Having grown up in one mountainous region of America or another (New Hampshire and Colorado to be exact), I have always been a big fan of skiing, and winter holidays in general. Summer hols are overrated. Who needs sweltering heat, watered-down cocktails, hundreds of sticky children and crowded pools when you can have cosy fires, gorgeous wine and miles upon miles of fresh air and adventure? I don’t know about you, but the latter is my kind of break, and Chilly Powder in the French Alps is just the place for it.
It’s easy to see how Francesca Eyre, owner and ‘face’ of Chilly Powder, fell in love with the area. Nestled just above the beautiful ski town of Morzine, France, Chilly Powder is perfectly placed at the base of Avoriaz, giving visitors the best of the Portes du Soleil resort.
Having spent many family holidays skiing in France, Francesca had always felt a pull to the area, and after training as a chef in Dublin, she was invited to Morzine in the early 90s to cook at a ski chalet over Christmas and New Year, and that’s where it all began. A chance meeting of her now-husband, Paul, turned into a season of planning their first chalet business venture.
What started as a single five-bedroom chalet welcoming 60 guests its first season, has turned into a three-chalet resort, now welcoming over 1,000 holidaymakers each year.
We were welcomed personally by Francesca, which was a wonderful touch and made us feel like we were already a part of their big, happy family. Within minutes we had settled into our room, had our skis fitted, and were able to relax and enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate au coin du feu, meaning at the fireside, which just happens to be the name of the picturesque chalet we were lucky enough to stay in.
The chalet’s open-plan lounge and dining area is dominated by its four-sided fireplace, where guests can bask in the warmth of the crackling fire after a day of skiing, or sip a cocktail in the bar each evening. There’s a cosy mezzanine with a pool table, books and games galore – perfect for families – and plenty of space to chill out and just enjoy life.
One of, if not the most wonderful thing about Chilly Powder is the family-friendly attitude and atmosphere. Those of us with kids have all stayed in a hotel or two that are supposedly happy to have little ones around, but when you arrive you find there’s nothing for the children to do, nothing for the children to eat, and staff seem less than enthused about the presence of non-adults. Chilly Powder, on the other hand, was built from the ground up with children in mind, with an on-site crèche, special kids’ dinnertimes (where they get to eat with all the other kids rather than us boring parents), and their own ski school. There’s even an on-site games room and movie room.
But don’t worry – it’s not just for kids. Oh no, that’s the beauty of Chilly Powder. The kids think they’re having a kids’ holiday, but little do they know it’s actually just a ploy to give mum and dad the best grown-up holiday ever. On-site childcare? Yes please. Ski school for the kiddos so mum and dad can hit the slopes without having to deal with whiny offspring? Check. Throw in a hot tub, massage, private bar, sauna and spectacular adults-only three-course meals every night (and don’t forget the accompanying wine), and you have all the ingredients for winter holiday perfection. During our visit, it wasn’t uncommon to see parents without their kids most of the time – the little ones were off playing with other little guests, somewhere in the chalet, but you just knew they were all safe and content.
Chilly Powder’s rooms range from double and twin rooms, to family rooms for six – all cosy and warm just like you’d imagine. The chalet’s Music Room has a king-size bed for mum and dad, and a separate children’s bedroom with bunks. For families, you can also choose to stay in the Safari Suite (two-bedroom suite), the Toy Room or the Winter Room (duplex family rooms with two levels), the Sporting Room (compact bedroom with double bed and bunks), or the Riding Room (compact duplex room with two levels).
Every one of the 16 luxurious bedrooms are en-suite and themed, and include either a balcony or access to the garden and terrace (with the exception of the Indian Room). Family rooms have DVD players where you can borrow one of the many movies on offer, but not like you’ll be spending too much time in your room when there’s a winter wonderland to explore just outside your door.
Food and drink
Where do I begin when it comes to dining at Chilly Powder? If you think the skiing is good, wait until you sit down for your evening meal; dinner at the chalet was quite possibly the highlight of our stay. I was apprehensive at first, thinking I’d rather have my own private table and be able to choose from a menu, but I’m officially sold on the dining concept at Chilly Powder.
While parents enjoy a glass of wine at the bar, the kids have their dinner at 5.30 along with all of their new friends who are staying at the chalet. Kids meals out of the way, tucked up with a movie on in our room, we were enjoying a drink and canapés at the bar when the gong sounded, which meant it was time to eat! We sat at a long, beautifully laid table for 18 people, and quickly joined in conversation with other guests, chatting about where we’d skied that day and the best places to visit in Morzine, and soon it felt like we were dining with old friends. Come to find out, our tablemates the first night happened to be from a town only 20 minutes from us in England! What are the chances?
Each night, we enjoyed five gourmet courses using the freshest ingredients and local produce, paired with specially selected fine wines, and each night there was nothing I could find fault with. Not. A. Thing. It’s quite a special experience when you go on holiday and all of your expectations are exceeded. It was like what you’d see in a television advert for a luxury ski break – a golden glow coming from the roaring fire, happy guests wearing cosy jumpers, relaxed parents (yes, there is such a thing), wine glasses in hand, enjoying 5-star cuisine, laughter and conversation late into the night.
There wasn’t one particular day that was better than any other – every day you spend at Chilly Powder is the best day. As Wednesday is the chalet’s day off, we ventured into Morzine to explore and try dinner at one of the many restaurants (recommendations gratefully received from Francesca), and although we loved Morzine and its Alpen-ski-resort loveliness, we couldn’t wait to return to the chalet.
Well, ski, of course! The morning after our arrival, we hopped out of bed, piled on our layers and headed straight for the Prodains Cable Car, a short stroll from the chalet, which took us straight up the mountain to Avoriaz in only a few minutes. We skied, we marvelled at the views, we explored, we took lifts high up into the clouds and skied in and out of France and Switzerland, stopping only for lunch at a slope-side café. Around 5pm, we skied the piste that took us straight to the back door of our chalet, stowed our gear away, and spent a bit of time relaxing, reading books, playing pool and chatting to other guests before dinner.
If skiing isn’t your thing but you still want to experience a luxury winter holiday in Avoriaz, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Strap on some ice skates and glide away on the outdoor family skating rink; join a guided snowshoe walk exploring the forests and spotting animals that live in the beautiful untouched countryside; discover stunning landscapes while driving a team of sled dogs through the woods; hop on a horse-drawn sleigh for a tour of Avoriaz; or stick on your head torch and enjoy night sledging on the quiet pistes after dark.
Feeling extra adventurous? Why not conquer your fears and take the plunge by ice diving in Montriond and Chatel? Or, experience the ultimate thrill and skydive over the awe-inspiring Alps.
For some indoor downtime, pay a visit to the Morzine Swimming Pool, or while away the day at Avoriaz’s Aquariaz Water Park.
The easiest way to get to Avoriaz is flying into Geneva and either renting a car (if you’re brave enough to drive up the snowy mountains) or booking a transfer (shared or private). After our quick flight to Geneva, we had a private transfer waiting and found ourselves at Chilly Powder in just about 90 minutes. 90 beautiful, scenic minutes.
We spent five days at Chilly Powder, and by the end of our stay, I was entirely convinced I wanted to move to France to open my own ski chalet (or maybe just live with Francesca and Paul permanently). I honestly tried to convince my husband that a move to the Alps would make perfect sense. I was smitten, and the entrepreneur in me was maybe just a little bit jealous of the Eyre’s dream-turned-lifestyle-business that they created from scratch. But, like most families, we really aren’t in any place to move to another country, but we’re so glad that Francesca and Paul did take that leap all those years ago.
Rooms and suites at Chilly Powder can be booked from approx. £199/night double occupancy (catered).
Address: BP 116, Morzine 74110, France
Phone: 020 7289 6958