Top ten: luxury ski chalets
Hotel or private accommodation? That's the perennial debate when it comes to tailoring the perfect ski holiday. It's nice to have a home away from home on the slopes, but do you really want to cook and do housework after a strenuous day's skiing? With these luxury catered chalets, there is no debate. Food and domestic details are taken care of by experienced staff,yet you can enjoy the space and privacy lacking in any hotel. Some of these chalets offer unique outdoor activities, from Bond-themed adrenaline tours through the Swiss Alps to guided peak-to-beach skiing in the Norwegian fjords. Others have gone to great lengths to keep you indoors, laying on spas and hot tubs, games rooms and home cinemas. (It's not all about cowhide rugs and blazing log fires.) Among the very best in the world, these chalets are extravagant treats and, perhaps, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but seriously worth it.
1. Hidden Dragon, Veysonnaz, Switzerland
Is this the most tranquil ski chalet in the Alps? It certainly is a contender, with its soothing, feng shui-inspired design and secluded location above the hamlet of Veysonnaz in Switzerland's vast 4 Vallées ski region. The ultra-luxurious lodge boasts a private chef, a mini-cinema and extensive spa facilities, including a hammam and outdoor sauna, and a meditation room. To offset all this blissful serenity, the lodge is now organising a seven-day James Bond-themed ski trip, which involves downhill chases and heli-lifts to untouched peaks. There's also an opportunity to explore the 4 Vallées backcountry with Alex Coudray, the local freeride champion.
Hidden Dragon Lodge and Spa (www.hidden-dragon.com; 00 44 845 505 0251) sleeps 12 and costs from 30,000 Swiss francs (Dh11,4675) for seven nights, including taxes. The "Swisskisafari 007" option costs an additional 9,940 francs (Dh37,830) per person, including taxes (prices are based on 12 people sharing six double rooms).
2. Chalet Spa, Verbier, Switzerland
It's tempting to say that Chalet Spa is all about the gadgets. This Verbier gem has a bewildering array of cool stuff, such as "magic mirror" TVs in every bedroom, glass-wall fireplaces, a music system loaded with 10,000 albums, a Technogym and, coolest of all, a pair of dune buggies to zip you around the resort. But even without the technology, this chalet is a magical place to stay, thanks to its luxurious interior (think cowhide throws and Belgian satin sheets) and a perfect location, offering uninterrupted views across the valley as well as proximity to the Savoleyres lift station. The service is professional and friendly and the food, referencing Japanese cuisine, is fabulous.
Chalet Spa (www.chaletspa.com; 00 44 7797 718 201) sleeps 10 and costs from 60,000 francs (Dh224,413) for seven nights, including taxes.
3. The Lodge, Verbier, Switzerland
This impossibly luxurious lodge, owned by Sir Richard Branson, does everything in its power to dissuade you from hitting the slopes. It's well located, with a piste right outside and the centre of chic Verbier a 10-minute stroll away, but there's just too much to enjoy indoors: the plush Kelly Hoppen-designed interiors, the party room with a pool table and entertainment system, the beauty therapy room where you can have a pedicure or sports massage. It even has its own ice rink. But the biggest draw, perhaps, is the food, prepared by chefs who trained under Raymond Blanc at the world-famous Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in England.
The Lodge (www.thelodge.virgin.com) sleeps 12 to 14 people and costs from £58,000 (Dh344,570) for seven nights, including taxes.
4. Lyngen Lodge, Lyngen Alps, Norway
As extraordinary ski experiences go, a week at Lyngen Lodge in northern Norway is hard to top. The traditional wooden lodge overlooks a fjord in the central Lyngen Alps above the Arctic Circle. There are no lifts or heli-ski options here. The owner, Graham Austick, takes a powerboat across the fjord every day and leads guests up a nearby mountain on skis with climbing skins. Expect five-hour ascents and exhilarating 30-minute descents through virgin powder all the way down to the beach. After all that exertion, it's just as well that the lodge, opened in 2008 at a cost of £1m (Dh5.7m), is comfortable, beautifully designed - with sheepskins and wall-mounted musk ox heads - and warm, thanks to geothermal heating.
Lyngen Lodge (www.lyngenlodge.com; 00 47 4762 7853) sleeps 16 and has double rooms from 376,000 francs (Dh239,320), including taxes, for seven nights and six days of guided skiing and full board.
5.Chalet Floralie, St-Martin-de-Belleville, France
To enjoy the Trois Vallées, the world's largest fully linked ski area, with ease of access to the slopes, you need to stay in one of the three big resorts, right? Wrong. Escape the bustle of Courchevel, Val Thorens and Méribel and head to the quiet, unspoilt village of St-Martin-de-Belleville. Within metres of the lifts, you'll find one of the loveliest chalets in the Alps. Opened last season by an English family, the chalet has been designed with great sophistication and taste. It's comfortable and homely, too, with huge sofas, a cosy bench-style dining area and a lavish spa. A large penthouse, sleeping four, can be rented separately.
Chalet Floralie (www.skifloralie.com; 00 44 1243 575507) sleeps up to 18 and costs from £800 (Dh4,626) per person on a catered basis. Alternatively, for smaller parties, the penthouse can be rented separately for up to four people from £2,400 (Dh13,880) per week on a self-catered basis.
6. Ferme du Moudon, Les Gets, France
This magnificent chalet in the Portes du Soleil ski region of France, tucked away in its own private grounds and yet a mere three-minute drive from the lifts at Les Gets, has been described as "the ultimate James Bond pad". The wilderness views from the chalet are breathtaking, and the interiors are pretty spectacular, too. The owner, Nicky Dobree, now a successful London interior designer, has done an exceedingly classy job in making this 17th-century Savoyard farmhouse feel contemporary and cool, without spoiling its original features. A sauna and an outdoor Jacuzzi add substance to the Bond reference. The food is a highlight: don't leave without indulging in the six-course gourmet feast.
Ferme du Moudon (www.fermedemoudon.com; 00 44 207 627 0469) sleeps 10 and costs from £10,000 (Dh59,408) for seven nights, including taxes.
7. Chalet Artemis, St Anton, Austria
Chalet Artemis, in the world-class Austrian resort of St Anton, is to a traditional Alpine chalet what a iPhone ringtone is to a cowbell. Purpose-built for the high-end Scott Dunn company, Artemis, which opened its doors in 2008, is a slightly mad, hexagonal structure with four floors and a lift. On ground level, you'll find a 12-seater cinema with red velvet chairs and an impressive wellness area containing a wet room, a sauna, a steam room, a massage room and an indoor pool. At the top is a dining room and terrace with views over the quiet Nassarein area. The design of the bedrooms is tastefully minimalist and everything is as high-tech as you'd expect.
Chalet Artemis (www.scottdunn.com; 00 44 208 682 5400) sleeps 12 and costs from £25,140 (Dh149,353) for seven nights, including taxes.
8. Chalet Aurelio, Lech, Austria
If money is no object and luxury a must, the place to stay in the Alps right now is Chalet Aurelio in the Austrian resort of Lech. Built by the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who rents it out when he's away, this is splendour at an oligarchical level. The most striking feature is the chandelier in the living room, but more impressive still is the chalet's scale: the master bedroom is 200 square metres and the spa contains an 18m indoor swimming pool. Guests have access to the adjacent hotel and its fine-dining restaurant, although the chalet is equipped with a private chef who will cook whatever you desire. Ski-in and ski-out into the Arlberg region, Austria's best ski area.
Chalet Aurelio (www.aureliolech.com; 00 43 5583 2214) sleeps 16 and costs from €73,500 (Dh378,633) for seven nights, including taxes.
9. The Top of Mill Street, Aspen, US
Chalets aren't nearly as common in US ski resorts as they are in Europe, but the Top of Mill Street, in ultra-glitzy Aspen, would give any luxury Alpine hideaway a run for its money. Located at the base of Aspen Mountain, with ski-in access from Ruthie's Run, the chalet is comfortable, private and, above all, spacious. The grand living room contains a Steinway piano. There is a mini-cinema, a billiard room and a hot tub. An on-call limousine service can be arranged, but the centre of Aspen, where the rich and famous come to ski and play, is a five-minute walk away. Invite the Beckhams around and they won't fail to be impressed.
The Top of Mill Street (www.oxfordski.com; 00 44 1865 398 135) sleeps 10 and costs from US$47,250 (Dh173,493) for seven nights, including taxes.
10. Chalet Chloe, Breckenridge, US
All too often, high-end catered chalets are stuffy affairs, with impersonal staff and interiors you're afraid to touch. Chalet Chloe in Breckenridge, high up in the Colorado Rockies, is different. The friendly hosts - Huw, Arsula, and their daughter Chloe - are always around to make sure you're being taken care of. The chalet is certainly luxurious, with great attention to detail (such as humidifiers in every room to keep your skin from drying out), but it has a wonderfully relaxed air. The bountiful breakfasts - burritos, muffins, pancakes - set you up for the day, and there's an outdoor hot tub to wind down in at night.
Chalet Chloe (www.ski-kokopelli.com; 00 1 970 453 2575) sleeps 12 to 14 people and costs from $11,725 (Dh43,052) for seven nights, including taxes.