Skiing in style in the magical, picture-postcard French ski resort Megève

The French resort casts a spell over Aspire editor Hollie-Rae Brader during a pre-pandemic getaway

The sound of the snow crunching underneath my winter boots becomes more satisfying with every step I take.

A fresh layer of powder settled overnight and I’m up early to make the most of it. Heading to the ski lifts, it’s always a thrill to be the first person to tread across untouched snow. It’s a moment filled with excitement at what the day may bring.

But I’m not here to ski – after more than a dozen attempts, I’ve finally realised the sport simply isn’t for me. The thought of skiing turns me into a nervous wreck from the moment I board the plane to the second I take my skis off for the last time.

Instead, for the first time, I’ve ventured to a ski resort to enjoy all the benefits of ski-life without the element that I consider a bit of a faff. I love being up in the mountains and have always wondered what it would be like to embrace the snowy surrounds, the alpine air, the après-ski and devilishly good cuisine without having the struggle of putting ski boots on and the ensuing days of calf ache.

I’m in the most picture-postcard French ski resort – Megève, an unassuming, unpretentious, gorgeous little village that is brimming with luxury hotels.

While I’m bound for a few days of relaxation, my husband is taking to the pistes for the first time, desperate to advance from the nursery slope to harder runs as quickly as possible.

I join him briefly for his first visit to ski school, keen to check out his snowploughs and parallel skiing, and to determine whether it’s possible to enjoy a ski holiday without packing a pair of salopettes.

The conditions underfoot are perfect, while the sun is the only feature in the big blue open sky above us. As my husband, Matthew, takes to the beginners’ slopes, I sit by a fire with a hot chocolate, croissant and a book I’ve been attempting to read for months.

Old-fashioned charm

Megève is the hidden gem of ski resorts and is perfect for those of all abilities. It sits at the heart of the Evasion Mont-Blanc ski area with some 220 slopes, 100-plus ski lifts and five nursery slopes for beginners. The area around Megève is quieter than most; pistes aren’t crammed full of people and there isn’t endless queuing for lifts, making the ski experience even more pleasurable.

Unlike some ski resorts, which have been set up purely to serve the winter sports market, Megève is full of life regardless of the time of year. The 3,000-plus locals who call the village home are to thank for that. Alongside an abundance of activities and year-round festivities, a bounty of restaurants, shops and facilities help make it the perfect place for advanced skiers, novices and non-skiers alike. I imagine it would be magical in the summer months for walking and hiking getaways.

The cobbled stone streets showcase a village proud to retain an air of old-fashioned and traditional charm, while fully catering to a high-end and affluent demographic. Where Courchevel embraces over-the-top glamour and is a place for those who want to be seen, Megève is understated and discreet and somewhere the rich pick to escape the crowds and enjoy their privacy.

When it comes to Megève’s luxury offering, clients are spoilt for choice. I stayed at the utterly charming 12-room Le Chalet Zannier, but there’s also a Four Seasons on the other side of the village, as well as rustic boutique Les Fermes de Marie; Small Luxury Hotels of the World member Le M de Megève and alpine property Alpaga, which is perched above the village. Alpaga boasts two-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Table de l’Alpaga, a very popular option serving dinner from Wednesday to Sunday.

The food scene here is impressive, and it takes precedence over partying. If après-ski is a priority for your clients, then this isn’t the place for them. Instead, you’ll find a quieter, peaceful atmosphere with dozens of outstanding high-altitude restaurants and numerous Michelin-starred venues to choose from.

Aside from skiing, there are lots of activities to keep visitors busy. The adventurous will enjoy snowshoe hikes or a small aircraft tour of Mont Blanc, while those more reserved could book a horse and carriage, which are often seen trotting around the village – something that is particularly romantic after dark when the town twinkles.

Pent-up demand

This year’s ski season may have been washed out entirely because of the pandemic, but avid mountain lovers are desperate to return to the slopes. The pent-up demand for the sector is likely to cause issues with availability for next season, with some hotels already reporting strong forward bookings. Agents keen to offer clients a quieter, more-intimate ski option should absolutely consider Megève.

The sound of snow crunching under your feet in the mornings, coupled with the wholesome noise of crackling embers after dark are enough to entice me back to the mountains next winter, and now I feel happy in the knowledge that Megève is the perfect option for a couple who have differing desires when it comes to skiing. I only wish I’d bottled the intoxicating scent of wood burning in a roaring fire, something I so enjoyed during my time in Megève.

Hollie-Rae Brader

Hollie is editor of Aspire’s print and online products. She is responsible for the running of the club and ensuring the content produced and the events organised are relevant to the Aspire audience. She was previously deputy news editor and cruise writer for sister title Travel Weekly. She loves exploring new destinations and is gradually ticking new countries off her list. She most enjoys writing about cruise, South America and Japan. Before working in the travel industry she held news reporting roles at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.

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