Luxury comes before skiing in Megève

If you’re a powder freak, look elsewhere but fans of comfort will be at home, says Jim Fox

IN MEGÈVE, luxurious accommodation comes before good skiing. The weather conditions and level of snow were perfectly good but I was frustrated at the limited length and variety of the slopes.

It is a pleasantly relaxed and clean place to spend the winter. Hotels, restaurants and coffee shops are the focus – it’s almost incidental that there are ski lifts and slopes in the background.

If you like to ski for a few hours, stop for a filling lunch and then drink your way through an intimidating array of fine wines in the evening, Megève is the place for you.

The five star Les Fermes de Marie is one of the most comfortable places I’ve ever stayed in. The food and service is superb around the clock.

When I wasn’t relaxing by one of the log fires, I was winding down with a massage (from £80), taking a dip in the indoor jacuzzi and swimming pool, or sitting outside with a drink on the heated patio.

The skier in me was disappointed at having to settle for the hotel’s free shuttle service instead of skiing in and out of the hotel. However, this was made up for by the excellent food on offer there and at the two other hotels to which the shuttle service extended. I enjoyed delicious steaks at Le Beef Lodge and Hotel Mont Blanc.

At Le Beef Lodge I met a Californian couple who looked like they were dressed for dinner at The Ritz. They described themselves as “reluctant skiers” who made the journey because Megeve was “the winter St Tropez”.

To mix things up a bit, my partner and I spent a day telemark skiing, a version of the sport that emerged in the 19th century in Norway. The sensation was similar to alpine skiing, but the level of work required to master it was entirely different.

My heel had to be loose – not rigidly fixed to the ski as when alpine skiing – and had great flexibility to allow for the deep lunges required for balance. The lunge required is every bit as low and, with repetition, every bit as tiring as one performed in the gym.

For the second part of my trip we went on a 90 minute drive to La Clusaz, a place which offered a more varied skiing experience. Staying in La Vieille Ferme, the luxury of Megève wasn’t on offer, but I was happy to be in a hotel that I could ski in and out of. It was an area with a far greater selection of skiing. It was a relief not to have to revisit the same slopes or spend more time travelling on the lifts than actually skiing.

There’s a more traditional feel to La Clusaz. With French chalets scattered everywhere – not modern buildings, like at many other ski resorts – I expect the scenery remains attractive long after the snow has melted.

Travelling by car at night to the restaurants may sound like a drag, but it allowed us to appreciate the area more. A particularly enjoyable evening was spent at Le Chalet Du Lac restaurant. Here we tried a local spirit poured from a bottle containing a dead snake (the snake is put in the spirit alive and, as it dies, venom escapes, flavours the spirit and is supposed to be good for you). The food was good, but it was the atmosphere that it.

I returned home the following day, not only a better skier, but refreshed and relaxed.

NEED TO KNOW
Ski Bespoke (skibespoke.com; 01243 200202) offers seven nights at Les Fermes de Marie, Megève from £1,999 per person, in a classic room on a half board basis inclusive of flights and transfers. Price based on travel in March 2013. For more information visit: fermesdemarie.com megeve.com.

Four nights at traditional ski resort La Clusaz start at £982, including return flights, resort transfers and accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis. For more information visit: skiweekends.com

lakeannecy-skiresorts.com or call Skiweekends on 02380 206978