Reluctant skiier Elaine Lemm discovers the only acceptable way to visit Verbier: luxury accommodation, private pool and professional chef on hand
As quickly as the summer holiday tan fades, thoughts turn to the next jaunt, the skiing holiday. Now, I am not the biggest fan of this form of torture. Mainly because I hate the cold and firmly believe that on holiday there is only one 7.30 on the clock – the one in the evening – and it’s accompanied by a gin and tonic.
Nevertheless, every year I am swayed by my ebullient gang of friends and ski-mad husband to go with them.
Well, there’s more to the winter ski-fest than the, erm… skiing. There’s the fresh mountain air; hearty lunches on the slopes; mulled wine or brandy-fuelled hot chocolate on downhill refreshment breaks; and then there’s always dinner to look forward to. Isn’t there?
Over the years, we have tried most kinds of accommodation. But when you’re in a large gang, hotels don’t work and self-catering defeats the object of going with friends. So inevitably we end up in a chalet and at the mercy of its cook.
Ski resorts have a rich, culinary repertoire to draw on (except for the purpose-built French villages, more dependent on hot dogs, chips, pizza and burgers). Much-needed mountains of calories come from hearty goulash soups, Tartiflette, risottos stacked with wild mushrooms, truffle and alpine herbs. You get the picture? Unfortunately, this not what usually lands on the plate of the average chalet guest.
My worst chalet-dining experience was a roast leg of local lamb. What should have made a superb supper was inedible thanks to five hours in a hot oven. Why? It seems the cook’s mum had only taught her six recipes, and leg of lamb wasn’t one of them.
This is what many of us skiers (and me) are up against: when the cook could just as easily be the cleaner and in some chalets is actually both. All of which might be fine at an age when food is merely a filler after a day on the slopes and before a night of booze in the local disco.
But now, if I am going to drag my lazy bones up cold, vertiginous slopes for the thrill of speeding down again, I want more. And I certainly want good food and great wine to round my day off. Which is where the luxury chalet market comes in.
Once, this market seemed unattainable and only for the rich or the famous. But the demand for better accommodation, food and wine has resulted in a rapid expansion of this sector in recent years.
So picture this: a professional chef trained to Michelin-star standard to prepare breakfast, teatime treats and gourmet dinners. Four-course fine dining with an emphasis on high quality, locally sourced ingredients.
Handpicked, complimentary house wines and a cellar of fine vintages if you wish to indulge. A 24-hour in-resort chalet chauffeur, so just ask and you’ll be driven. (In the time I was there, I never carried my skis once, what joy!)
No, it is not a dream; it is the offer from luxury chalet company CK Verbier. Within the glamorous and eponymous Swiss resort they have six properties of different sizes. Most have private pools and spas – and believe me, an early evening swim, watching the sun slowly sinking behind the mountains, is not something I will forget in a hurry.
Neither will I forget the food. Breakfasts were hearty and healthy, with bowls of fresh fruits, cereals, juices, great bread and pastries from the local baker (plus the chef standing by, should you want something cooked).
Dinner involves a discussion with your chef. Maybe fine dining one night, and on another something more relaxed: perhaps that elusive Tartiflette, or something as simple as a Shepherd’s Pie.
And on chef’s night off , Verbier has more than enough snazzy restaurants and bars to keep you happy.
All of this comes at a price, of course. And once experienced, you’ll be spoiled forever. These are CK Verbier’s prices and they have special offers from time to time.
They’re not the only ones in the market, so shop around. There are plenty of others throughout Europe, all needing to be filled. Then gather your gang together. And kiss goodbye to the cremated leg of lamb forever.