Why the smart set is still drawn to the French luxury ski resort of Val d’Isere
Chalet Inoko is said to be the tallest in Val d’Isere, and the view from the wraparound glass walls certainly indicates that. The glacier-capped mountains opposite, the enchanting scenery of wooden houses, billows of smoke rising from strips of snow and pine trees.
Step outside onto the wooden deck and from the hot tub you can enjoy the peaks.
Chalet Inoko hosts lawyers, bankers and expats who crave crystal cold ice and snow. A main guest often treats 14 family members and friends — and you can see why.
The interior is a picture of cozy luxury, with warm cedar on the walls and heated floors. A barn-sized living room is stylishly furnished – lights hang from the ceiling like sculpted clouds and a gigantic life-size fashion photograph by Vivienne Westwood overlooks the dining area.
There are sofas to lounge on and books to browse, as well as a champagne-filled courtesy bar. Flowers adorn each room, slippers are laid out for each guest, and rugs drape over chairs by the fire pit.
Sarah Hartley travels to Val d’Isere (pictured) with Purple Ski, a British boutique operator offering luxury catered ski lodge holidays.
Barn-sized: Sarah checks into Chalet Inoko, which is a “picture of cozy luxury.”
Given the ribbed headboards and lampshades in the bedrooms, and the fluffy furs on the daybeds in the spa, it’s no surprise that the design-conscious owners are a young French couple.
If you like swimming, the first thing you want to do after a day on the slopes is get out of bed and straight back into the indoor pool. Throw in the sauna and floor-to-ceiling mountain views from the pool or loungers, and you’ll be making memories without even trying.
It is also a real pleasure to drink the crystal clear water that flows straight from the tap, while bathing in it really softens the skin.
There are six bedrooms to choose from – two open onto family suites and one has bunk beds. The master suite is cozy, although we envy our daughter’s wraparound balcony.
Breakfast is a daily fanfare of fruit, charcuterie, juices, smoothies, pastries, and a hot selection—pancakes one day, scrambled eggs another—and is served on the long wooden table, lit by candles in the evenings to savor the delights of our to enjoy charming youth French chef Hugo Attou.
He is one to keep an eye on as he has previously worked in Michelin starred kitchens so each of his creations is a true gastronomic treat.
Dishes that stand out – alongside its hand-made sushi – include agnolotti stuffed with truffles and squid ink, served with parmesan, chives and garlic, or the slow roasted chicken with creamed potatoes and Jerusalem artichoke.
The nightly ritual of canapés followed by a four-course meal is enough to puff up your dungarees, but will also get you skiing that little bit harder the next day. And all that food comes after freshly baked afternoon cake, which you can enjoy with tea.
Sarah writes: “Anyone who likes to swim is the first thing that lures you out of bed after a day on the slopes and straight back again”
From the whirlpool on the wooden terrace of the chalet you can enjoy the view of the peaks, reveals Sarah
Chalet Inoko has six bedrooms – two open onto family suites and one has bunk beds
We ask our chef if he gets any requests. Only once apparently for Apple Crumble.
Guests are coming from Lyon or Geneva and should expect a three-hour drive to the resort.
In our case, we are picked up in Geneva, but since Swiss law prohibits drinking in vehicles, we are not allowed to put the Veuve Clicquot champagne in the basket that Hugo packed for us until we crossed the border.
Once opened, it’s washed down with delicious cheese and ham sandwiches and chocolate brownies.
It’s February, but the twinkling fairy lights in Val d’Isere give the pretty town a Christmas spirit. A steep, snow-covered road leads up to the magnificent three-storey house flanked by pine trees above “Petit Alaska”, as the area is known. Chalet Inoko is stunning – the kind of place Hollywood stars are photographed for glossy magazines, lying on fur blankets next to a roaring fire, dressed in white cashmere.
We had traveled with Purple Ski, a British boutique operator offering luxury catered ski chalet holidays in Courchevel, Meribel and Val d’Isere. It’s a smooth operation so we were able to book ski equipment, restaurants and even a massage in the chalet’s dedicated massage room before we even left the house.
Ski fitting is usually arranged at the chalet but we arrive late and have to wait until the next day to enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the young team who are fitting us at the Oxygene store. A boy from Australia grew up skiing in Japan. Glorious dry snow, he said, but none of that, and nodded at the clear, cornflower-blue sky.
Chalet Inoko is home to lawyers, bankers and expats who crave crystal-cold ice and snow, reveals Sarah
Lights hang from the ceiling like sculpted clouds, and a giant, life-size fashion photograph by Vivienne Westwood overlooks the dining room
Above is one of the exquisite dishes prepared by the chalet’s private chef, Hugo Attou
Perhaps more than any other vacation, skiing involves compromises, due to the varied skills and zeal found in the group.
If you love skiing, then it might be fun cramming around in budget hotel boot rooms with heavy gear and limited storage. But if you’d rather spend more to ensure a less hectic experience, then Chalet Inoko makes perfect sense – especially if you want everyone in the family to have a stress-free holiday.
Everything is designed to be as simple as possible, so guests only need to relax. A chauffeur-driven minibus will take you to the slopes in four minutes – and the driver on duty will be waiting to pick you up when you’re done.
Val d’Isère doesn’t come cheap, so let’s make it unforgettable. A margarita pizza lunch at Gigi’s, halfway up the Solaise mountain, with coffee and water costs €40. But we relax in sun loungers, facing the sun, listening to the sound of skis on the slopes ahead. This is life.
Who is skiing in the ski area now? Not the Sloane Rangers of my youth, sinking Steiners and wearing bandanas, girls all pink marble lipstick and pearls. Rising costs have made the resort more international and less Anglocentric than it was before lockdown, when the British outnumbered the local French.
In many ways, Val d’Isere has become a more refined version of its former self.
Val D’esire: ‘[The resort] has become a more sophisticated version of his former self,” writes Sarah
A feast for the eyes: Sarah enjoys lunch at Gigi on Mount Solaise
On the chef’s free evening, we opt for the Fondue Factory, a city institution and a lot more glamorous than it sounds. There’s an open kitchen, a great wine list, and lively tables with plenty of space in between. The fondue is tasty whether you want cheese or meat or both.
Take your time to explore the prosperous city. A little gem is the church, built on the site of an 11th-century chapel, with flickering lanterns, candles and shrines bearing the faded photographs of bright young faces full of hope lost in the mountains. It’s a burning reminder of how snow and ice must be respected.
On a sunny afternoon, from the Yule Hotel’s covered terraces at the foot of the slopes, we join other Aperol-loving après-skiers to watch experts slalom down Le Face – Val d’Isere’s legendary black run. I marvel at such an ability.
My heart sinks the next morning as my young daughter dashes impressively down hard green then soft blue runs, her pink snow suit shaking as she disappears down the slope.
The advantages of a ski school are obvious and worth the investment.
Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks because green slopes remain my comfort zone. But on the last ride on the last day, film me, I say.
Although I felt like I was racing to the very edge of danger and moving at a speed that took my breath away, on playback it turned out that the white snowsuited figure is no faster than a bag of flour in one supermarket conveyor belt. There is always next year…
- Visit purpleski.com for more information on staying at Chalet Inoko.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-11901587/Why-smart-set-drawn-luxury-French-ski-resort-Val-dIsere.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Why the smart set is still drawn to the French luxury ski resort of Val d’Isere