Advert

On top of the world

Perched high up at 1,800 metres in the Chablais Alps, lounging on a deckchair soaking up the sun’s rays with 360-degree panoramic views of the Dents du Midi (Teeth of the South) and Dents Blanches (White Teeth), it’s easy to understand why Hitler built his Eagle’s Nest high in the peaks above Berchtesgaden, Germany, and why Bavaria’s ‘mad’ König Ludwig had ambitious plans to build his last residence at Falkenstein.

Besides the occasional jet engine, there’s little sound apart from the circles of ravens, the odd eagle gliding effortlessly above and the dim sound of a ski lift or a whish of skis

It’s all about the feeling of being on top of the world and far away from cellphones, Wi-Fi and civilisation. I feel far removed from the outside world bar the occasional jet stream overhead reminding me that I’m just a stone’s throw away from Geneva’s international airport as the crow flies.

Besides the occasional jet engine, there’s little sound apart from the circles of ravens, the odd eagle gliding effortlessly above and the dim sound of a ski lift or a whish of skis. The only way to get here in winter is by cable car.

Skiers with the Dents du Midi in the background.Skiers with the Dents du Midi in the background.

Looking at the old cable car perched on the mountain top outside the Hotel Plein Ciel at Planachaux, 1,924 metres high, it’s a reminder that getting to the top wasn’t always as easy as the super-modern cable car that can carry 125 passengers up in just six minutes.

This area of the French-Swiss Alps was once undiscovered. Today, it’s part of the massive Portes du Soleil skiing area, which combines parts of France and Switzerland and, yes, like its name suggests, it’s sunny.

This is also home to the Chavanette or the Swiss Wall, a one-kilometre ‘orange’ (more difficult than black) ski run with a vertical drop of 331 metres starting at 2,151 metres above sea level.

The Hotel Plein Ciel is a gem of a find. Many chalets and hotels in the Alps claim to be perched on mountain tops but when you arrive turn out to be in a village with the mountains as a backdrop. This place actually lives up to its website promises.

To get there is a bit of confusion (we are in the French part of Switzerland after all, where ‘la confusion’ from its bigger neighbour seems to have flowed across the border). But once you’ve discovered where to park your car, leave your luggage and rent your skis then you can settle down and enjoy a magnificent trip by cable car up the mountain.

What makes this place feel like a real adventure is that you can only reach it by cable car and after 5pm the hotel is completely inaccessible in winter. So, once you’re there for the night, there’s no chance to leave. When you disembark from the cable car, you can either brave the 15-minute trek on foot down to the hotel (as you soak up the views, the chances of slipping are quite high) or ski your way down in just five minutes.

What makes this place feel like a real adventure is that you can only reach it by cable car and after 5pm the hotel is completely inaccessible in winter. So, once you’re there for the night, there’s no chance to leave

The hotel itself is super-cozy and homely with spectacular views and friendly staff who lend an informal, relaxed vibe to the place. In the dining room, there’s a fireplace to gather around and make new friends and plenty of reading material (only in French), board games and a billiards table.

If you’ve been out on the slopes all day, you can warm up in the sauna before dinner which is a very laid-back affair. It’s a good idea to take the half-board package, which includes a set three-course menu.

Snowshoeing with a dog for company.Snowshoeing with a dog for company.

One evening there was tartare of smoked omble chevalier (a local ‘noble’ fish from Lake Geneva), duck and a delicious lemon tart. If you don’t eat anything on the menu, the chef will offer you an alternative.

During the day, try Marcel’s cheese fondue or a planchette (wooden board with cheese or meat) on the spectacular rooftop wooden terrace to soak up the mountain views and sun. It’ll be hard to drag yourself back to the ski slopes.

All in all, Hotel Plein Ciel is the perfect get-away-from-it-all weekend escape in the French Swiss Alps, for skiers and non-skiers alike.

In the area

• Les Bains du Val-d’Illiez (www.thermes-parc.com): a large indoor and outdoor thermal bath fed by three springs rich in sulphur, calcium and magnesium set in the valley below Champéry and surrounded by the mountains.

• Portes du Soleil ski area (www.portesdusoleil.com): it covers 12 resorts in Champéry and Les Crosets in Switzerland and Morgins and Champoussin in France.

• Champéry village (www.champery.ch): about an hour from Geneva airport.

• Activities: snowshoeing (raquette à neige) (www.sentiers-raquettes.com); hiking with a guide (www.guides-champery.ch).

Advert

See our Comments Policy Comments are submitted under the express understanding and condition that the editor may, and is authorised to, disclose any/all of the above personal information to any person or entity requesting the information for the purposes of legal action on grounds that such person or entity is aggrieved by any comment so submitted. Please allow some time for your comment to be moderated.

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus  
Advert
Advert