The favourite chalet spots to stay in over ski season
Cowbells, reindeer rugs and hearts carved into bunk beds were once enough to charm the European ski set. But now a different breed of skier, one stirred by that sweet intersection of traditional, earthy materials and avant-garde architecture, is jetting into the mountains – and privacy is as high on the agenda as piping hot tartiflette.
Here are Europe’s most gorgeous private chalets to hole up in for the winter ski season.
Take a traditional Alpine farm and retune it to the pitch of rustic cool. That’s what the owners of this 1825 farmhouse accomplished with the guidance of Voza Development. Gazing out towards Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains and majestic Mont Blanc, this photogenic four-floor chalet has kept its original shutters and timber shell, while inside, polished concrete, natural linen and restrained furniture tell a smoother, more contemporary story. Like so many of Europe’s most coveted private chalets, the design mission is ‘elevated modern riff on the simple life’, but unlike so many, Ferme Fougere has kept a dignified dose of singularity.
An enormous, U-shaped sofa flanked by wood dominates the sitting room, where hot toddies are set on a giant sledge coffee table and toes are warmed by flames dancing in a glass-box fireplace. Thick grey curtains soften the refined Rustica, framing snowy views from every wall, while underfloor heating, a huge sauna and a Norwegian wood-fired hot tub keep guests toasty. There’s a thrilling tension between space (with cavernous ceilings and wide-open planned rooms) and child-like cosiness. Tasteful, earthy hues continue this juxtaposition up the original spiral staircase, where cashmere throws flung across dangerously comfortable beds invite skiers to indulge in an afternoon nap. Streamlined bunk beds and timber eaves confer a more snug feel here than the vast entertaining space downstairs. The lift for the St Gervais run is a mere snow shuffle away – a gateway to the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area. But crucially, Ferme Fougiere has more than skiing on its agenda, with a bike rack for the area’s stellar cycling routes, suggested hikes and insider tips on Saint-Gervais’ best brasseries and Le Ferme du Cupelin’s ‘Promenade au Mont Joly’ menu.
Price: From £1,158 per night, uncatered
White Deer San Lorenzo
A former 16th-century hunting lodge for Italian aristocracy, White Deer San Lorenzo is one of the few luxury rental chalets in the Dolomites. This is extraordinary, given the region’s dramatic topography, its different pockets of utterly charming traditions and cockle-warming, locavore food scene. Lucky, then, that White Deer taps into these, offering top-notch Italian cooking (breakfast is knocked up from the neighbouring farms’ eggs, cheese, milk and bacon), and experiences such as mushroom-foraging in the woods surrounding the chalet or exploring the region’s wineries. Aside from its time-warp exterior – a whitewashed characterful building studded with little windows that pull in sharp, unfiltered light – the most striking feature of this chalet is its blissful isolation. We particularly like the knockout valley views it commands, despite being only 15 minutes away from the pretty pine-forest runs and sweeping pistes of Plan de Corones.
Inside, the house’s heritage has been honoured by owners Giorgia and Stefano Barbini’s skilful and simple renovation. A traditional Tyrolean Stube parlour sets the tone – an artful fusion of classic cosiness and a restrained, modern aesthetic. Twee curtains frame fairytale windows in an otherwise uncluttered dining room panelled in ancient wood collected from old farmsteads, a focal-point cowhide sofa offers a more contemporary take on the Alpine classic, and an intricately carved mahogany bed dominates one of the bedrooms, a noble stroke against the plastered walls and Swiss pine. Soft, amber lighting respects the building’s vintage, as does the cellar and Finnish sauna, a steamy microcosm of the rest of the chalet’s design.
Price: From £15,000 per week, fully catered
The Landscape lodge
Fran – the owner and creative director of fashion brand Pringle – worked closely with interior designer and friend Louise Curnuck to gently restore this traditional chalet on the edge of a French town just south of Lake Geneva. The pair scoured France’s rambling antique markets from Annecy to Lyon for one-off pieces. Their haul – everything from antique skis and sledges to large terracotta vases – is artfully placed throughout each room to form a curated but refreshingly relaxed and imperfect picture. They sanded down the chalet’s orange-glazed wood to reveal soft blonde, some of which was then painted in calming hues for a more spacious and less twee rendition of a cosy mountain hideaway. Chunky, suntrap balconies now serve as cinema seats for breathtaking views of pine forests winding through the valley. Reindeer rugs flung over deep sofas alongside gingham chairs set a casual, unpretentious tone, while Danish-style dark wooden chairs and wrought-iron lamp shades confer a soft contemporary edge. It is a strain to imagine leaving the deliciously comfortable beds, deep iron tubs and roaring log fire of this cosy alpine hideaway for the slopes or the understated restaurants tucked away in nearby mountain villages, but it has been done.
Price: From £1,395 for three days, uncatered
This ski-in ski-out newcomer to the Oberlech’s genteel slopes, Chalet Arula has an understated elegance. Alcoves and bookcases are tastefully lit and designed with restraint in mind. Cool, contemporary lights are suspended above a sleek and simple dining table. Nine spacious bedrooms leave the wooden walls and ceiling to do the talking, dressed in thick moody curtains and velvet headboards, while the children’s bunk room is playfully lit up by coloured ceiling lights. The designers operate in that relatively untrodden space where expense and taste coexist – the overall effect is a sophisticated spin on Alpine cosiness. Clever lighting sets a Nordic tone, as does the bespoke furniture – from Danish chairs to industrial wall lights – while a grand piano dominates the vast living space and invites late-night singalongs. A cinema with a long line of deep sofas keeps disgruntled skiers entertained when the weather turns, but it’s the spa with its infrared cabin and handsome indoor pool that may even trump skiing in the pleasure stakes. Large groups can bag the attached chalet, Arula 2, for a blow-the-budget 30-person ski extravaganza.
Sleeps: 22 (or with Arula 2, 30)
Price: Available upon request, fully catered
Technically part of the high-octane hotel L’Apogee in Courchevel 1850, yet in practice very much a private entity, Chalet L’Apensia is a lavishly dressed mountain home-from-home. Parisian design duo India Mahdavi and Joseph Dirand have artfully merged the thrill and indulgence of a hotel with the comfort of a family home. Expect marble bathrooms and a fir wood canvas dressed in deep, warming rugs and velvet dining chairs. Far from lo-fi hideout or Alpine twee, L’Apensia has the refined sensibility of a smart Russian Dascha and the next-level perks of a five-star hotel. This runs the gamut from a private conveyor belt connected to the famously pretty (and pricey) Jardin Alpin – a helping hand most skiers dream of – to facials using earthy Bamford face creams in the spa and top-drawer sashimi at Koori restaurant. But if seclusion is a priority, a private spa with a sauna, steam shower, whirlpool bath and double massage room for a joint pummelling, as well as a cinema and butler on request, will see to it that you never need to leave (except out the back door on a pair of skis, of course).
Price: Available upon request
Cesa del Louf
Adventurous types will swoon at Dolomiti design den, wrapped in soft rolling pastures and woodland not far from the slopes of the Sellaronda 700 metres from Arabba. Its bucolic setting and unassuming exterior recall scenes from James Bond, as does its helipad and gentle off-piste track leading guests directly to the runs. This doubles up as a stellar slope for tobogganing or torchlit skiing, with its private lift to avoid touring up. Two buildings – Maso and Masetto – combine to form Cesa del Louf, respectfully restored using recycled woods to preserve the traditional aesthetic and character of the original structure.
Eco-focussed travellers will rejoice at the class A1 energy classification (underfloor heating costs extra and fuel consumptions are low). Rays of glorious mountain light slice through large windows in the spacious living area, which is privy to dramatic mountain views. A wood-burner, encased in glass, warms ski toes, as do the thick rugs thrown over comfy sofas. This elegant simplicity continues into the bedrooms, where reclaimed wood sets the tone and lucky master suite guests can soak with a Dolomiti view from the bath. Downstairs, a Turkish bath, sauna and pretty pool with a counter-current cater to any bad visibility days, as does the cinema room and artworks by local artists and sculptors, from Val Garderna and the painter Raimond Mussner.
Price: Available upon request
Le Chalet, Zannier
Megeve is not short of gorgeous chalets, but Le Chalet by Zannier hotels is a standout with its pared-back take on traditional mountain romance. Twelve spacious suites and a three-bedroom cottage have a dipped-stone staircase, old timber decking, the storybook windows – all honour the region’s traditional chalet style, while soft furnishings and contemporary tables fill these historical bones with gentle modernism. The result is a time-warp escape with modern-day comforts. Linen bedspreads and sofa cover stick to inoffensive, earthy tones and sharp bolts of mountain sunshine illuminate rustic vases and pots lining reclaimed wooden shelves. A dizzying roster of activities, from heli-skiing to dog-sledging, keeps guests busy when they’re not making the most of the ski-in ski-out situation, while a long soak in the spa’s hot tub followed by a body scrub using Aesop products is something to ski back for.
Sleeps: two-four in suites
Price: Available upon request, fully catere