Fancy a great ski-in Morzine hotel? Try Chilly Powder.
Skiing, mountains, and Alpine air are three of my favourite things, and I was delighted to be able to revel in all of them earlier this year thanks to Chilly Powder, a company run by Francesca and Paul Eyre, who run a number of excellent chalets in the Morzine-Avoriaz ski areas of France. They have lovingly built their business from scratch, starting in the mid ’90’s and are still thriving now with the successful yet-still-personal set of chalets they run today.
My start on skis in the ’80’s
Being able to ski is a skill I know I’m so lucky to have. It’s all thanks to my parents! Mum and dad didn’t grow up skiing and had never been until they took us in the ‘80’s. Pastel pink and neon Zig-Zag ski suits were on their first go-round and the snow still dumped like clockwork. They were just as keen to learn as we were, and so with some other families, friends, and acquaintances from our local town, we all travelled by coach from Cornwall to the French Alps every year for a week.
We’d have ski lessons, make new friends we might not have otherwise met, and enjoyed a rollicking good time. I remember it all so fondly, even those long coach journeys (of sometimes 24 hours!). They could have been so boring, but actually made the trip even more exciting. Two boxy televisions bracketed to the ceiling of the coach, carefully packed ‘sweets’ bags and puzzles. Not to mention our Sony Walkmans cued with tapes of Bananarama and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
These all made long trips to the mountains a joy. My passion for skiing was embedded then, and still thrives to this day.
So, you can imagine my excitement in March this year when Chilly Powder offered my friend Lindsey a trip. She was asked to come and stay in one of their lovely ski hotels in Morzine-Avoriaz, and she invited me to come with her. Of course, I jumped at the chance.
It was my first trip to this area for skiing and I was excited to see it, but as we arrived under cover of darkness I had a little longer to wait.
Lindsey and I had taken our flight from Bristol to Geneva. This was much more convenient than travelling all the way to London. Despite the late hour we were greeted by a driver from the hotel. He scooped us up friendly cheer and welcomed us with interesting stories on our transfer. About an hour and a quarter later we pulled up outside our home for the next few days. We were again met with a superbly warm welcome, our host giving us a quick tour, showing us our room. He even whipped up a charcuterie board and glass of wine despite the late hour.
A perfectly placed hotel
We were staying at Chilly Powder’s ‘Au Coin du Feu’. This is Eyre families’ largest hotel, with the benefit of ski-in/ski-out access. It’s a delightful, cosy, and stylish place to stay, feeling more like a chalet than a hotel. It’s poised perfectly above ski town of Morzine at the base of the Avoriaz ski area.
It couldn’t be better placed, straddling easy access to high and exciting slopes, and the busy, friendly town life a few minutes down the valley by car or bus. I was excited to be there. Despite being initially confused about how the area fitted together as two discrete resorts, it soon became clear to me what a perfect complement the two areas were for each other. Chilly Powder was a convenient and convivial base for us to make most of everything on our doorstep.
The area has interesting history to go with its stellar scenes, as Morzine wasn’t always the bustling ski town it is today. It used to be the Grange of the Cistercian Monastery of Saint-Jean d’Aulps 12th century, supplying the pious men with their day-to-day needs. Local lay men worked the land to provide the monastic community with their vittles and clothing.
After centuries as an agricultural area, these slabs of mountain rock gave up their slate and mining made the town wealthy. This brought tourists with a yearning to do more than walk the town streets. It wasn’t long before ski runs and hotels appeared, followed by the town’s first cable car in 1934. Now Morzine is an area known far-and-wide for its excellent skiing, charming restaurants, and delicious food.
Refreshed, relaxed and ready for the snow
We woke refreshed. I had slept soundly, keeping the window by my bed in our lovely twin room ajar for the fresh air. We got ready, then headed downstairs to the dining room for a fresh, local breakfast. There were all the options you could want for both sweet and savoury palates. No rushed feel that can happen with ski hotels, where everyone is vying to get to the first lift. Here, at the foot of the main Avoriaz lift, the pace was more relaxed and convivial.
Although many managed to get out and away to make first tracks on the snow, others were happily ensconced around the long tables in the dining room. They enjoyed the views, read papers, and watched the outdoor jacuzzi slowly steam as it warmed hot for the day. Some would head up at lunchtime and some perhaps not at all that day, instead relaxing and getting a massage.
After breakfast I was ready to head into town to the local ski hire to get kitted out. I hadn’t brought any skis or boots with me, but to my delighted surprise I didn’t have to! The ski hire came to me. A knowledgeable and friendly man from Doorstep Skis was waiting for us in the foyer. He had come armed with a number of options for us to try on. I recalled that we’d already given our shoe and ski size to Chilly Powder, and realised that this was why!
Up to Avoriaz we go!
What a treat! We chatted as we tried on the various boots: snowboard boots for Lindsey and ski boots for me. Then, with helmets, skis, poles, board and boots all sorted and togged up in our mountain gear, we made our way the 2 minute walk up the hill to the main gondola up to Avoriaz.
In no time at all we were up at Avoriaz 1800, with almost 130km of piste for us to explore and access to the whole Portes du Soleil, one of the largest skiing areas in the world, should we want to explore further.
On this visit however we stayed within Avoriaz and made good use of all the different pistes, with my hunger to improve off-piste skiing coming to the fore as it does every time I go to the mountains.
Chilly Powder had arranged a lesson each for us with Avoriaz Alpine Ski School as part of our trip, so I was looking forward to this and planned to ask my teacher whether he could take me off piste later in the week for some tuition, as we were due some heavy snowfall.
Ski lessons = Fun times
I have skied for years. Although I am competent, my style is dated and my skills on the most modern ski shape needed work. I hadn’t had a ski lesson since I was young, so I was a little nervous. However when I met my instructor, a brilliant British man named George, I knew I was going to learn a lot and have a very fun time doing so.
George watched me ski down a number of slopes whilst making some observations about my strengths and areas of weakness. He then spent the next few hours helping me improve. Especially helpful for my ADHD brain, he explained why the things he was teaching me were going to help my skiing, which I find very satisfying to know when I’m learning. We got on famously, and I booked another lesson on piste for the next day. I even booked a further one for off-piste later in the week after the snow dumped. Both were exceptionally good and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Avoriaz Alpine if you go to Avoriaz seeking a ski school.
But what about families and kids at Chilly Powder?
Lindsey and I were visiting without children and we had a great time. Although the hotel is well set-up for kids, we never felt like we were in a ‘family’ hotel where single adults might stand out. The hotel has a wealth of amenities for young people. There’s a games room upstairs, a mini cinema room, and a creche for little-uns when parents hit the slopes. It was a real treat to be able to chat with so many adults who weren’t constantly distracted by their excited children. They could relax and enjoy the holiday for themselves too. The hotel also has an excellent relationship with the Avoriaz Ski school, where kids are catered for with excellent ski lessons. Here at Chilly Powder parents have the best of all worlds – skiing, social suppers and children who are making new friends, are well looked after, and having a ball.
Delicious food and lovely company…
Speaking of the social suppers, the meals at Chilly Powder were a huge highlight. A great deal of thought and care had clearly been given to how the afternoons and evenings rolled out. At the end of our skiing day, especially after fresh snow, were able to ski right to back door of the hotel. We unclipped, strolled past the outdoor jacuzzi to the ski store room and then inside. It was a seamless process with no jostling on busses or clattering through countless streets!
Once upstairs, showered, and changed, we’d head to the beautiful dining room and enjoy late afternoon tea around the roaring central fireplace – a hallmark of the hotel.
The name of is ‘Au Coin Du Feu’ literally means ‘by the fireside’, and that’s where we enjoyed multiple drinks and chats post-ski, and where the tables were set for each evening’s sumptuous dinner.
The children are seated and dine first at around 5:30, all enjoying chatting and giggling together after their day on the slopes. After they have finished, there’s a gap where parents settle the kids in bed upstairs.
Nothing feels too far away or scarily ‘out of sight’. It’s a small boutique hotel with only 16 lovely rooms that feels more like a large chalet with friends. Then, the adult sitting for supper commences, and what a treat this is! Guests are seated on long communal tables together, which might sound intimidating but wasn’t at all. The other guests were such fun to chat to. Every night you could sit next to different people. We enjoyed varied conversations from guests who were visiting from all over the globe.
Supper was always a lovely surprise at Chilly Powder
At 8pm, the chef and his team serve the 5-course meal they’ve created for the evening, whilst keeping all dietary needs in mind. I was seated on different nights with a vegetarian and then someone who was lactose intolerant, and both had brilliant experiences with the food. There is no menu or other ‘options’ for supper however, so if you don’t like what has been prepared you I’m sure you could approach the friendly team, but I didn’t see a single person in this position throughout my stay. Everyone was very happy, tucking into the wealth of dishes with relish, and enjoying the delicious wines that had been paired with our meals each evening. Bliss, after a long day on the mountain.
Chilly Powder was a hit. I’ll be back!
I hadn’t ever stayed in a catered ‘chalet’ style hotel before. Initially I felt a little nervous about the set menus and shared tables for breakfast and dinner. However I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it all. We were looked after so well across our whole stay. Despite being close to the end of the season, the team were always upbeat, helpful and friendly.
Our days flew by, and despite working and socialising hard, we both felt really rested. The area provided solitude and peace if that’s what you are craving, with the benefit of a buzzing, interesting town close by.
The whole experience at Chilly Powder for me was a hit. I skied well, learned lots from my lessons and ate brilliantly. We also socialised gloriously, making new friends I am still in touch with, and rested in between. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.
All The Facts
Chilly Powder operates all year round, so it’s perfect whether you’re looking to hit the ski slopes or hop on your mountain bike. There are extensive winter holiday packages on offer for individuals, groups and families with winter prices starting from €995 per person per week based on two adults sharing a double or twin bedroom or €2,760 per week for two adults and two children sharing a standard family room. Prices based on a half board basis with wine included in evening meals.
Childcare facilities are also available with prices starting at €315 per week and ski school for €295 per week. The chalet also offers self-catered and B&B options in both summer and winter, and is available for weddings and events.