Isambard Wilkinson visits Le Grand Joux, a privately owned alpine lodge and spa in Portes du Soleil.
Every worthwhile journey has a highlight and a low-point. This journey’s highlight was a wallow in the remote chalet’s outdoor tub under a starlit night sky: as piping hot water softened limbs battered by travails on the slopes and pine trees stood silently about like benign rows of soldier-giants up to their galoshes in snow, a bottle of champagne appeared through the steam.
At Le Grand Joux, a newly opened and renovated century-old chalet, there is much attention to detail. Secluded up an alpine track near the hamlet of Graydon, in the heart of the Portes du Soleil, the pretty old auberge, which is only accessible in winter by snowmobile or helicopter, is a haven of luxurious correctness.
It has a full spa using Sodashi spa products, including an Alpha Lounger, dry flotation bath, indoor swimming pool, steam room and that marvelous outdoor wood burning hot tub and a barrel sauna with glass wall overlooking the valley. The staff includes two spa therapists as well as a professionally trained chef, ski planner, lodge manager, driver and the delightfully named ‘snow boy’, who I presume was responsible for the ubiquitous snow.
For those intent on disporting themselves on the white stuff, it couldn’t be easier. An all terrain vehicle and snowmobiles transport guests directly to the quieter access points to the slopes. Our group climbed into a helicopter which had landed within a ski pole’s distance of the chalet, y voila, we were dropped across the valley, to plunge with varying degrees of success (none in my case) down a mountain.
For those with a healthy disregard for physical activity, the lodge is a place to linger: three floors with open plan living and dining space set around a large original open fireplace. The interiors feature a mix of modern and vintage pieces of furniture combining alpine rustic charm with New England armchairs and leather sofas, sheepskin rugs and fur throws. Each bed is covered with enough fur to cloth an entire tribe of Inuit.
There was little to worry about except how much to eat and drink. Alan, a chef of some talent, has created a menu of Savoyard cuisine with a modern twist using local cheeses from the village of Graydon, mountain ham and seasonal produce. My only grumble about him was that his morning reveille, on account of his former military service, was a little brusque; but he more than compensated for this by steering a cup of tea to the bedside table. The low-point? If there was one I can’t remember.
Prices start from £2,100 per person for one week based on ten people sharing the lodge on an exclusive basis.
The lodge will be open year round and out of ski season will offer yoga retreats with light, healthy menus, mountain biking, hiking and lakeside picnics. Included in the price is seven nights accommodation, daily breakfast and afternoon tea, pre-dinner champagne and canapes and dinner on six nights, house wines, open spirit bar, organic beer and cider menu, resort transfer via skidoos and in-house ski expert.
For reservations visit www.legrandjoux.com or call 020 3287 5456.