A true chalet paradise in the Alps

ACTIVE Ski Retreats is not your average ski holiday resort. It’s not just that Sting has stayed in the chalet– it provides exceptional all-inclusive service, from the provision of the perfect ski boot, to delicious aperitifs to four course dinners, with an efficiency and enthusiasm that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

All wood and understated rustic elegance, the house, La Ferme des Hirondelles, is set in the staggeringly beautiful hamlet of Les Lombardes, amidst private extensive grounds framed by forest and streams that flow into the Aravis mountains and beyond. La Ferme sits on the cusp of 200km of some of the best French Alpine skiing, spreading out over nine mountains of the Borne and Aravis massifs with a peak of 2,700m.

La Ferme is the ideal base for a skiing holiday because it provides just the kind of well thought-out and comfortable environment for relaxing in, post-piste. Each of its 12 bedrooms has pine beds and luxurious cotton and linen bedding, as well as en suite bathrooms with Molton Brown toiletries. There are snugs all round the house for a quiet moment with a cognac and a book, a capacious lounge, a TV/film room, computer room, library/study with wifi and iPod dock and a beautiful large kitchen and dining area, the domain of the ambitious private chef that Active Retreats has sourced to prepare residents’ meals.

And that’s just the chalet: the property includes a sauna in a shepherd’s hut imported from Dorset, kitted out in cedar, with a Swedish sauna stove. The massage hut has a Swedish fire pit and an American hot tub and offers all manner of massages, therapies, beauty treatments and Zen wellbeing programmes.

­­­­The stay at the chalet includes daily breakfast, afternoon tea, aperitifs and four-course supper. It is thoroughly bespoke and therefore Active Retreats will ensure delivery and smooth-running of the perfect programme of skiing or boarding for you and your kids – for this bespoke skiing service, there is a 10 per cent surcharge in addition to hire costs. But it means minimal hassle to arrange everything from husky sledding to a snow picnic to boot-waxing to insurance to passes and equipment.

The location is another attraction – the chalet is just a 50 minute drive from Geneva Airport and you can expect a transfer to the chalet in one of Lexus’s 4x4 hybrids. Better yet, the traditional French mountain villages of La Clusaz and Grand Bornand are full of character and relatively – and mercifully – untouched by tourism. They’re also the home of Roblechon cheese – the sort used in fondue. Perfect for a cosy meal after a hardcore day on the slopes. And is there any better type?

There’s an interesting story behind Active Retreats. It springs from a firmly and long established company, Business Retreats, that has been running corporate incentive and management development programmes since 1994. What this means is that it has the kind of knowledge that comes only from experience of giving demanding clients exactly what they want and need.

The business retreat format has been made watertight by Jeremy Blease, the director of both Business Retreats and the new holiday company, Active Retreats. Over time, the company has learned to maximise the gorgeous surroundings – why else would companies such as Aviva, Boehringer-Ingelheim, SKF Automotives and Lexus be key clients?

So when it comes to providing a well-run, thoughtfully kitted out holiday facility in the snow fields of the French Alps, you’re in good hands – and that was exactly the impression conveyed at the launch party for Active Retreats at the Lexus showroom on Park Lane by all the guests who had some experience with the company.

Now that the chalet is available to individuals, head on down with another family or friends. All your needs will be met without all the fuss associated with self-important, costly luxury – the USP is total comfort, convenience and outstanding services without the frills and pomp that you could do without.

Prices start at £4,500 per week pre-Christmas. For more detailed prices and to book, see www.active-retreats.co.uk. Price includes everything except drinks and hire in any outdoor activity. See “win/win” on the website for the chance to get 10 per cent off. If you’re interested in going on a business retreat, see www.business-retreats.co.uk

La Clusaz is an Alpine resort in the South East of France very near the border with Switzerland. It’s been hosting winter sports since 1907 and is the birthplace of famous French skier Vincent Vittoz and sailor Philippe Monnet. A medieval village, it was built in a cluse (narrow valley) in the Aravis area which explains its name. Today La Clusaz spreads over five interconnected mountain massifs and is considered one of the best skiing areas of the Alps. Neighbouring village Grand-Bornand is the birthplace of Reblochon cheese, which derives its unique, rich flavour from the Crau hay the cows from which it comes are fed.