I had slightly given up on skiing. I used to love it and go every year but, while fun, it is incredibly hard work. Just getting dressed in the morning is a performance — you have to put on so many layers, you feel like the Michelin man. Then you have to sort out your helmet, goggles, sun-cream, lip salve, ski pass, money and gloves, before manhandling your feet into ski boots. By this point, I am usually sweating and swearing.
Finally, you’re ready to go. In my experience, this means you swing your skis over your shoulder and embark on a 15-minute uphill slog to the ski lifts in those wretched boots. If you’re lucky, you get a day of blue skies, fresh snow and empty pistes. If not, your day will be more like an SAS training regime: temperatures of 40, zero visibility and navigating with an unreadable map. Either way, you end up shattered. There were times when I came back from a trip needing another holiday to recover. So I stopped going.
But then… the chance of a trip to Courchevel came my way. I was still wary, but the opportunity to escape London in January proved too tempting. My first inkling that this would be a more relaxing ski holiday than I was used to came as I drew up outside the Aman Le Mélézin. There to greet me was the general manager, Tim Weiland, doing a very good impression of Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager: perfectly tailored suit, crisp white shirt, not a hair out of place.
The smile on my face grew broader when I was shown to my room — huge bed, gorgeous seating area with a view of the piste, two large televisions, a Bose bluetooth speaker, eight USB chargers, fantastic bathroom and the highest of high-tech loos.
The sun was shining so I didn’t waste any time in getting on to the slopes. One of the hotel’s many bonuses is that it has its own ski room. You don’t have to schlep into town to rent your equipment. Even better, having emailed my height, weight, shoe size and skiing ability, it was all ready for me.
As soon as I entered the ski room a charming (and handsome) member of staff greeted me by name and invited me to sit down. He brought over a pair of what looked like new boots, dropped to his knees and helped ease me into them. He did up all the fiddly clips, then gently guided me outside where I found an equally sparkling pair of skis laid out ready for me to step into.
Courchevel is in Les Trois Vallées and its skiing is exceptional. There are nearly 400 miles of on-piste skiing, most of it above 1,800 metres, which means the snow quality is excellent. In recent years, lack of snow has been an issue: Courchevel has dealt with this by investing millions on more than 600 snow-making machines, which guarantee skiing throughout the season.
Despite all, a day on the mountain leaves you feeling beaten up. It can be very cold, you have probably fallen over at least once and all your muscles will be aching. What bliss to fall back into the arms of the Aman Le Mélézin’s ski-room staff, who whisk away your skis and help you to remove your boots, helmet and goggles.
To continue the sense of being swaddled in luxury, I made for the hotel spa. With a pale stone floor, soft lighting and many candles, the pool, Jacuzzi and hammam have a feeling of tranquillity that Aman resorts are famous for. Many of the treatments are tailored for skiers with aching limbs after a day on the slopes.
Four days at the Aman Le Mélézin reignited my passion for skiing. Even though there had been no big snowfall, the runs were fantastic. But more importantly, the hotel offers the ultimate in luxury in an understated, unpretentious way that takes away all the pain of skiing and leaves you free to enjoy the pleasure.
A night at Aman Le Mélézin starts at €1,107 per room, half-board. During the season, there is a minimum stay of three nights. www.amanlemelezin.com