Morzine is at the heart of the Portes du Soleil, a vast lift-linked area with statistics to dwarf other resorts. It’s hugely popular with mountain bikers and there are a wide variety of trails for beginners through to expert riders. Road cycling is another popular pursuit in the region, for amateurs and professionals alike – the Tour de France has passed through Morzine more than 20 times. If cycling is not your thing then there are plenty of beautiful hiking trails, a massive public swimming pool and of course plenty of superb bars and restaurants.
Les Gets is one of the prettiest villages in the Alps — chic and stylish — both in the town and on the mountain. This is a fantastic place to relax with family and friends. Enjoy a holiday away from the crowds, with mountain biking, white water rafting, paragliding or a few rounds on the 18-hole golf course. We like nothing better than packing a rucksack with wine, cheese and saucisson and taking in the sunrise from the top of Mont Chéry.
Situated at the heart of The Three Valleys, Méribel is the perfect base for family holiday in the French Alps. There are plenty of hiking trails and the lift system whisks you up to a number of spectacular viewpoints in no time at all. A range of nurseries and clubs are available for children of all ages, offering sports and activities including mountain biking, kayaking, via ferrata, canyoning, climbing and archery.
Our core year-round team is split between the Portes du Soleil and our office in Bath, UK. Each member is vital to the smooth running of the business and is an expert in their chosen field. One thing they all have in common is a shared passion for travel and hospitality, with an emphasis on the ski industry in particular. Find out a bit more about each of them below…
Paul FarleySales Manager
I have a long lasting obsession with anything and everything ski related – the seed was planted when I was 12 years old and first stayed in a catered chalet. I went on to instruct at my local dry slope, completed multiple seasons as a chalet host as soon as I was old enough and met my wife in the Alps. Luckily, she shares the obsession.
Since I stopped the winter seasons I’ve generally focussed on ways to spend as much time in the mountains, or at least talking about them, as possible. However, generally speaking I’m just keen to be outdoors! I own a decent road bike and have dabbled in cross-country and downhill mountain biking. I also absolutely love all types of climbing, whether it’s bouldering, top roping, trad or sport.
It’s my job to know our chalets, resorts, food and everything else inside out and I’m generally the first port of call for our clients. I genuinely enjoy talking to our clients about their holidays and take a real pride in finding them the best possible option.
It has to be Goldilocks; the chalet is fantastically well appointed throughout but what really struck me was the dining and lounge area. With more than double height floor to ceiling windows, wrap-around balconies and some of the best views available in Morzine, it really is something special.
After some decent snowfall I would head to Châtel from Avoriaz and take a left from the top of the “Cornebois” lift. In my opinion you then have some of the best lift accessible “side country” available anywhere in the Alps, with exits and entrances from the long cruisy canyon style pistes all the way down, the area is known fondly by seasonaires as “Happy Valley”.
La Bokka in Les Gets sits in a kind of middle ground between a great upmarket Italian restaurant and a relaxed lounge bar. The food is fantastic, I can personally recommend the truffle panko chicken, and towards the end of the evening it’s quite easy to stay for an extra drink or two.
Lucy FordTravel Experience Manager
My passion for skiing and the mountains stems from being lucky enough to go on ski holidays with family and friends from a young age. Driving through the wine regions to get to the French Alps each time instilled a real interest in the French culture and language, which has always fascinated me. It therefore seemed natural to study languages (French and Spanish) at university, giving me ample reason to carry on travelling through my 20’s and incorporate travel into my work and vice versa. Doing my first ski season in Val d’Isère in 2016-17, the ski bug really set in, and so ensued my real love for the mountains and all things snowy.
When I returned to work in the Alps a few years later to manage our Méribel chalet, Pont du Cam, I knew then that I wanted to progress my career within not just travel, but the ski industry in particular. Being the go-to person to arrange clients’ trips, I can help to organise ski lessons, snowmobiling, heli-skiing, restaurant reservations, you name it! As a fluent French speaker, I also deal with many of our suppliers in resort to develop and maintain our local partnerships.
I genuinely think they are all incredibly cool chalets, however La Maison wins me over time and time again – I just love how the French heritage and history have been retained whilst designing a chalet that not only works from an operational perspective but also oozes style. What’s more, the facilities are to die for and make you feel like you’re in a dedicated spa.
Having lived in Méribel for a season, the Three Valleys became my playground of choice! There are almost too many spots to choose from, but the Lapin piste down to Méribel Village is a lovely blue with lots of fun off piste through the trees either side.
My favourite kind of mountain lunch is alfresco with a glass of Provence rosé in hand and basking in the sunny spring rays. La Cabane in Avoriaz provides all of this with their sun-trap terrace, delicious food and a great location from which to watch the passers-by on the slopes. For Méribel, Le Clos Bernard is a solid favourite as its location is seriously special in the middle of the woods, and the food is amazing!
Alex SpoonerOperations Director
Alex has been a part of The Boutique Chalet Company story since February 2016. Based in France with his family, Alex heads up the French branch of the company and the year round operational activity. He has an excellent relationship with companies on the ground and is passionate about working at the forefront of luxury travel.
Alex did his first season in 2004, post studies, with the aim to learn to ski/snowboard during a gap year. The experience was eye opening and the possibility of creating a career in travel, tourism and hospitality was too tempting to ignore. Consequently, Alex was one of the ones that ‘never came back’ and has been expatriated from the UK ever since, continuing to develop in the ski industry across multiple resorts in Austria, Switzerland and France as well as growing a successful scuba diving business in Asia. Whilst the snowboard has been the choice of tool for many years, Alex is now transitioning to skiing so as to be able to enjoy the mountain with new challenges and be able to keep up with the kids!
A difficult question to answer as each property is important to me but Chalet M has always appealed because of its homely feel and view over Morzine.
Skiing in Mont Chéry, Les Gets has always been a favourite of mine. As an often forgotten part of the PDS, it is a great spot to head to when fresh snow and great conditions draws the crowds to the wide ski area. I have had some of my most memorable off-piste experiences here.
In summer and winter Les Chevrelles (Mont Caly) is a firm favourite. A true Savoyard experience with breathtaking views including the Mont Blanc summit on a good day. I would say this is an absolute must.
Nick Lyon DeanHead Chef
I have been part of the The Boutique Chalet Company family since 2015, when I was enticed by Chris to help run Twenty26 that summer as a B&B and restaurant, having worked the previous winter in Les Gets. It’s safe to say I’ve never looked back, and having discovered the joys that both winter and summer have to offer I’ve lived permanently in the Alps since 2017.
I’ve has been a chef for 20 years, and prior to coming to the Portes du Soleil I worked in luxury chalets across France and Switzerland, as well building an extensive private client base in the UK, working in a Michelin-starred restaurant, and working in hotels and restaurants in New Zealand for 6 years.
While skiing has been a passion since I was a child, the sheer range of activities available in summer means that it has superseded winter as my favourite season, with mountain biking fast becoming an obsession!
So many to choose from! While the Exclusive Collection chalets are generally jaw-dropping, I’ve always had a soft spot for the rustic cosiness and tranquil seclusion of Ferme de Moudon.
Either after a fresh dump of snow, or early in morning when the pistes are freshly groomed, it’s hard to beat Chamossiere as an all-rounder. The groomers are hard, fast and rolling, with plenty of action off to the sides, and the freeride bowl on the left hand side is spectacular when there’s powder.
On the mountain: Chez Nannon. Inside the traditional stone alpage I’m not sure it’s possible to feel more removed from the cares of the outside world. Order up a côte de boeuf cooked on the open fire, patates au Reblochon, a couple of bottles of wine and let the afternoon drift away. Sadly you still have to ski back down!
In town: Biskatcha in Les Gets has been a favourite for a while, with the menu offering a good mix of local specialties and more adventurous bistro-style dishes.
If you have a car, for something a bit different and definitely special I’d recommend a trip to Le Moulin de Léré, in the village of Vailly halfway between Morzine and Thonon. This Michelin-starred restaurant offers a multi-course tasting menu (and wine flight) utilising the best local seasonal produce as well as home-grown and foraged ingredients. I still dream of their bread and walnut oil!
Chris HamblinManaging Director
I founded The Boutique Chalet Company over ten years ago and it’s a real synergy of all my passions. At the core is my love of property; I’m an experienced developer and have always been fascinated by design. It’s an honour to work with the totally unique properties that are in our portfolio, especially those where I have been involved with the owner from the outset of their journey.
Next up, I’m a fully-subscribed foodie. As well as eating out and exploring the world of hospitality whenever possible, I also cook a lot and to this day myself and my wife regularly host dinner parties and events in our home – in some ways our hobby became our profession in this respect. I also love visiting wine regions and, more recently, have even started brewing craft beer.
And then finally, deep down inside, I’m a sportsman. In a past life I harboured ambitions of playing professional rugby but nowadays that competitive streak is fuelled with ski touring and road cycling. I’m one of those types that enjoys the challenge of climbing our beautiful mountains as much as descending them. I also love the variety the Alps has to offer – the scenery is always incredible and there is something for everyone to enjoy, be that in the winter or summer. So to sum up why I started The Boutique Chalet Company in one word, I would say… passion.
That would be telling! In reality it’s impossible to choose – every property in our portfolio is unique and each one has its own features and character that make it special. This is always really important to us… there are lots of ‘good’ chalets in the Alps but we try to work with those that really deliver. Which will suit you best will vary depending on your group and aspirations. But there’s no wrong answer, they’re all incredible places to stay.
The Vallee de la Manche. It’s not really part of the ski area, not in a downhill skiing sense anyway because there are no lifts here! There are pisted cross country trails you can explore but actually for a truly special experience I would hire a guide and go snowshoeing. This is accessible for nearly all abilities and you’ll experience a totally unique perspective on the mountains which you’ll never find ‘in bounds’ so to speak. For more adventurous types, there is also an abundance of ski touring and mountaineering on offer which again, can make for an amazing experience without taking a lift.
So hard to choose! Well to continue the Vallee de la Manche theme the newly-renovated Crapahut is incredible – the food is superb and the setting second to none. I also love La Cabane in Avoriaz, particularly earlier in the season when you need to escape the cold outside. My main tip, just order the plat du jour and enjoy. Then I also have to mention La Paika for their spring BBQ’s on the terrace – simply epic.
Gareth HughesFinance Manager
A Chartered Accountant by trade, I am responsible for the fiscal management of The Boutique Chalet Company. When I was offered the chance by a previous employer to have a sabbatical I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could combine my professional skills with a life in the mountains. I’ve since done three ski seasons in a back office capacity and I haven’t looked back. While I can now ski and snowboard, these days I’m probably more likely to be found under a pile of spreadsheets than a pile of snow, but I feel genuinely lucky to have found a job in an industry I am passionate about.
One of the reasons I enjoy skiing so much is that I love being outdoors, particularly in the mountains. They are so beautiful and peaceful and I really want to spend longer there during the summertime following a brief first trip. I’ve also recently bought my first bike since I was a child so I am hoping to get more into cycling without injuring myself too much…
I really like Ben Nevis, a penthouse apartment in our Self-Catered collection. It’s located right in the heart of Les Gets near all the great restaurants. I love sitting out on the deck or in the hot tub with a drink after a day’s skiing, watching the world go by below.
After fresh snowfall there’s nothing better than skiing the Mont Chéry area in Les Gets. There aren’t a lot of runs but those which are there are wide, enjoyable and, most importantly, quiet.
La Paika near the Perrières Express lift in Les Gets often has an outdoor BBQ for the lunch sitting with a wide selection of locally-sourced meats. The team recently shared a côte de boeuf and it was incredible.
Andy AshwinGraphic Designer
Andy has been skiing for over 20 years, although he has never done a full season, which he thinks is a valid excuse for his shabby technique. He is responsible for all things design at The Boutique Chalet Company, such as this website and any printed materials, like menus and brochures, although he has been known to help out with a bit of concierge during busy times and loves to get involved with driver training before the start of each season.
Outside of skiing his real passions are travel, food and drink, football and playing guitar. He recently invested in his first proper “Made in USA” Fender Strat (the collection now stands at eight guitars) and started taking lessons after playing on and off for the past 30 years. In a former life he was the singer in a punk band, but the less said about that the better…
It has to be Joux Plane; it’s the one I always show to my friends when I want them to know that when I say I work with “luxury ski chalets” I am not exaggerating. There aren’t many chalets you can swim through!
The cruisy blue from Avoriaz down to the top of the Super Morzine lift. It’s a lovely way to end the day and you get to laugh at the snowboarders struggling on the flatter parts of Proclou.
Tibetan Cafe and Crepu are great for a few beers after skiing. They cater to a slightly more mature crowd, which suits an old fella like me. They can both get quite lively later though, but that’s past my bed time. There are plenty of great restaurants in Morzine and Les Gets but I prefer to grab a burger from Papa Renard or a pizza from L’Improviste and chill in the chalet.
Lee MasseyFacilities Manager
Lee worked for 15 years as a project manager for PWC before moving to Morzine in 2016 in search of a better quality of life. Since then he has renovated his family home and managed many development projects, a number of which feature in our portfolio. Along with his family, Lee has fully embraced the French way of life; they all speak fluent French and hope to get their French passports very soon.
He is responsible for looking after all of the properties and keeping them in top form, so that the staff can focus on looking after the clients. Knowing and understanding the properties in depth allows Lee to avoid most problems before they occur and reduce the ecological cost as much as possible.
Lee spends his downtime fixing and developing all sorts of things – friends are always bringing him broken tech to repair – while at night you are most likely to find him in his self-built observatory, scanning the stars for signs of life.
That’s a hard question to answer because all of our properties are so unique. If pressed, I guess I have a soft spot for ZEMS Lodge. It’s got all the facilities you could ask for, the views are fantastic and it is perfectly located just a 5-minute stroll from town. I also love the pool and fire pit at Ferme de Moudon, which I helped to develop.
My favourite is any fresh powder run after a hard race to the summit to bag the first descent. This will often be on the back of Mont Chéry after the first big snow dump of the season.
The Chaudanne has long been one of my favourite restaurants. Thierry and his wife have always been very welcoming and I’ve never been disappointed there. In the summer Bar Robinson has been the post ride beer stop many, many times.
Sarah HamblinFounding Director
Sarah co-founded The Boutique Chalet Company following a prior career as a physiotherapist specialising in neuro rehabilitation. As a critical part of the company’s initial development, Sarah oversaw all aspects of sales, marketing and brand, establishing many of the relationships that are still strong today. With a young family at home Sarah now splits her time between the office and family but she still plays a consulting role on the ongoing strategic direction of the business, often with a focus on specific key marketing projects and senior recruitments.
Whilst two young children keep her on her toes, she is also a keen tennis player and like husband Chris, a real foodie. Sarah has a passion for natural and environmentally sustainable living – something we’re always keen to inject into our property operations. She’s an expert baker, regularly producing sourdough delights, and also has an allotment growing all sorts of vegetables, fruits and flowers year round.
When we first moved to the Alps it was to complete the renovation and development of Twenty26 so this will always have a special place in my heart. It’s a beautifully balanced chalet with something for everyone and the location is a lovely mix being close to the centre of Morzine in one direction but also total seclusion the other. I also really love Chalet Sapphire… we had the opportunity to add a lot of input and work with the owner through the build and I think in many senses Sapphire is a more exclusive version of Twenty26 – both work for such a wide range of groups, they’re amazing places to spend a special holiday.
A breakthrough in my skiing personally came from joining a weekly women’s ski club led by a local instructor, Helena McClintock. It was a great way to push ourselves and build confidence in a safe environment. Much of the time Helena would encourage us to ski off piste down the back of Mont Chéry picking our ways between the trees – I would never have done that by myself! For personal cruising though, Mélèze, a red run down to Les Perrières in Les Gets, is also really special.
In the midst of winter I love Chez Nannon. It’s small, a tad rustic, but utterly charming. Then when the weather warms up they have a great terrace which is a wonderful suntrap and the perfect spot to enjoy a long lunch cooked in their wood fired oven and BBQ.
Announcement PendingResort Manager
Our resort manager is responsible for assisting Alex with all aspects of resort operations, with a specific focus on overseeing our collection of relaxed catered chalets.
Announcement PendingOffice Manager
Our office manager works across the business to support the wider team. Their two main focusses are to provide on-the-ground concierge assistance during the season as well as supporting bookkeeping and staff administration.
GIVE US A CALL ON +44 (0)20 3588 6001 TO BOOK YOUR PERFECT CHALET BREAK
Chalet Joux Plane wows you with its contemporary architecture and cutting edge design from the moment you first arrive. So one might assume that the owner set out with a clear design vision and an unabating drive to raise the architectural bar.
Forming part of the UNESCO recognised Chablais region, the Portes du Soleil offers some of the most easily accessible trails across France and Switzerland and provides easy access to some truly breathtaking scenery.
After his recent interview with Source Magazine, Nick Lyon Dean talks to us about the changing face of the modern day chalet chef in light of the proliferation of food allergies, intolerances and dietary requirements.
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