by Peter Browne
Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers, Chamonix
This is an exceptionally cosy retreat high above Chamonix at the base of France's largest glacier,
the Mer de Glace.
Originally the Grand Hotel du Montenvers, the reassuringly solid granite building dates from 1880 and was recently renovated by the Sibuet family, the stylish clan behind Fermes de Marie in Megève.
The hotel is only accessible by funicular, foot or skis, via the legendary Vallée Blanche off-piste route. Much of the original structure and its rugged mountaineering vibe remains: Aperols are mixed at the fabulous
Twenties bar; climbing boots are kicked off in front of roaring fires; chandeliers are fashioned out of climbing rope and miners' lights. The 20 bedrooms, each named after explorers who have stayed here over the decades, range from a 10-person dorm to wonderfully romantic suites. All have eye-popping views of the surrounding peaks and glacier, traditional timber-clad walls, edelweiss-print woollen curtains and slate-lined bathrooms stocked with products from Sibuet's lovely Pure Altitude brand.
Summer glacier walks and winter ski days are rewarded with three courses of hearty Savoyard food (boozy cheese and girolles on toast, creamy tartiflette and blackberry tart) served on enamel tableware and washed
down with local wines.
Have lunch at the Refuge's sister restaurant, Le Panoramique, a bistro-style affair three minutes' walk away known for its traditional casseroles (go for grandmother's chicken for the ultimate in comfort food).
Conde Nast Traveler