Gourmet ski weekend: Heston Blumenthal, Marcus Wareing and Sat Bains cook up an Alpine feast

Take three Michelin-starred chefs, 45 skiers and one Italian mountain resort. The result? A weekend of high-octane thrills and fine dining

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The Independent Travel

It felt like a military operation – our squadron of 16 snowmobiles, reaching speeds of about 110kph, roared up a snowy Italian mountain churning up a whirlwind of powder smoke. I was near the back of the pack, the pungent fumes of four-stroke engine oil filling my lungs.

Only we were not preparing for battle, but instead for a culinary assault on the taste buds of the 45 guests at the debut Mountain Gourmet Ski Experience. We were heading for Courmayeur, on the Aostan flank of Mont Blanc, for the inaugural event, spearheaded by a crack squad of British celebrity chefs.

The chefs come heavily armed with 10 Michelin stars between them: co-founder of the event Heston Blumenthal flanked by Marcus Wareing and Sat Bains. Heston rediscovered his love of skiing nine years ago and has recently undergone hip surgery, which he hopes will improve the angulation on his left ski turn. He explains, "It was a no-brainer: I love skiing, love mountains and obviously love food. I want to marry all those passions to create what I hope will be a fantastic epicurean experience."

Heston enlisted Marcus and Sat, he says, because he knew that they would "be able to rise to the challenge of taking over a strange kitchen in the Alps and still turn out magnificent meals for our guests".

"I knew that Marcus already loved his skiing and that Sat, although a beginner, would be game. But most importantly, they're good guys and don't consider it a chore to mingle, have fun or even ski with the guests," he adds.

Courmayeur is home to 16 quality, rustic restaurants dotted over its 70km of pistes. So it took a discerning man with a good knowledge of the area to select one for Marcus and one for Sat. That man was Amin Momen of Momentum Ski, joint founder of the event and long-time Courmayeur visitor.

Both chefs were tasked with conjuring a feast for two consecutive nights, predominantly from local produce, that would satisfy the appetites of their expectant guests. The guests were split into two groups – to spend one night at Sat's and one evening at Marcus's on alternative nights. It was left to Heston to roam between tables at both venues, chatting with guests about everything from the food to their best run of the day.

A converted shepherd's hut on a sheltered Alpine plateau, run by talented chef Giacomo Calosi, proved a popular setting for Sat's feast. After boarding a private evening cable car to the ski area at Plan Checrouit, we took our high-octane Snowmobile blast up the slopes to Maison Vieille, where Calosi welcomed us with a perfectly chilled glass of prosecco, while Sat and his team worked their magic in the kitchen.

Marcus's piste-side gourmet venue was La Chaumiere – run by the local Grivel family, famous in mountaineering circles for more than 200 years for pioneering successive designs for crampons. Getting here from the cable car was a more civilised affair, involving a 10-minute stroll along a snowy path, lit by the soft glow of lanterns.

The 1,000 metres of vertical drop between the top lift station of Cresta d'Arp at 2,755 metres and Plan Checrouit below, offered plenty of skiing to work up an appetite for the all-inclusive package of haute cuisine ahead. Courmayeur's wealth of blue, red and black groomed pistes are complemented by access to a wealth of back-country and glacial terrain so all, from novice to free-ride expert, have plenty to challenge them.

Not that there weren't treats on offer during the day, too. Exotic hot chocolate and moreish biscuits were concocted by Heston and served as elevenses, also at La Chaumiere. They quickly replaced any calories lost on the slopes. Sipping the luscious chocolate lava through thick vapour was a collision of hedonism and Hogwarts, with the added bonus of seeing Heston in his saloupettes, cooking it up with all the intensity of Walter White. Standing next to me, former Formula 1 Champion Damon Hill said: "I love this whole concept. I wish I had more time to ski, and if I did, I wish I could eat like this every time."

The Michelin-starred chefs lived up to their accolades. Marcus's rainbow trout chowder made me pity the hundreds of guests who ate the clam chowder I helped to make during a season working in a ski- resort hotel kitchen in Vermont. His trilogy of Herdwick lamb almost overwhelmed me with its richness; comprising complex, intense layers of flavour. And it was quite a privilege to have Marcus come to each table with a copper pot to personally ladle velvety jus over the meat.

Sat wowed me with his roasted scallops on slice of brawn with truffle emulsion. As for his delicious ox cheek, well I'm not sure if pole dancing was de rigueur in medieval times, but soon after Sat added the mead to the meat, the music was turned up and all hell broke loose at Maison Vieille.

For dessert, Heston had asked both chefs to take part in a tiramisu challenge. All the guests were invited to vote for the version they liked the most. Sat won – but both went miles off brief to create something not even remotely recognisable as tiramisu.

On a free day, a group of us skied down to one of my favourite Courmayeur restaurants, Rifugio La Zerotta, to indulge in lardo on bread with olive oil and chestnuts, followed by suckling pig, roasting on spits outside in the garden. The pudding was tiramisu, but a proper one this time.

Happily, the same chefs are returning for the second gourmet weekend next month and are currently dreaming up the Alpine menus that will be kept secret until unveiled to the next batch of lucky diners.

Next time, the culinary experience will start before guests hit the slopes with breakfast at Heston's Perfectionists' Cafe at Heathrow Terminal 2. They'll also experience a third Michelin-star dinner by Maura Gosio, head chef at Courmayeur's Grand Hotel Royal & Golf. In the Aosta Valley, it seems, too many cooks don't spoil the broth.

Getting there

Momentum Ski (020 7371 9111; momentumski.com) has three nights' B&B at the Grand Hotel Royal, including three-day ski pass, three dinners cooked by Michelin-star chefs, flights from Heathrow to Geneva on 9 January and transfers, from £3,500pp. Extensions available.

Staying there

Hotel Bouton d'Or (00 39 0165 846729; hotelboutondor.com). Hotel Pavillon (00 39 0165 846120; pavillon.it).

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