Portetta, sibling to Lime Wood and the Pig, takes all the charms of the forest and pitches them on the piste: you can expect all the sparkly service, effortless style and tasty food, as well as an enviable ski-in, ski-out setting and magical mountain sights.
Forty-four, including six loft suites, plus three self-catering ski chalets in Courchevel.
11am. Earliest check-in, 4pm; 5pm for loft suite guests.
Double rooms from £467.90 (€540), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.48 per person per night on check-out.
Rates exclude breakfast (from €20 a person) and a daily tax of €1.65 an adult.
The hotel is open in winter only, and generally closes from mid April to mid December.
At the hotel
Ski shop, spa, gym, restaurants, bars, concierge, DVD library, WiFi throughout. In rooms, flatscreen TV, minibars and Bamford bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Shell out the extra cash for a Piste View every time – these rooms are perfectly placed not only for mountain vistas, but spectacular sunrises, thanks to their perch in the sunniest patch of Courchevel. Book a loft if you fancy lots of open-plan space and your own roaring fire.
Portetta Spa has three treatment rooms, a blue-tiled steam room, hammam and sauna, as well as a chill-out area with wicker beds to unwind on pre- or post-pampering. The spa uses Bamford, Oskia, and OPI products; try a hydrating facial or the muscle-soothing post-sport massage (book treatments before you arrive in resort).
Don’t panic if you’ve left any gear behind: the hotel has its own ski shop.
The hotel has two rooms adapted for wheelchair users.
Cots and extra beds can be provided for children under 11; cots are free, but the price for extra beds varies. With 24 hours’ notice, a babysitter can be arranged (roughly €15 an hour).
Fill up in between runs without even taking off your boots by sitting out on the terrace. Indoors, go for a valley-facing window seat where you can watch the stars sparkle over the snow.
Smart après-ski: cashmere and cable knits.
A blend of hearty Savoyard fare and Italian specialties is on offer at the hotel’s Cucina Angelina restaurant, helmed by respected chef Angela Hartnett. The menu features locally sourced produce, foraged food, and grilled meats from the restaurant’s open range. Sample the fondue, tartiflette and cheese plates to make sure you’re replacing all calories burnt on the slopes. Cucina Angelina matches the casual style of Portetta, with reclaimed wood and stone, rich colours and oversized sofa seating, and wooden tables. At night, the twinkling lights of the valley and low-lighting up the romance levels. Food is also served outdoors, on Courchevel’s biggest terrace, no less.
The bar is open all day for vin chauds by the fire, cocktails and, if you’re lucky, live music – the hotel hosts regular gigs. There's also the outdoors Fire & Ice bar, lit by flaming torches and decorated with snuggly fur furnishings.
Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 10am; have lunch from noon until 2.30pm and dinner between 7pm and 9pm. A snacks menu is served until 5pm. The bar shuts at 11pm.
Portetta lies piste-side in the ski resort of Courchevel 1650, in the central French Alps in the mountainous department of Savoie.
Two hours, or 90km away, Chambéry is the nearest airport to Portetta (www.chambery-airport.com), and is well served by low-cost airlines flying from London and regional airports in the UK and the Netherlands during winter. For other international arrivals, the alternative is Geneva, a three-hour drive from Courchevel (www.gva.ch/en/).
Moutiers is a 30-minute drive from Portetta. The station is served by Eurostar’s ski train from London, meaning you can leave the capital on Friday night and be in resort by mid-morning (www.eurostar.com).
Winter road conditions plus your hotel’s slope-side location mean you’re unlikely to get much use out of bringing your own wheels. For those who prefer to drive, on-site parking spaces at the hotel cost €20 a day.
Courchevel has a heliport and private landing strip at around 2,000 metres: landing fees apply and you’ll need to organise onward transfers to the hotel (www.aeroclub-courchevel.com).
Worth getting out of bed for
All the usual snow-based suspects can be arranged by the hotel: ski the Alps, paraglide, snow-scoot, snow-shoe, sky dive or take a tour in a mini plane or helicopter.
Le Petit Savoyard on Rue du Marquis in Courchevel 1650 is where to head for good-value local dishes and pizzas from a wood-fired oven (+33 (0)4 79 08 27 44). Michelin-abiding men will enjoy the sublime eight-course tasting menu at Le Farçon in La Tania (+33 (0)4 79 08 80 34; www.lefarcon.fr) and the decadent desserts at Le Bateau Ivre in Les Chenus (+33 (0)4 79 00 11 71), both in Courchevel 1850.
Courchevel 1850 is the place to see and be seen: head over the valley to Le Kalico (+33 (0)4 79 08 20 28), La Grange (+33 (0)4 79 08 14 61) or Les Caves (+33 (0)4 79 08 12 74).
Skiing has amorous connotations in my family. No, nothing indecent – I taught my wife how to ski from scratch on our first ever date. She immediately managed a red run with flying colours (entirely down to my expert tuition, of course), and, most impressively, didn’t dump me when the ligament in her left knee snapped three days later. (I suspect, however, that this event is what set us up for a lifetime of debating exactly whose fault everything is.) So when the opportunity to review a hotel in the same family as fine New Forest outposts The Pig and Lime Wood arose we jumped at the chance to give the resulting three children every opportunity to damage their own limbs on icy inclines.
Luxury lodge Portetta brandishes all the features you want from a ski-resort hotel – a ski-in, ski-out setting, heavy, hearty food and a slope-facing terrace. But I confess, for us, it was a challenge getting there because we hadn't taken the easy option of flying into Geneva or Lyon. Approaching from the Italian side, I’d been offered two driving routes by Via Michelin; we opted for the most interesting-looking one. The expected signs for Bourg St Maurice didn’t appear and what we thought was the right direction turned into a ski piste: Via Michelin had recommended a summer-only road. Before the finger of blame could be wagged in my direction, Mrs Smith’s own mobile’s nav system was assertively instructing us to go exactly the same way – straight into a swarm of descending Italian skiers. Zut alors!
When we did reach Portetta, its giant gingerbread-house charms were especially welcome. (If only someone had left breadcrumbs to guide us in.) Clearly signposted once you’re coming into Courchevel 1650, this 44-room Trois Vallées chalet is perched reassuringly close to the slopes and gives classic stone-and-wood chalet chic a contemporary sheen to produce an aesthetic both authentically Alpine and quirkily Smithy in a way that older, more traditional resort hotels never manage. Aplace where wine is amulling and chestnuts aroasting couldn’t have been more soothing. Traditional textures nod to the location (snowflake-covered or striped throws, the odd reindeer on a curtain), but it’s all tastefully and subtly done. The wood-lined bedrooms are particularly cosy, with taupes, tans and toffees warming things up.
There in Easter week, we were among lots of other families, and with the hotel’s UK sister-hotel connections, le Portetta is the type of place where everyone looked as though they might only be separated from us by one degree. Sure enough, we soon made friends with a family of delightful Spaniards only to find the father godparent to one of my daughter’s school friends.
Now, to me, a proper skiing holiday is all about high-altitude ski mountaineering looking for virgin powder with craggy-faced guides. But Courchevel 1650, though overlooked by the chichi Russian patrons of glitzy Courchevel 1850 (whose private planes we had fun marvelling at as they miraculously landed on the mid-piste runway), is perfect for children and intermediate adults and is seamlessly connected to the whole of the Three Valleys. With brilliant hassle-minimising ski-hire facilities in the hotel’s basement and slopes on your lap, my children may never know the joys of having to trudge up steep slopes with their ski equipment over their shoulders to get to connecting buses and lifts. Kids today, hey?
Le Portetta makes a fuss about having the only fully south-facing terrace on the slopes – and rightly so – it quickly became a much-loved feature. Here we’d scoff Savoyard mountain food or reconvene for hot chocolate and cake (and cold beer) at the end of the day and enjoyed the last of the early spring sun on comfy outdoor sofas with snugly blankets, outdoor heaters and a big log fire.
There’s a spa offering Darphin skincare, Bamford body treats and expertly ache-soothing massages, and although I didn’t sample, I did make it to the sauna a couple of times. But most of our time in the hotel revolved around eating: the fresh French breakfast buffet was spot on, with the option of ordering extra oeuf cooked every which way, which filled the children up with protein for their day on the pistes. In the evening, drinks at the bar came with such a sprawling complimentary plate of local saucisson and cheese, that we happily spent a couple of nights skipping dinner and settling down in the bar with a bottle of white wine. The restaurant is excellent, and to check that le Portetta has the potential to be just as good for couples as it is for indulged whippersnappers, we booked dinner à deux. Gratefully, we found it effortless to forget not only our own children but also those families around us. The tables are generously spaced out, the service friendly, and time it right and you'll get a view of the Mont Jovet glowing pink through the pretty window as night slowly descends – it was enough to have us happily reminiscing about that first fateful date on the slopes.
We may have only grabbed one evening together as a pair, but I can definitely endorse this luxe lodge as a heart-stirring place to stay as a couple (preferably outside school holidays). A short weekend’s skiing is feasible with le Portetta’s pole position and everything that you need to hit the slopes available from the hotel. But our Mr & Mrs Smith ski escape was a family holiday. And this culminated with touch of paternal pride when, on the last day, our five-year-old happily followed me down his first red run, just like his mother had done all those years ago. He, thankfully, has kept all of his joints intact. Thanks dear gingerbread house, for the fairy-tale ending.