January 05 2012
I first discovered this family-run hotel 12 years ago, when I took my husband to Argentière and taught him to ski. We’ve since returned many times with our son, who’s now 11. It’s not the easiest resort for beginners, but good skiers love the excellent off-piste, and I prefer being in the smaller village of Argentière than the Brit bunfight that is Chamonix. Getting there is a doddle, too – it’s only a 90-minute drive from Geneva.
The hotel’s location is superb, just five minutes’ walk (in ski boots) to the lift station, and it has charm by the sled-load. The wooden porch decorated with old skis sets a rustic Alpine tone that’s carried through the whole building; but it’s not overdone, rather French and very civilised – a quality reflected in the international clientele. The best bedrooms are on the second and third floors – ask for a Mountain Spirit room or a suite and you’ll get a glorious view of Mont Blanc.
Downstairs, there’s a dining room, a games area, comfy armchairs by an open fire (first picture), a bar, and the wellness centre, with gym and swimming pool. One fog-bound day I took up the satisfying regime of sauna, steam and dip in the pool, although I didn’t go so far as some Russian guests, who ran outside in their swimming togs and threw themselves into the snow. After a hard day’s skiing it’s bliss to climb into the outdoor hot tub (second picture) and relax aching muscles while gazing up at the fir-clad slopes and sniffing the sharp, piny air. In fine weather, meanwhile (and last Easter saw temperatures of 27C), the poolside area transforms into a sunbathing terrace.
Except in school holidays the hotel serves breakfast only (a fabulous continental buffet), giving you the opportunity to try local restaurants in the evening. This policy probably puts off large families who prefer chalet-style catering (good!), but for a short break I’ve always found the Grands Montets perfect. Its facilities, along with the discreet and exceptionally polite staff, allow the independent traveller to flourish without feeling “packaged”. I can’t wait to go back.
Double Mountain Spirit room, from €160 a night, bed and breakfast.