Edwin Smith visited the marvellous Chalet Hibou, a mecca for lovers of ski, snow and luxury.
These days, everyone seems to be turning their hobby into a ‘side hustle’. Chad Pike, who spends his days running the Tactical Opportunities fund for investment giant Blackstone, however, has taken things to a whole other level.
In 2008, Mr Pike took advantage of the post-crunch property market to snap up a beautiful old building in the Colorado ski town of Crested Butte. He turned it into a luxurious mountain bolthole and, in the process, created Eleven Experience, a travel company that aims to ‘custom-make experiences that impact the people who impact the world’. Its portfolio has been expanding ever since and now boasts 11 destinations for ‘adventure capitalists’, who can choose between mountain-biking across Icelandic tundra, fly-fishing in the Marquesas and much else besides.
The most recent addition to the Eleven portfolio is the seven-bedroom Chalet Hibou, which sits next to an existing Eleven property, the five-bedroom Chalet Pellerin, in the French mountain hamlet of Le Miroir. Like Pellerin, Hibou is beautifully appointed, with natural wood, luxurious soft furnishings, fur throws and tastefully eclectic artwork – all courtesy of Mr Pike’s wife, Blake, and her interior-design company, No 12 Interiors.
There’s also a hot tub with a spectacular alpine view, a steam room and sauna, a boot room, a media room and even a bar, and staff are on hand to cater to your every whim – whether that be a fireside Champagne cocktail or the evening meal, which sees classics, such as authentic French onion soup, expertly prepared by the in-house chef.
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If you can bring yourself to venture outside, and you should, the chalet’s own ski guides will take snow and weather conditions into account to select the best of five nearby resorts, including Val D’Isère and La Rosière. They’ll also source lift passes, pack your skis and chauffeur you to the bottom of the day’s first lift. Once on the mountain, they use deep local knowledge to seek out the best conditions and secret stashes of off-piste powder.
The pièce de résistance, however, is undoubtedly the chance to cross the Italian border and go heli-skiing. (Heli-skiing isn’t permitted in France.) We clambered into a six-seat craft, which was little more than a fibreglass shell with whirling blades attached, and our guide directed the pilot to a spot that felt like the top of the world – a remote mountain peak, with no one else for miles around. From an altitude of nearly 10,000ft, we carved S-shaped trails through a blanket of untouched snow and reached the bottom totally elated. Then we did it again, this time from the top of a glacier.
After all that, it was time for a bite to eat. The most atmospheric spot for dinner is Hibou’s own ‘alpage’ – an old farmer’s hut a short snow-shoe from the main chalet, which has been repurposed as a private après-ski party pad. There’s no electricity, but there are candles for light, roaring fires for warmth and a barbecue for côte de boeuf, which is served at the long dining table.
Apparently, Mr Pike’s ‘unofficial mission statement’ for his ambitious side project is to make guests say ‘that was the best day of my life’. If you love the mountains and have a taste for adventure, it’ll come pretty close.
From £7,100 per night, based on 12 people sharing on a full-experience basis. Price includes private concierge, full guide service, use of L’Alpage, all gear for activities, lift passes, in-house meals, all house alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, daily housekeeping and airport transfers to/from Geneva. Visit www.elevenexperience.com/chalet-hibou to book and find out more.
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