You’ve heard of a ‘ski palace’, right? Me neither. Not until I ascended into the clouds surrounding Val Thorens and was greeted by the five star Altapura hotel. At a heady altitude of 2300m, it could have been the lack of oxygen, or the sheer elegance of the hotel, hard to say – but I was dizzy.
After settling my senses and acclimatising to the excellence of Europe’s highest ski resort, I inhaled some crisp Alpine air before the hotel and enjoyed the prominence of Altapura nestled in the Alps.
Wood is a primary feature of Altapura’s warm appeal, as is fur, and the occasionally random ski for decoration. A reclaimed ski lift also has pride of place. You can get photos taken inside the lift to convince your social media sphere that you actually made it up a mountain – this is selfie heaven.
From the terrace you can hear the swish of powder as enthusiastic skiers whizz past. Apparently, it is possible to tell the nationality of each skier just from the ski suits that they wear; so my ski guide told. Professional skier, Chemy Alcott, proffers a zen-like to the icy alchemy, she says that each of us has a ski personality. This may be closer to the mark than the ski-suit geography.
Everything you need is on your doorstep. The ski shop by Goitschel in the basement has all of the latest equipment, including safety gear; the lift pass can be organised at reception, as can ski professionals.
Altapura’s rooms are spacious and bright, decked in wood, with vast French windows opening to reveal an incredible view of the Alps. Warm fabrics and a free standing bath tub add to the opulence; these are rooms to sooth your aching limbs. Each room has an iPod dock plus a MAC mini with HD screen. The mini MAC allows you to watch the latest films free of charge, surf the web and salivate over the menus in the hotel.
Les Enfants Terribles restaurant is synonymous with the Sibuet name; the owners of the hotel. It offers sophistication and glamour. Though for something extra special, try La Laiterie. Cows’ enigmatically watch from the walls, and milk churns rest on ledges; fondue is the order of the day, or night, depending on when you drag yourself off the slopes. There are four exclusive recipes to choose from, each paying homage to a particular region.
Try the Beaufort Fondue, from the rare mountain pasture of Beaufort. Two cheeses are selected and mixed by the special cheese maker; Frederic Royer. This is a unique concept in itself; to be able to taste the ingredients before they are cooked. Of course a third ingredient should never be overlooked – the wine, again from the same region. Franck Bernet the sommelier makes sure that your taste buds continue to dance long after feasting on the cheese delight.
To work off the extravagance of the feast the night before, the extreme sports concierge will tailor a programme to make your legs tremble and pulse soar; it’s not for the faint hearted.
If you prefer to relax, chill in the igloo area; you’ll feel exhilaration of a different kind as you move from warm to cold through the indoor/outdoor pool with cascading showers. To finish there is a crushed ice fountain to douse yourself in. If every muscle continues to ache, even after ice therapy, then enjoy the desserts from La Laiterie snuggling in your room – the Mont Blanc cake and fromage blanc with blueberries are an alpine treat for satisfied skiers.
This ski palace will leave you feeling like royalty.