Getaways + Travel

The ideal winter holiday at CHILLY POWDER

Having grown up in one mountainous region of America or another (New Hampshire and Colorado to be exact), I have always been a big fan of skiing, and winter holidays in general. Summer hols are overrated. Who needs sweltering heat, watered-down cocktails and crowded pools when you can have cosy fires, gorgeous wine and miles upon miles of fresh air and adventure? I don’t know about you, but the latter is my kind of break, and Chilly Powder in the French Alps is just the place for it.
by Donna Martin

It’s easy to see how Francesca Eyre, owner and ‘face’ of Chilly Powder, fell in love with the area. Nestled just above the beautiful ski town of Morzine, France, Chilly Powder is perfectly placed at the base of Avoriaz, giving visitors the best of the Portes du Soleil resort.

Having spent many family holidays skiing in France, Francesca had always felt a pull to the area, and after training as a chef in Dublin, she was invited to Morzine in the early 90s to cook at a ski chalet over Christmas and New Year, and that’s where it all began. A chance meeting of her now-husband, Paul, turned into a season of planning their first chalet business venture.

What started as a single 5-bedroom chalet welcoming 60 guests its first season, has turned into a 3-chalet resort, now welcoming over 1,000 holidaymakers each year.

After a quick flight to Geneva, we found ourselves at Chilly Powder in just about 90 minutes. 90 beautiful, scenic minutes. We were welcomed personally by Francesca, which was a wonderful touch and made us feel like we were already a part of their big, happy family. Within minutes we had settled into our room, had our skis fitted, and were able to enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate au coin du feu, meaning at the fireside, which just happens to be the name of the picturesque chalet we were lucky enough to stay in.

One of, if not the most wonderful thing about Chilly Powder is the family-friendly attitude and atmosphere. Those of us with kids have all stayed in a hotel or two that are supposedly happy to have little ones around, but when you arrive you find there’s nothing for the children to do, nothing for the children to eat, and staff seem less than enthused about the presence of non-adults. Chilly Powder, on the other hand, was built from the ground up with children in mind, with an on-site crèche, special kids’ dinnertimes (where they get to eat with all the other kids rather than us boring parents), and their own ski school. There’s even an on-site games room and movie room.

But don’t worry – it’s not just for kids. Oh no, that’s the beauty of Chilly Powder. The kids think they’re having a kids’ holiday, but little do they know it’s actually just a ploy to give mum and dad the best grown-up holiday ever. On-site crèche? Yes please. Ski school for the kiddos so mum and dad can hit the slopes without having to deal with whiny offspring? Check. Throw in a hot tub, massage, private bar, sauna and spectacular adults-only three-course meals every night (and don’t forget the accompanying wine), and you have all the ingredients for winter holiday perfection.

The morning after our arrival, we hopped out of bed, piled on our layers and headed straight for the Prodains Cable Car, which took us straight up the mountain to Avoriaz in only a few minutes. We skied, we marvelled at the views, we explored, we took lifts high up into the clouds and skied in and out of France and Switzerland, stopping only for lunch at a slope-side café. Around 5pm, we skied the piste that took us straight to the back door of our chalet, stowed our gear away, and spent a bit of time relaxing, reading books, playing pool and chatting to other guests before dinner.

And where do I begin when it comes to dining at Chilly Powder? If you think the skiing is good, wait until you sit down for your evening meal; dinner at the chalet was quite possibly the highlight of our stay. I was apprehensive at first, thinking I’d rather have my own private table and be able to choose from a menu, but I’m officially sold on the dining concept at Chilly Powder. We were enjoying a drink and canapés at the bar when the gong sounded, which meant it was time to eat! We sat at a long, beautifully laid table for 18 people, and quickly joined in conversation with other guests, chatting about where we’d skied that day and the best places to visit in Morzine, and soon it felt like we were dining with old friends. Come to find out, our tablemates the first night happened to be from Kent! What are the chances?

Each night, guests enjoy three gourmet courses using the freshest ingredients and local produce, paired with specially selected fine wines, and each night there was nothing I could find fault with. Not. A. Thing. It’s quite a special experience when you go on holiday and all of your expectations are exceeded. It was like what you’d see in a television advert for a luxury ski break – a golden glow coming from the roaring fire, happy guests wearing cosy jumpers, wine glasses in hand, enjoying 5-star cuisine, laughter and conversation late into the night.

There wasn’t one particular day that was better than any other – every day you spend at Chilly Powder is the best day. As Wednesday is the chalet’s day off, we ventured into Morzine to explore and try dinner at one of the many restaurants (recommendations gratefully received from Francesca), and although we loved Morzine and its Alpen-ski-resort loveliness, we couldn’t wait to return to the chalet.

We spent five days at Chilly Powder, and by the end of our stay, I was entirely convinced I wanted to move to France to open my own ski chalet (or maybe just live with Francesca and Paul permanently). I honestly tried to convince my husband that a move to the Alps would make perfect sense. I was smitten, and the entrepreneur in me was maybe just a little bit jealous of the Eyre’s dream-turned-lifestyle-business that they created from scratch. But, like most families, we really aren’t in any place to move to another country, but we’re so glad that Francesca and Paul did take that leap all those years ago.

© Sylvain Cochard

Chilly Powder operates all year round offering extensive winter holiday packages for individuals, groups and families looking to hit the slopes and experience the vast ski terrain of the Portes du Soleil region. Winter prices start from £795 per week based on two adults sharing a standard bedroom or £2,195 per week for two adults and two children sharing a standard family bedroom. Prices are based on a half board basis with wine included in the evening meals. Childcare facilities are also available with prices starting at £270 per week and ski school for £240 per week. The chalet also runs a summer program and is available for weddings and events. To book please contact Chilly Powder on info@chillypowder.com or 020 7289 6958 or visit www.chillypowder.com

 

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