There's something deeply satisfying about returning to base after a day spent racing down the slopes: herb-infused scents wafting from the kitchen; distant crashes of some exotic cocktail being shaken to perfection; sauna at the ready to nurse aching muscles... Whatever it is that makes you feel comforted post-piste, you'll find it at the newly opened M Lodge & Spa.
Located in the sleepy French village of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, this five-star pad makes a cosy, chic abode for grown-up skiers with its dazzling destination restaurant, trophy-worthy spa facilities and elegant guest rooms. The 25-key stay marries traditional alpine interiors with contemporary furnishings - picture timber-clad walls studded with (purchasable) abstract artworks and sparkly, cutting-edge lighting.
On arrival, we're struck by the way in which the property - a mishmash of brick, glass panelling and timber - so seamlessly melts into the snow-carpeted hillside. Stepping inside, we're greeted by a good-vibes soundtrack - the sort you'd expect at some boho beach bar, but seriously works here. Moments later, bar-side, a spirited concoction in hand, we decide that this just might be the address that convinces us to swap a session at La Folie Douce for the more sophisticated side of après.
The hotel's snow-flanked exterior, left, and mountain views seen from a bedroom.
Bedrooms are cosy and contemporary. Ours, a junior suite, offers sweeping views of the dramatic snow-capped mountains - vistas that we can enjoy from the comfort of our king-size bed, freestanding bathtub and spacious balcony. We love the comforting lighting, with timber-clad walls, faux-fur headboards and stone floors all softly lit by Milky Way light installations and warm downlights. A walk-in-wardrobe is fitted with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and enough hanging space to warrant a colour coordinated set-up. Discreet, high-tech features abound: think a smart TV that emerges from a marble-topped cabinet at the click of a button, and curtains that close with the tap of a switch. The open-plan bathroom showcases a twin vanity space and walk-in shower.
What's for breakfast?
Enough to kick-start your day the right way: fruit salads, flaky pastries, baskets of breads, granolas, oats, cold meats and porridge so tasty it would be insulting to use a drop of honey. However you like your eggs in the morning, the kitchen team can cook them up on request - plus all the other traditional hot stuff, too.
A sneak peek at a snug bedroom suite, alongside delicous breakfast spread.
How about lunch and dinner?
Intimate and sophisticated yet supremely laid-back, La Table du M Lodge restaurant is kitted out with upholstered chairs, round, marble-topped tables and timber walls hung with purchasable artworks by native artist and gallerist Amélie du Chalard.
Head chef Clément Hericotte is to thank for the menu, featuring refined comfort-food classics such as rosemary focaccia, wild mushroom risotto and a chicken caesar salad that's crunchy and creamy in all the right places. Dessert? The extra-zesty lemon pie is not to be missed.
Is there a bar?
Yep, it's in the same space as La Table du M Lodge and, in our opinion, is the centrepiece of the entire property - all mirrored ceilings, twinkly pendant lights, marble countertop and towering shelves loaded with stellar spirits. Pull up a stool and sink a classic margarita, settle into a plush armchair to savour a G&T to the sweet sounds of the piano, or grab an Aperol and tune in to the resident DJ.
Aside from the ski school and shop, sun terrace, supersonic-speed WiFi, cinema-sized smart TV, hairdryer, complimentary tea, and coffee machine? The state-of-the-art spa is what we think you'll be most excited about. Blessed with floor-to-ceiling windows offering undisturbed mountain views, the pool is the best we've ever had the pleasure of swimming laps in. There are also comfortable poolside loungers, a sauna, fitness studio and a handful of treatment rooms where you can enjoy a deep-tissue massage or bespoke facial.
How about their eco-credentials?
Decent. We didn't catch a whiff of single-use plastic, the menus are seasonal, toiletries are full-sized and the wood is reclaimed.
What about accessibility?
All floors have step-free access and several rooms are suitable for those with mobility issues. It's worth noting, however, that the hotel is situated on a steep incline, which should be considered when planning outdoor explorations.
What's the crowd like?
The kind you'd go to for life advice: mature, glamorous and on the effortless side of cool. We'd bookmark this one for a baecation with your après-hungry gang.
Things I should know
Whether you're a pro looking to tear up Les Trois Vallées or a beginner who doesn't hasn't quite grasped the concept of a snow plough, the hotel's M Snow academy will sort you out on the slopes.
Within a short walk I can find…
Nearby ski-in, ski-out restaurant Le Montagnard makes for an exceptional post-piste feast. Opt for the mountain board, a fine selection of local bacon, pesto and rillettes paired with cashew bread and fried potatoes. Then, it's all eyes on the fondue machine for the main course, best enjoyed with a bottle of roussette de savoie. Interiors? All original wooden beams, shelves showcasing ageing cheeses, chairs draped in faux-fur blankets and branches that double as coat holders.