Morzine Dream Chalet – France

By Meredith Ogilvie -Thompson

RESPITE IN THE REMOTE FRENCH WILDERNESS

Le Grand Joux – Morzine Dream Chalet – France

  Arriving at Le Grand Joux is not for the unadventurous. The final ascent—some 20 minutes up a winding forested path just beyond the French village of Morzine—is rugged, and only accessible by snowmobile. Though just when you start to think you might have misunderstood the brief and signed up for a week of rustic tolerance rather than luxurious indulgence, you are most wonderfully reassured. It is what makes this exceptional Alpine chalet a hybrid: a luxe destination to rival the best of Courchevel set in a remote wilderness just below La Grande Terche, where views on a clear day stretch from Mont Blanc to Lake Geneva to Les Dents du Midi.   Originally built more than 100 years ago as an auberge, Le Grand Joux—meaning The Big Rock in local dialect—started life as a charming mountain restaurant with a few rooms upstairs for intrepid hikers. Today, it is anything but. Meticulously renovated last year by British entrepreneur Karen Anderson (who can also be credited with saving the chalet from its near fatal encounter in the 1970s with yellow pine paneling and pink tiled bathrooms), the result is exceptional. The fusion of historical aesthetic and contemporary chic architecture includes the original wood‑and-river-stone bar, exposed antique beams, and century-old fireplace melding with the high-design staircase with bespoke railings, locally crafted buckskin‑clad barstools, and custom-made soft furnishings and light fixtures.   An all-white swimming pool—soft to the touch and without a tile or seam—offers an après-ski activity for guests looking to swap powder for liquid. The spa, featuring exclusive products by Sodashi—the beauty world’s best kept secret and signature brand of the George V Hotel in Paris—will leave guests in little doubt Le Grand Joux is anything but rugged, snowmobile ascent notwithstanding.   There is a real danger of being so relaxed as to forget why you really came to the Portes du Soleil, one of the world’s largest ski areas, in the first place. The unmistakable beat of chopper blades quickly reminds guests why they chose Le Grand Joux. It’s one of the only chalets anywhere in the Alps to accommodate a helicopter pick-up feet away from its front door, which means mortal challenges such as parking and lift lines are easily avoided. The short flight to the Avoriaz ski area affords unforgettable views across a gem of a valley that, more often than not, receives a lion’s share of snow.   And just when you think it can’t possibly get any better, a quick return at the end of a glorious day skiing will deliver you safely into the hands of Alan Holliday, the chalet’s resident Michelin-starred chef. His legendary meals, made almost entirely from locally sourced ingredients, mean dinners à-la maison are perfection, a most welcome respite to the oft-tiresome ordeal of making reservations.     SKI With more than 400 miles of linked slopes to choose from, a personal ski planner is more necessity than luxury. The guides at Le Grand Joux—one part ski pro and one part geography professor—are indispensible. They can tell you how to ski from France to Switzerland and over to Italy; which runs are best suited to which level of skier; where to stop for lunch; who makes the best Tartiflette (Alpine cuisine’s signature dish); and everything else in between.  EAT  Booking a week at Le Grand Joux is done in direct communication with the chalet staff and menus are a big part of the planning discussion. Meals are nothing short of sublime—to die for, really. From produce to meat to countless varieties of cheese, chef Alan Holliday spends a lot of time with local producers to source the best of what the Graydon Hamlet has to offer. However, a word of warning: pace your appetite. Just when you think you’ve finally been served le plat principal, it’s almost certain to be another entrée. SLEEP Each bedroom is a tableau of style, furnished with charming French antiques—oversized armoires, comfy armchairs and pretty occasional tables. The beds look as if they have been designed for the Chateau de Chambord, piled high with the fluffiest goose down pillows and duvet, and topped off with a faux fur bedcover. Getting in is not a problem—quite the opposite. In fact, leaving the bed in the morning could thwart even the most avid skier’s resolve.  www.legrandjoux.com