Luxury ski for less

Hollywood style, Jewish heritage and a price tag that won’t make you wince? Time to ski in to Megeve


The noise of the engines thunders in my ears as we hurtle in between the jagged edges of mountains. The pilot, shouting into his microphone, points out the top of the Mont Blanc, indicates the Vallee Blanche off-piste ski route and explains that we’re passing over the Grandes Jorasses, a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif between France and Italy.

There are only four of us in this tiny plane: I’m screaming in a strange blend of exhilaration and fear, but no one can hear me. All we can do is look out of the window as we soar impossibly close to vertiginous peaks, admiring the icy glaciers below before returning to Megeve.

I’ve come to the luxurious French mountain resort to prove it’s possible to visit a sophisticated ski spot beloved of the rich and famous without spending a fortune.

Ski passes are cheaper here than in many French ski resorts, along with numerous high-quality two and three-star hotels for travellers on a budget.

Even those views of Mont Blanc — which I would have thought impossible without scaling it myself — hadn’t been prohibitively expensive.

A seat in the tiny private plane on my 30-minute sightseeing flight with Aerocime had cost around £100 and took me through the most magnificent winter scenery during that heart-racing journey.

It’s not just the surprisingly affordable prices that entice visitors from all over Europe strap on their skis for weekend breaks here: Megeve is also refreshingly easy to get to.

Just over an hour after landing in Geneva Airport, I’d arrived in the village of Megeve with its chocolate-box charm, cobbled streets and medieval centre — a welcome change for ski-lovers who are used to forking out fortunes to sit in four-hour transfers to their preferred ski resorts.

Megeve isn’t just pretty to look at though, with a fascinating tale behind its picturesque appearance. In 1916, Megeve as we know it was founded when Jewish Baroness Noémie de Rothschild fell in love with the farming village and decided to create a French version of the Swiss resort of St Moritz.

Megeve set the tone for ski resorts around Europe, laying claim to the first ski chalet in 1927, the first ski school in France in 1928, and the first cable car for skiers in 1933.

When the Second World War took hold in Europe, Megeve was a saviour for around 500 Jewish children, who were given shelter and safety in the resort’s many chalets, houses and hotels.

Its popularity has never waned, playing host to the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Yves Montand and Jean Cocteau in the 1950s, and even starring in the opening scene of the Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant 1963 film Charade.

But while it’s known for its elegance and charm, a trip to Megeve isn’t just about donning your smartest winter attire and people-watching from the terrace of a chic cafe.

The resort is an ideal escape for both beginner and expert skiers, with around 250 miles of slopes, over 100 ski lifts and 80 restaurants to refuel when your knees can bear no more.

I visited in March, and as well as gloriously sunny weather, the slopes were virtually empty: a dream for anyone who is used to spending 20 minutes queuing for chairlifts in busier resorts.

If you’re not a fan of the slopes, there are plenty of alternatives: opportunities for hiking and snowshoeing, mountain biking trails, an indoor spa and sports complex, the Mont-d’Arbois golf course, plus great cross country skiing too.

If you’d rather sit and eat, you’ll find plenty of options: some of the best restaurants I visited were l’Alpette, a charming mountain restaurant with panoramic views of the mountain and an irresistible dessert buffet, La Muse, a chic spot in the heart of the village, and the Michelin starred Le Prima, in which every dish had been so lovingly and painstakingly prepared and presented I almost felt too guilty to tuck in and ruin the aesthetics (the guilt vanished instantly: it was too delicious not to finish).

Visit outside school holidays, and Megeve’s hotels can be unexpectedly affordable too. Les Fermes de Marie, is one of Megeve’s most luxurious retreats, made of centuries-old wooden farmhouses that were transported from all over Savoie and painstakingly rebuilt to create a five-star, 70-room destination.

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, it’s deliciously rustic and cosy, with pine walls, fluffy furnishings and alpine accessories, while the breakfast spread was one of the best I’ve seen in any hotel.

You can walk to the main village or jump on the hotel shuttle to the Chamois gondola lift in just five minutes. There’s a ski shop in the hotel too.

For a less pricy option, the three-star La Ferme Du Golf is a great base for keen skiers, as it’s located just beside the Mont d’Arbois ski lifts — or if you’re visiting in warmer weather, beside the 18‑hole golf course.

The rooms have a traditional, mountain-themed look, with pine walls, wooden furniture and framed alpine paintings, but what’s even more spectacular are the fantastic views.

It’s hard to believe you can cram in two full days of skiing, meals at Megeve’s finest restaurants and a hair-raising plane ride in just a short weekend, but thanks to Megeve’s location and surprisingly low off-peak prices, it will change your expectations of what a short ski trip can be like.

In the words of Game of Thrones, winter is coming, and there are few places better than Megeve for cosy alpine retreats, mountain air and — if you fancy — a plane ride that you’ll never forget.


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