible view from our chalet, Abode, which has a wall-to-wall lounge window.
We discussed our ski plans over a glass of fine wine, and cast our eyes over our opulent accommodation. Abode is a 100-year-old Savoyard farmhouse, restored to fine 21st century standards, yet retaining its original charm. Old beams marry well with modern lighting, while contemporary furnishing fit well against the original stonewalls.
I’d already heartened to the fact we would return each night to a crackling fire, but hadn’t fully taken on board the quality and service of food we would be indulged with.
Try this for a menu – canapes to dine in on with mushroom cappuccino, tarragon oil and truffle foam; black olive and goats cheese beignets. An asian duck salad for your entree, then a main course of pan fried sea bass, pommel puree, brown shrimp, samphire and roast chicken butter. Follow this with salopette popping pudding – Medjool date sponge, salted caramel, popcorn, milk ice cream and then petit fours of Gees bees honey madeleine. So awesome!
It was just as well that the Three Valleys is the world’s largest ski area, as we needed to keep the mileage up to enjoy what was waiting for us each night on the menu.
St Martin de Belleville proved a great base, as it’s open from December to April, and has all the laid-back qualities of village life, linked to the high-altitude ski area (1,400-3,400m) that makes up the Three Valleys.
The Three Valleys ski guarantee also ensures you get the largest number of open connected pistes in Europe for the whole season, which is another reason this place is a good option.
The chalet, is a five minute drive from the ski lift, but that was fine as our chauffeurs arrived each morning to take us to the slopes, and indulged us incredibly by putting out our ski boots and placing our skis in the Rover ready for transfer.
It was all part of the service, but felt very indulged for two girls who usually haul their own skis to the lift, and also made it very easy to sort things such as ski passes.
Sole occupancy for up to 10 guests for the peak holiday weeks – Half term – £22,495; Easter 26th March & 2nd April (still available) £14,495
Adult only shared chalets are offered on peak weeks. Guaranteed no children.
Example prices and availability for this year: 19th March – £1,295pp
Sole occupancy for up to nine guests for the peak holiday weeks – Half term – £19,995; Easter 2nd April (still available) £13,475pp.
This chalet is not sold by the room.
Sole occupancy for up to eight guests for the peak holiday weeks – Half term – £19,995 Easter 26th March & 2nd April (still available) £13,475pp.
This chalet is sometimes sold by the room if Chalet Abode is fully booked. Example adult only shared chalets weeks. Guaranteed no children.
5th March – £1,295pp.