The Times

December 29, 2022
Gone are the days of plain grub and shiny pine interiors. Modern ski pads have spas, fine food and serious style.

There's nowhere in the mountains quite as snug as a good ski hotel bedroom. It doesn't have to be posh. It doesn't have to be especially large. All you really need is good central heating, a hot shower, and a firmish, comfortable bed to throw yourself on after a day of downhill - warm again after the cold outside, still and quiet after the mind-scraping speed and excitement of the slopes. There'll be just enough time to post a couple of photos to Instagram and then - well, you're on holiday aren't you? Your only job now is to make it to the bar for the 7pm aperitif. No one will notice if you have a 30-minute kip.

So let's hear it, ladies and gentlemen, for the ski hotel. This winter, everyone may be talking about the shortage of catered chalets - the product of Covid-related cutbacks and Brexit-related staffing costs and bureaucracy. It's too early to say if the problems are permanent, but in the short term at least, hoteliers are ready to take up the slack, helped by a new wave of openings.

Some promise a cocoon of five-star luxury. Others are fit for a fashion shoot. Several more offer that most sacred of ski hotel attributes: proximity to the piste.

What's also striking about this crop of new hotels is the variety. There are more bargain-conscious three stars than five stars, and several apart-hotels too. The latter are the last word in flexibility; a kitchen in which to make picnic lunches and spagbol suppers, as well as a restaurant below if no one can be bothered to cook. The best are bound to win a generation of converts. I'm sitting in one now as I write, full of breakfast, before setting off for the slopes.Outside, the snowfall is so thick and heavy you can see why the French say "ça tombe des pizzas" ("it's falling pizzas"). It's time to grab my skis.

The Hideout

Les Arcs, France

Architecture students will thrill to the sight of the sloping walls and sharp edges of this 1960s design classic. Everyone else will be too busy hurrying towards the Cachette chair lift to care. Because the best thing about this refurbished Arc 1600 landmark is that it's right next door to the Cachette red: a hell-for-leather, straight-down-the mountain piste that's the most exciting of Les Arcs' many intermediate-level runs. That said, the revamp does look lovely - mixing functional, big-windowed bedrooms with the kind of relaxed, loungey public spaces (and co-working desks) that give the best city center hotels their buzz.

December 24, 2022