Stay The Night: Maison Blanche & Verte, Portes Du Soleil
Two Londoners have created their dream chalet in the small French ski resort of Châtel, discovers Minty Clinch
Sunday 29 January 2012
If your twin passions are skiing and road biking, a chalet in the land of the Tour de France is, perhaps, the acme of mountain huts.
For years, Franco Bussandri and Denis Lonergan, brothers-in-law in their forties based in London, were regular visitors to Châtel in the French Alps. As they struggled up the mountains in summer and floated down them in winter, they dreamt up the perfect chalet for themselves, their wives – two of seven Italian sisters – and their children. In 2008-9, they built it. In 2010, they moved in. Two years later, they may have to look for an alternative place to stay because Blanche & Verte – white for snow, green for grass – is top of an exclusive wish list.
It is the first elite chalet in Châtel, a resort with rapid access to the Portes du Soleil, the 650km (400 miles) trans-border circuit that includes Avoriaz, Morzine and Champéry. Located on a hill in Petit-Châtel, it has sweeping views of the traditional Savoyard village and the mountains beyond. London architect Jimmy McDonald has created a building in two halves, one with bedrooms, the other with living areas, a concept that allows some to sleep undisturbed while others party into the night.
Inside, McDonald has gone for plate glass opposite contrasting walls of local stone, wood or white plaster. In the large square living space, the emphasis is on comfortable couches with furry cushions in shades of terracotta and grey and red arc floor lamps from Italy. Ornamental stags and cow skin rugs give clues to local fauna while pots of orchids suggest excellent central heating. A table for 12 surrounded by Eames Eiffel chairs looks out through a glass wall while interior windows look on to the swimming pool. Long sofas in the mezzanine are ideal for quiet moments with a good book.
Blanche & Verte has six double bedrooms, four with bathtubs and two with showers, plus a bathroom with a double tub. In each bedroom, a door opens directly on to the balcony or deck, and one wall is made entirely of glass. Brown curtains and black furniture indicate contemporary chic, while White Company linen invites a good night's sleep. Bathrooms have sleekly square porcelain, sandstone tiling, Ren toiletries ... and rubber ducks.
The food and drink
Jim McGuire, born between Glasgow and Edinburgh, reigns over a bountiful kitchen, offering meals at all times of the day. He spent 20 years in Perth, winning the Chef of the Year in Western Australia and hosting his own television show, Western Delights. In his second season in the chalet, he describes his cooking as "Pacific Rim with a Savoyard twist". He sits down with guests to discuss preferences for the week and uses local butchers and delis for key ingredients. Every evening he takes breakfast orders: full English, eggs Benedict – your wish is his command. Light lunch is offered to ski shirkers, followed by afternoon tea and a five-course dinner.
As dedicated wine enthusiasts, Franco and Denis had a great time stocking the cellar. Guests have a choice of two house champagnes and four red and white house wines. These include excellent Chablis and Côtes du Rhône, but those who prefer to go off piste can plunder a global list of vintages, with the emphasis on Burgundy and Bordeaux.
There's an air-conditioned gym on site, as well as a sauna and a swimming pool kept at an inviting 30C. Treatments can be arranged on demand. A children's playroom with a Wii and bouncy mattresses reduces the competition for the cinema. This is the real deal with proper seats, acoustics and snacks.
Chalet staff are on hand to drive guests to the main lifts in Châtel, or they can walk 100m to the Petit-Châtel chair and ski down to the village. The chalet has an underground garage for four cars. Wi-Fi is available throughout. Stairs between levels prevent wheelchair access.
Rental starts at £1,250 per person per week, including full board with house champagne and wines and private transfers from Geneva airport (90 minutes). Group occupancy only, sleeps 12 in six double bedrooms.
Maison Blanche & Verte, 41 Chemin de Sur la Côte, Petit-Châtel, Haute Savoie, France (00 33 4 50 71 72 09; maisonblancheetverte.com).
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