"The longest run in Europe and the best chef in Europe. What more could you want? Well, a helicopter, great guiding, a wonderful chalet and lovely people. Did I forget anything? No – and neither did you.”
Chocolate-box ski chalet with knock-out views in charming resort
Low season: from €11,580 whole chalet; Mid: from €13,900; Peak: from €18,850
Chalet Merlo was one of the very first ski chalets I stayed in and I still love it. It is traditional in style and wooden everywhere, with a superb living area that has some of the best views in the Alps from its giant picture windows.
There are great facilties too; a separate sauna, a hot tub in the garden and a little mazot for spa treatments, plus a huge, extremely well-appointed gym. The bedrooms are all lovely, and the chef is brilliant.
The chalet is about 10 minutes from the resort of Ste Foy and transport is laid on. Not surprisingly, it is one of my most popular chalets and is really competitively priced.
The chalet is very much traditional Savoyard farmhouse in style, all wooden-beamed and with the genuine old slate tile ‘loze’ roof. The owner collects art so there is a somewhat eclectic collection of paintings around the property, mostly of Parisian landscapes. But the overall feel in this luxury ski chalet is of big, battered leather sofas and armchairs, giant cushions and chunky hand-hewn wooden tables. It is immensely cosy and lived-in, with piles of books and magazines everywhere too.
The rooms are all doubles and lovely, each with great views once again, and one can be made up as a twin room. Some have baths, some just have showers, but they each have charming built-in wardrobes made of reclaimed old timbers. Toiletries are L’Occitane and the fluffy bathrobes by Kelly Hoppen.
Merlo is a fully catered chalet and uses high-end private chefs. Absolutely everything is home-made, from the canapés to the afternoon cake. There is no chalet cookbook as such, but the cuisine is classic French with international influences, and the chef can do stuff to order too. All beer, house wines, digestifs and champagne (Veuve Clicquot) is complimentary, and a nice touch is that they change the house wines each night. It is also possible to upgrade to fancier wines such as a Chateauneuf du Pape.
This ski chalet has a glorious 8-seater outdoor hot tub with just breathtakingly panoramic views up the valley and across to the Vanoise. There is also a sauna and a gorgeous little mazot or mountain hut with a heated table in it where you can enjoy private massages and treatments. In addition to this, the chalet has its own two-storey gym in a separate building with the most impressive range of Cybex equipment, should the skiing not be enough for you.
Chalet Merlo has plenty of old-fashioned, child-friendly board games plus an Xbox 360 and PlayStation. There are no interconnecting rooms at all and also no room for extra beds or cots in the bedrooms, but private nannies can be arranged and Sainte Foy also has an excellent Kids Club, run in collaboration between the lift pass office and ESF ski school.
It welcomes children from 3-11 years in a newly refurbished facility in the centre of resort and is open 6 days, Sunday to Friday inclusive, with 1, 3 5 or 6 day childcare options available. It includes a mix of indoor and outdoor activities with snow shoeing, treasure trails, snow games, sledging, crafts, face painting, creative activities and more.
The views, and the hot tub. And the gorgeous, knock-out living space.
The rooms are lovely but are not very big. You have to be pretty organised and tidy with all your ski clobber.
Chalet Merlo is located in the pretty hamlet of Le Miroir, just outside Sainte Foy, which is just 15 minutes down the valley from Val d’Isère and as such has a world of ski choice within easy reach. The chalet is tucked away high up among other old farm buildings and chalets but is perfectly situated for excursions to Val and Tignes, Les Arcs, La Rosière and Le Thuile in Italy. It also faces south towards the top end of the Tarentaise valley so is bathed in light, and its views up towards Val and across to Mont Pourri and the Vanoise National Parc are just heaven. The approach to the chalet is up a cute little winding pathway, too, making it feel genuinely olde-worlde and rustic.
Chambéry is technically the nearest airport to this Sainte Foy chalet, but there are limited flights into it. Geneva is usually the best bet, and the run takes around 2 hrs 30 mins, but can take as long as 4 hrs in high season on turnaround day.