The hot tub outside my huge Chamonix chalet has disco lights that make it look like a b-movie time machine. I’ve got a flute of Bollinger in my hand, and can hear the crackle of a log fire from indoors as I gaze through the steam across snowy peaks. This, I venture, is how one does a luxury ski week.
Amazon Creek, like all the other properties in ‘Cham’, is hampered by not being ski-in ski-out, but who really cares when you have your own chauffeur, along with a couple of dedicated staff knocking up hearty but Michelin-level grub and making sure your ski boots are always toasty.
My five bedroom chalet is partly constructed from old bits of warm-toned Alpine barn, giving it a rustic look on the outside, and inside the open plan living and dining room, which features floor-to-roof windows, there are zebra-print armchairs and fur-draped sofas facing the open fire, a large vintage sledge that’s been turned into a coffee table, and some lovely flea market-sourced paintings on the timbered walls, along with de-rigueur taxidermy. It’s a boho marriage of tradition and chic.
I usually find ski holidays back-breaking and shin-bruising affairs, but here you’re cosseted from normal wear and tear. There’s a modern hammam and a masseuse on demand to take care of aching muscles, cosy bedrooms with L’Occitane products and lavender pillow spray, under-floor heating to restore your toes from the slopes and, in the case of the master bedroom, a stunning vista of the sparkling Aiguille de Midi and a bath deep enough to scuba dive in. For evening entertainment there’s an impressive cinema room and a well-stocked wine cellar.
Amazon Creek is Tim Davis’ baby. The outdoorsy 46-year-old spent 20 years working in finance before starting his own travel company, which includes villas in Languedoc and Corsica (the latter is a favourite of Lord and Lady Fellowes) and two yachts which he skippers in the Mediterranean in the summer. A managing partner in private equity funds, he still sits on some investment committees, most of his clients being in Beijing (when we met in Chamonix he’d just returned from inspecting a Canadian uranium mine), but rather than conducting his business in the City he does so from the slopes or the tiller.
The incredible Amazon Creek in Chamonix
Many of Davis’ clientele come from a similar jet-setting world, but the standard of hospitality even they would expect is exceeded here. You’re looked after from arrival to departure by the British and Australian staff; scooped up from Geneva airport and back, skis and passes fetched, cups of hot chocolate proffered. Yet the experience is never intrusive, with the guests left in peace to relax or socialize.
There’s plenty going on in Chamonix year-round, unlike so many other resorts, because this is a proper working French town. Winter-only resorts can feel a bit twee, or totally dead out of season, but there’s a real community here and it doesn’t feel unbearably touristy. There’s plenty of refreshment, popular nightclubs, and lots of restaurants, although when you have your own dedicated chef why deviate?
On the first evening our group’s appetite was met with 5-star canapés (including quail’s eggs served in a smoking box) and champagne, and each night the kitchen produced four courses of high-end but comforting fair, including slow-roasted meats and locally-caught fish, moreish desserts and a generous cheeseboard. Food is a big part of the convivial experience of luxury to which Amazon Creek aspires. Half a bottle of wine per day is included in the price per guest, and every one I tasted was excellent, and if you drink more it’s added to your bill at cost.
There are three chalets on the property. I stayed in the headliner, but there’s an equally big one called Baloo, with a screening room that would spark Steven Spielberg’s envy, and a cute three-bedroom gingerbread man-style chalet called Baby Bear, which is surely the honeymoon option. The three together, sleeping 26, are known as Amazonia. Katie Price rented the baby one recently while, unbeknown to her, one of her ex-boyfriends was staying at the big house. The staff went to great lengths to ensure they never bumped into each other.