“Superlative. Can't fault anything from the minute I arrived to the minute I left. The food is outstanding and it's like being in a Michelin-starred restaurant every night. All the staff are delightful and go out of their way for you.”
Boutique chic meets traditional Savoyard home
Low season: £845pp; Mid: £1,285pp; Peak: £2,399pp
St Martin de Belleville, Trois Vallées
Sleeps: 8 – 10
Chalet Abode has to be one of my favourites. It is tucked away in a tiny hamlet just outside St Martin de Belleville where they still smoke hams and make their own cheese, so you get a feeling of genuine Savoyard mountain charm – while still being fully linked into the mighty Trois Vallées ski area.
The ski chalet itself is a gorgeously, stylishly converted old farmer’s house that combines the ancient with cutting edge contemporary. Think bare stone original walls and slinky modern lighting; wooden timbers and glass coffee tables. The bedooms are really well-sized too, with big en suite bathrooms, and the whole of the top floor is the living area with socking great views and fabulous interior design.
Abode is privately owned and run by an English couple who are always hands-on and who pride themselves on their attention to detail and level of service. The food, too, is a particular draw here; just excellent, genuinely high-standard cuisine prepared by restaurant-trained chefs. A delight.
Savoyard farm house gone chic. Ancient meets super-slick modern. A feast of old wooden beams, exposed stone and wall to wall windows combined with ultra modern, contemporary fittings.
The original timber roof and some stone walls are there, next to a super contemporary fire place and modern designer sofas in muted tones with lots of cow skin rugs. Sliding doors lead onto a balcony with wooden steamer chairs covered with wolf fur throws. From here you have quite stunning views all the way up the Belleville valley to Val Thorens and the Cime de Caron at a whopping 3,200m.
Just to add further to this luxury ski chalet’s charm and authenticity, the vaulted basement is where the farmer used to keep his cheese, hams and vegetables, but it is now the boot room with heated boot warmers, as well as the TV room and play room for children.
There are four en-suite rooms, with genuinely dreamy beds, good deep baths in the bathrooms and cool, designer fixtures and fittings.
The best room is room 1, which is the family suite with an extra, separate, cute bunk room, but it can also be booked as a king-sized room (but only outside of peak weeks). It is a lovely light room with a balcony that has views of the old chapel and mountains. The original 100-year-old wooden floorboards have been used to line one of the walls, making the room really cosy and warm, but there are useful modern additions like wall-mounted bendy hotel reading lights, designer furniture by La Fibule and super-comfy Hypnos beds.
All the rooms in this luxury ski chalet are also done out in infinitely tasteful Kelly Hoppen-inspired taupes and neutrals, with colour splashes such as rusty orange cushions and fur throws. There has been such attention to detail here, too; there are UK plug sockets above the chest of drawers so guests can easily recharge their mobiles without bending down.
Unlike in so many chalet bedrooms, there are also big mirrors fitted in the wardrobes so you can see just how good you look in your Gucci ski clobber. All the bathrooms are designer and en-suite and have a window too, so they feel light and spacious, while the lotions and potions come from Molton Brown.
The food and drink at Chalet Abode is really impressive. Every night I stayed the meals were a fabulous combination of excellently prepared dishes and top notch presentation, and the cheese boards were gourmand feasts which, I warn you, guests simply have to save room for. Ditto the desserts – the chef specializes in dreamy, chocolatey, you-name-it fabulous confections that rendered my group virtually speechless each night.
This fully catered ski chalet serves six pairs of wines to complement the delicious cuisine. All are selected by Roch Braillon, the owner of Le Verre Gourmand, a small but excellent wine company based in the French Alps.
There are no spa facilities at the chalet, but guests can use the excellent facilities of the nearby La Bouitte mountain spa. Try the hay bath, it’s an extraordinary experience – melts away aches and pains, if you can bear the itchiness.
Kids have a fab bunk bed room in which to hang out, fully fitted with its own TV and DVD player. But children are generally very welcome at Abode. The staff can take them to the slopes in the morning, serve them separate tea in the evening, and arrange English nannies, ski lessons and babysitters. For children aged 2½-6 years, the Club des Piou Piou in St Martin also offers a range of full and half day courses introducing toddlers to skiing.
The spectacular panoramic snowy mountain views from the roof-top living room. You just cannot tire of them. Also, the totally tranquil, peaceful location, and the fact that Abode is run by a boutique company so the owners are always around and hands-on.
The lack of spa, but La Bouitte is such a treat that it is almost not worth worrying about.
This St Martin de Belleville chalet is situated in a properly mountain village location in the genuinely timeless Savoyard hamlet of Villarabout, just 800m from St Martin itself. It is four minutes from the vast expanse of skiing that is the Trois Vallées, accessed via the St Martin lift. There is a taste of real France here, not the could-be-anywhere sense that pervades the more usual purpose-built French resorts. Villagers still smoke hams in the smoke house, collect water from the village pump and keep chickens and goats.
St Martin de Belleville is at the beginning of the Val Thorens/Les Menuires valley in the Trois Vallées. Best to catch a flight to Chambéry if possible, or else Geneva, from where it is a two hour drive. Chalet Abode doesn’t offer transfers but uses Trois Vallées specialist, Mountain Express, for all airport and train station transfers straight to the chalet. They will organise this on booking – cost is extra. The nearest train station is Moutiers, and pick-ups can be arranged from there too.