I visited chalet #1 in the French Alps and it changed my mind about skiing holidays
Few people spend a night in everyone’s number one rated ski lodge. french alps.
La Ferme à Jules is invariably fully booked, with winter sports enthusiasts clamoring to book their place in the alpine paradise of Morzine around 12 months in advance.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting the place. From the moment I walked through the front door, I was greeted with the kind of service you only find in TV commercials. Wines, smiles and cheese boards were there. I had barely had time to put down my suitcase when I was seated in front of a three-course meal.
But it’s not just pleasure and gastronomy. Beyond the gorgeous exterior of La Ferme à Jules – an ornate oak chalet with ten bedrooms, a wood-burning fireplace and a hot tub on the balcony – a rigorous sustainability policy underpins the glamor of this illustrious home.
“What makes us unique is that we have luxury high-end service, but we do it in a sustainable way,” says Al Judge, founder of AliKats, the mountain holiday experts behind the chalet.
“When guests stay with us, we love that they leave at the end of their vacation feeling they have been well looked after, tasted delicious food and had minimal impact on their environment.”
Can ski holidays be green?
Like the level of service provided at La Ferme à Jules, AliKat’s commitment to sustainability is second to none.
A rigorous green philosophy informs the day-to-day operation of the chalet – from the permaculture garden where all the resort’s fruit and vegetables are grown, to the fleet of electric vehicles used to transport guests to and from the slopes.
“My wife and I are both co-founders of a charity in Morzine called Green Mountain“explains the judge.
“One of our main initiatives has been to bring together many companies to offer an Alpine Express pass, which essentially offers ten percent or more off ski passes, accommodation, restaurants and equipment hire. if you are traveling here. by train.”
Skiing has long been in the spotlight for its relationship with the environment. From artificial snow cannons to gas-guzzling chairlifts, this carbon-intensive sport is at odds with the natural world that allows it.
Since the 1960s, annual snowfall in the French Alps descending five days every ten years. Climate change is driving this change, leading to warmer, wetter winters with less and less snow on the slopes.
Traveling in mid-February – a time when the slopes should be teeming with freshly fallen powder – I encountered limited snow cover and warm, balmy days. I would have been comfortable with just a t-shirt as we tackled the slopes of Morzine.
It’s a familiar story across the Alps, where ski resorts are resorting to increasingly drastic measures to undo the damage caused by years of emissions. In Les Arcs, the chairlifts are equipped with solar panels. Near La Plagne, a biomass boiler now provides 90% of the station’s energy from organic matter.
Morzine is no exception. The station is preparing to pedestrianize its town center in order to reduce car use, while a new snow park high in the mountains regenerates some of Europe’s most endangered birds of prey.
For Judge, these initiatives provide green alternatives to some of skiing’s biggest challenges. But while their intentions are noble, they fail to address the real problem at the heart of the ski industry’s sustainability crisis.
“Around 75% of the carbon footprint of a Briton’s ski holiday at a French ski resort comes from their transport,” he says. “With the Alpine Express Pass, we try to target the most carbon-intensive moment of a ski holiday.
“If people can come by trainthis would greatly reduce the carbon footprint of tourism in the Alps.
Zero waste does not mean zero flavor
At the heart of this environmental movement is the AliKats Climate Action Plan – a framework designed to help the chalet service reach net zero by summer 2022. Judge hopes to counter the idea that skiing must be bad for the environment by expanding the company’s fleet. electric vehicles, powering all chalets with renewable energy and creating realistic waste targets.
“We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we are aiming high because the planet is in crisis and an immediate response is needed to protect the environment for future generations,” he says.
“As much as possible, we want to ensure that our food practices work in harmony with nature and care for the environment and our fellow human beings. This way we can sustain food production for generations to come.
A few steps from the judge’s house are the AliKats permaculture garden, where all the food waste from the chalet ends up. Everything that’s left – from meat scraps to pieces of bread – is placed in the compost heap and turned into organic matter. It is then compressed, pressed and fermented to create a fertilizer for the next season’s crops.
“We are just beginning to embark on this journey, but we have already come a long way in starting to raise chickens, setting up an annual vegetable garden and planting the fruit and nut trees that will form the center of our future food forest,” says Judge.
“Food waste from our cottages feeds our chickens and provides nutrients to the soil in which we grow our food, which in turn feeds us and our guests – it’s a wonderfully efficient cycle.”
This attention to detail is present throughout the company – from sustainability heat pumps used to keep the chalets warm, to the electric coffee roaster supplying beans throughout the resort.
Everything is carefully organized to help guests enjoy and retain the vacation destination they are visiting.
A luxury chalet just like home
Originally built in 1808, the beautifully converted farmhouse is the perfect place to come home to after a long day on the slopes. The chalet can sleep up to 26 people in ten spacious en-suite bedrooms, making lively dinners to be enjoyed with new friends.
As the three-course meal is served, guests pass the time discussing the day’s exploits. The best ski slopes. The biggest falls. The condition of the tracks. Wine glasses magically fill and the conversation continues long after bedtime.
The AliKats team is always on hand to provide you with resort information, a kind word or a smile. They’ll even drop off your ski pass at the bottom of the piste if, like me, you forget it.
Nothing is too big or small to demand their attention. As I sat by the roaring fireplace one evening, I was presented with a cheese platter by one of the chalet hosts.
“Thanks, but I’m vegan,” I smiled, offering my hand in apology.
She smiles back.
“Everything is vegan.”
I should have known. At La Ferme à Jules, everything has been thought out. As one guest put it, “when you come here you can leave your brain at the door”. I hesitated to take mine back on the way out.
How much does it cost to stay at Ferme à Jules?
A week’s stay at the chalet during the 2022/23 ski season will cost €757 pp (for two people sharing an en-suite double bedroom) or €15,141 in total for exclusive use of the chalet for up to 20 people.
Watch the video above to find out more about Morzine’s luxury ski chalet.