Janine Knight tells the tale of her experience staying at The Ecurie in St Martin de Belleville…
My recent ski holiday staying at The Ecurie in St Martin de Belleville in Les Trois Vallees, France, has to rate as my best ski holiday ever. The Ecurie is owned and personally managed by Helen, and assisted by her architect husband Chris, the chalet designer. Their latest addition is a respectful renovation of an ancient Savoyard stable that delivers a level of luxury and quality often promised but rarely achieved. Their unique style has been recognised in the 2016 World Ski Awards and The Ecurie is a nominee for the Best New Ski Chatet – vote here
Sleeping eight guests, the chalet exudes unfussy luxurious charm, but most importantly it has soul – the magic ingredient so often absent in developer built chalets claiming to be top of the range. The beauty of this historic former stable has been preserved, and the addition of stylish contemporary flourishes results in a building with a feeling of authenticity and connection.
Compared to high quality, yet bland alternatives, The Ecurie really exceeded my expectations. I found myself noticing how good it felt to turn an ancient handle, to appreciate the beauty and aroma of the original timber whilst enjoying the style and comfort of the modern, tasteful additions. The stunning open-plan lounge area with its central fire place and double height ceiling sets the tone for the heart of the chalet and encourages a relaxed social space, where you can spend time reconnecting with family and friends. And at the end of each day how wonderful to retreat into my personal piece of heaven – my timbered bedroom where I felt cocooned in my own cosy den.
The exquisite dining exceeded all my expectations and was delivered with care and attention to detail throughout the week reflecting the passion and talent of the chef. The Ecurie is a foodie paradise and I really appreciated the food journey I was taken on throughout the week. Breakfast was substantial and delicious, I loved the homemade granola and yogurt followed by a daily special. Luckily a hard days’ skiing allows you to feel ok about tucking into the afternoon tea that any cake connoisseur will recognize as outstanding. The six course evening meal was easily comparable with any fine dining restaurant and was exceptional throughout the week.
The additional services of the chauffeur dropping and collecting you from the lift, (less than five minutes away), takes all the hassle out of the holiday and allows you to feel truly looked after. Nothing was too much trouble for the host and yet I never felt overwhelmed by too much service, if you know what I mean.
The same can be said for the resort of St Martin de Belleville itself. The village has an authenticity so often absent in purpose built or larger resorts.
This genuine charm matters to some more than others but for me increasingly is what I seek in a destination, as well as a few great bars, shops and restaurants. The village has a 3 Michelin star restaurant and a beautiful old church and I particularly liked the feeling that this village is not an anonymous destination.
The three valleys is the largest linked ski area in the world with an exceptional snow sure record and state-of-the-art express lifts to transport you around with speed and efficiency. This ease with which you can ski from resort to resort within the Three Valleys really adds interest to the holiday and creates endless options to access. One day I was skiing in Courchevel, the next I was in Val Thorns and this variety was really enjoyable. With 600km of slopes to choose from the options are endless.
I think the essence of The Ecurie is luxury delivered with passion and soul yet in a relaxed, modern and connected way. This is what the owners Helen and Chris have excelled at – they have delivered their own personal design and flair and their years of experience and yet have maintained a consistency of standard that flows effortlessly throughout every detail. There are no clichés to be found at The Ecurie but rather a modern appreciation of how to blend the ancient and modern and deliver an exceptional experience.
In my opinion I have found my ski nirvana and in the spirit of that joy I am graciously encouraging you to do the same.
By Janine Knight, writer.