By Imogen Cox, Digital Marketing Executive

After years of my old man taking me on ski holidays as a child, I thought it was time I repaid the favour. This was a rather ambitious and unusual skiing trip. Over 6 days, we stayed in 3 hotels, spent 4 days on the slopes, skied across 7 resorts, and covered 640 miles on wheels and skis! Here’s how we squeezed it all in…

Stop 1: The Cambrian

Our first stop was The Cambrian and, after hearing rave reviews from colleagues who’d visited before, my expectations were high.We flew into Geneva, collected our hire car and set off on the 2.5 hour drive to the hotel.

We headed straight to their new Bryn Williams restaurant; the chef is Welsh, like the owners of the hotel, and his food combines both Welsh & Swiss influences. We indulged in their 3-course set menu, starting with curried sweetcorn velouté with cauliflower and apricots, then a sharing steak with truffle-cheese fries, and finally deconstructed muscovado cheesecake with local berries and coconut, which my Dad raved about for the rest of the trip. They also offer a 5-course tasting menu and a la carte options. Every dish was superb, and this incarnation of the restaurant has been impressing The Cambrian’s returning guests, with many saying it has never been better.

Then we were shown to our room, one of the south-facing Family Suites on the top floor of the hotel. The split-level loft room had a double bed on the lower level, and on a mezzanine floor there were twin beds with lots of storage. We had a balcony and, being on the top floor, we knew the view in the morning would be a real treat. This room would be great for families, with a bit of privacy and enough space, and kids would find the quirky mezzanine design entertaining.

When we awoke in the morning, the alpine scene was so perfect it almost didn’t look real. Having seen how much snow was about I was giddy to get going. But first, breakfast. This was an impressive spread, the highlights being cured meats, smoked fish, pastries and flans, along with the usual buffet staples. Breakfast was served in the restaurant, and as we ate we looked out over the infinity pool at the pink sunrise creeping above the mountains.

Then it was time for the slopes. We hopped in the handy ski-shuttle service provided by the hotel to the gondola at the bottom of the village, where we bought our lift passes and ventured up the mountain. The skiing in Adelboden-Lenk was awesome; it’s a very quiet resort (we were there at the quietest time, but nevertheless it’s a true under-the-radar destination) so you rarely have to queue for lifts, especially in the week, and might find you have much of the piste to yourself. Heaven!

I’d been warned about the prices in Switzerland but nothing could prepare me for being charged £6.50 for a bottle of water, and £34 for a cheeseburger… Luckily, we had been tipped off by our mates about Chiibodmi, an on-mountain spot where the instructors head for lunch; here we found a bratwurst and chips for just £9.50 so we felt rather smug! At the end of our ski day, we simply called the hotel when we were close to the bottom of the gondola and they sent the shuttle back to fetch us, then we left our gear in their spacious and warmed boot room. I really can’t fault this service, it was so efficient. 

I loved spending time in the large glass-fronted lounge, which has 180° views of the town, the valley and the mountains, and enjoyed a lovely espresso martini or two from the Axe Bar during our stay. The staff at the bar, as throughout the whole hotel, were great; we only stayed for 2 nights but were treated like friends and felt right at home. The spa and pool area is small but perfectly formed, with panoramic mountain views over the steamy waters. Be warned, though, that swimming costumes are banned in the sauna, so choose wisely who you enter with.

To round off the evening we headed down the road to Après bar Tapi’s which was kitted out in funky 70’s décor. We then had a brilliant dinner at the restaurant next door to the hotel, Alpenblick, which has a casual bistro at the front and a Michelin-starred restaurant at the back. 

I loved The Cambrian, and all things considered it’s great value for what you get. What’s more, it’s a year-round destination, with loads of activities nearby once the snow has melted. I’d love to return over the summer by train, combining it with a city break (getting the train from Zurich to the nearby town of Frutigen, then a bus from the station to just outside The Cambrian, is supposedly a doddle).

Rooms from GBP 252

Stop 2: Chamois d’Or

Our next stop was Chamois d’Or. This hotel is a great value option, particularly for being based in the Portes du Soleil ski area, a fan-favourite with Brits due to a transfer time from Geneva airport of under 1.5 hours and 600km of skiable terrain. Plus, the hotel has free parking which is a real bonus! Our Classic Twin room was cosy and clean with everything you’d need for a ski break: plenty of storage, lots of hooks, comfortable beds and a nice balcony. 

The corridors had tartan carpets and the doors were cow-hide, which were fun alpine touches. After dropping our bags in our room, we popped down to the bar for a drink. The service here feels very casual, more like a chalet than stuffy ski hotel, which we really liked. From the bar staff to the receptionists, everyone we met during our stay was lovely. 

After a great night’s sleep we headed down for breakfast; though not as extravagant as at The Cambrian, it was a good spread and set us up for the day. They have 3 breakfast options: Express (coffee & a croissant to go), Continental (classic buffet), Signature (continental & hot) – and prices were very reasonable. 

The night before, we had organised our ski hire with a local shop that the hotel works with, and found our kit waiting for us in the boot room that morning. We had a great day skiing in Avoriaz with an old family friend, calling into the goat village in Montriond for a long lunch at Le Petit Lindaret. This area is where I learnt to ski as a child, and I hadn’t been back for 10 years, so it was a sweet trip down memory lane! 

On our return to the hotel we stopped by the underground spa; the heated jet pool and sauna was much-needed after a day on the slopes, and we hear they provide excellent massages. There isn’t a restaurant at Chamois d’Or but the the team can recommend places to eat in Les Gets and further afield. Based on owner Peter’s recommendation we headed to Ô Chalet for a burger, which was delicious and well-priced at €10. We then returned to the bar for a nightcap where we got chatting with some really interesting people – it seems to be a popular hub for locals. 

This hotel doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the other places we stayed, but for an affordable ski break in the French Alps, you can’t argue with it! 

Rooms from GBP 113

Stop 3: Le Portetta

We had an early start to get over to Courchevel 1650 –  because with over 650km of skiable terrain at Les 3 Vallées, we wanted to get lots of skiing in. Le Portetta couldn’t have made this easier for us. They’d helped us sort our lift passes and ski hire before arrival, at reception we swapped our car keys for our lift passes, then were shown to the on-site ski shop where our skis were waiting for us. The team also took our luggage out of our car and to our room, ready for us after our day of skiing. This is a well-oiled machine – needless to say I was impressed. Once we were kitted up, we climbed the 10 or so steps onto the piste and the ESF ski school, then it was just 50 metres to the gondola. On the way down, you can almost ski straight into the bar!

The hotel is located in Courchevel 1650, one of the lowest parts of Les 3 Vallées, but it’s very easy to access the higher parts, and skiing across to Meribel & Val Thorens is doable at every ski level; winding greens taking you the long way around or direct routes for more advanced skiers. The high altitude means snow is almost a guarantee, and with so much terrain to cover you’d never get bored. We were lucky with the weather, and the resort is wide open, so the views were just incredible. 

After lunch in Meribel, we skied back down to the hotel’s Fire & Ice bar just in time for après. After a 3.5-hour drive and a day of skiing, we were in need of refreshment! This is a popular après spot; they have the largest terrace in Courchevel Moriond, with comfy sofas, blankets, roaring fires, and wood-fired pizzas.

We were in a Piste View Twin Room on the second floor. I loved the calming blue and beige colour scheme and the Savoyard meets British country townhouse vibe in play throughout the hotel. As Limewood is their sister hotel, this pairing makes total sense. Our balcony was a lovely place to sit and watch the sunset over the mountains, with the buzz of the bar below. The valley view rooms have a more natural view over the mountains, but tend to lack balconies.

The lounge was a great spot for a pre-dinner drink; sofas, armchairs, warm tones, wood walls and low lighting created an inviting chalet-like atmosphere. Families and couples of all ages sat reading, chatting and playing board games, at ease as if in their own home. A few times a week they have live music here, too. The vibe is more about quiet luxury than the glitz and glamour of Courchevel 1850, which seems to suit the down-to-earth crowd.

We then headed to the hotel restaurant, Cucina Angelina, for dinner. This is the Savoyard-Italian brainchild of UK chef Angela Hartnett. The food was fantastic, as were the staff, and I also loved the décor of the restaurant, it all felt so cosy and homely. Nothing felt stuffy or formal, despite the high price point. Some highlights of the food were the beef croquettes with nduja mayonnaise, burrata with orange, roasted fennel and olive oil, and gnocchi with a game ragu. With antipasti, primi, alla griglia and secondi all included if you go half-board, you have to pace yourself. Sadly, we couldn’t make it to dessert! We arrived back to our room, which had been turned down whilst we were at dinner, and slept like babies ahead of our last day of skiing. 

Breakfast was another wonderful continental spread with anything you could possibly want, including a few unusual options like homemade detox juices, smoked mackerel, and even a tart tatin. There was also a menu of hot dishes, including green eggs with braised cavolo nero & coconut yoghurt, and porridge with poached prunes, honey and almonds.

My Dad decided to relax at the hotel, so I headed all the way over to Val Thorens solo. I had a pitstop for Demi Pêche at Bar 360 and skied mainly in ‘the 4th valley’ of Orelle, to soak up the stunning views from 3230m. I covered 60 miles of terrain and clearly got carried away because I almost missed the last lift back to Courchevel 1650 (not advised unless you want a very expensive taxi ride back).

I arrived back to Le Portetta with sore legs, ready to relax before we travelled home. The spa has been recently renovated; it’s refreshingly different to the rest of the hotel, with white and light oak details. I nipped in here to unwind before a quick bite to eat, then returned to our room for the night, ready for an early flight the following morning. 

It’s by no means cheap, but if you’re looking for first-class quality and convenience, Le Portetta is Courchevel’s finest. 

Rooms from GBP 552
Lofts from GBP 1214

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