There’s no business like SNOW BUSINESS believes TIM MAGEE, who selects COSY WINTER ESCAPES …
I lift the poor damaged thing in my arms, balancing awkwardly so as to quietly close the door of the Volvo, not spooking it any further. This small furry creature has been through enough. It doesn’t seem damaged from the outside but nothing can have survived these last couple of years unscathed.
Although this critter has cousins across Scandinavia its original habitat was Denmark. As I release it back home on an icy sodium-lit street in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, I hope it can recover by a fireplace or a foggy candlelit window, cosying up to a family and getting its magic back. Poor hygge. The once pure hygge has been hijacked and renditioned and dragged around the world to be misused and abused.
We shouldn’t have been able to buy this wild thing in the first place. Hygge was a feeling that we turned into a fridge magnet. For the last couple of years this Nordic ritual has been synthesised, genetically modified and commercialised to near extinction. Poor hygge, made into cheap labels and stuck on everything from cushions to key rings, and mostly stuck onto things we already had.
While we were chasing other nation’s notions we had all the hygge we needed at home. Native, grass-fed, organic and wild, we have hygge in spades in Ireland.
Just look at the iconic Guinness Christmas ad. I’m a sucker for it. They could have been selling hygge. If we knew what it was then. The dream they were actually selling was a white Christmas. Snow. Using the white stuff to sell the black stuff. Because we don’t do snow. Not really.
Ireland’s pewter skies are too tight with a little finching on the hills being the height of it. I used to imagine snow, squinting at hoarfrost or icy crunchy grass and pretending it was the real deal. Snow in Ireland is either a tease or a terror. It comes too soft and puddles, a pop-up decoration outside for a few hours at best, or too hard and puts the island on lockdown.
We dream of a white Christmas but that’s someone else’s snow. Now that the hygge has been returned to the wild it’s time to look at paying for something we can’t be guaranteed having at home. I dream of organised snow in organised places. Like wild palm trees or cactus, a deeply layered glut of snow is a lovely natural reminder you are away from it all.
Maybe your snow is for putting boards or skis on. Something I am not very good at. Or for lazing in front of a log fire on soft furnishings with small glasses of hard local liquor, something I’m very good at.
Your snow might be a blinding day of winter sports or a self-imposed glacial pace in front of the snap, crackle and pop of someone else’s fire in someone else’s chalet with jumpers and no phones, but here are some of this year’s snow dreams. If you do run into a little hygge while there, be gentle, keep your distance and appreciate it in its natural habitat.
Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder, say the Swedes – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, and ideally the clothing you wear in Stockholm when there’s snow on the ground is quick release. With their usual Nordic efficiency, Stockholm’s inhabitants live and work in extra-insulated, thoroughly superheated buildings. Coming in to a blast of heat from the almost comically scenic snow-blanketed streets (impeccably gritted so there’s no chance of a slip), a vest is probably what you want to strip down to if you can only struggle out of all those downy layers. Stay in Ilse Crawford’s luxe and cosy Ett Hem and head out into Gamla Stan’s meandering lanes, lit by lanterns, which are picturesque perfection. With the biggest array of Christmas lights in Europe (environmentally friendly materials and energy-saving LEDs, of course) lighting up the city, you are inside the world’s prettiest Christmas card. www.etthem.se.
Never mind the tedium of eating the overrated bird once a year, Turkey wouldn’t be the first place that would spring to mind when planning a snow-based holiday either. And Argos may conjure up images of last-minute stocking fillers rather than a ski destination, but Argos in Turkey’s Cappadocia is a spectacular hotel just an hour from central Anatolia’s highest mountain, snow covered all year round. An extraordinary complex created from a 2,000-year-old historical network of ancient ruins, caves and underground tunnels, Argos is not just a base for the skiing around Mount Erciyes, but also for Cappadocia’s famous hot air ballooning. And if the views over the snow–capped mountains, canyons and crazy fairy chimneys seen from a quiet height don’t take your breath away, choosing a glass or two of wine from the Argos cellar possibly will – it’s the largest in Turkey with over 20,000 bottles of wine, many made from the hotel’s own vineyards. www.argosincappadocia.com.
Hôtel Barrière Les Neiges is right at the foot of the famous Bellecôte run in the handsome village of Courchevel and it’s exactly the kind of plush you want to come home to after a day out in the cold – with as much cashmere, felt, velvet and fur as all the glamour years of Hollywood put together. There are movie stars on the walls too, with Studio Harcourt screen star portraits looking down on the patrons in Le Fouquet’s, the mountainside sister to the legendary Parisian brasserie, and the cinematic grandeur of the views is perfectly framed by the huge balcony windows of the bigger rooms and suites. A gorgeous contemporary riff on a traditional chalet, Hôtel Barrière Les Neiges also has a wood-fired restaurant from the charming Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur in Menton, inspired by his childhood in Argentina. If you can’t get to the south of France for his food then this is an elegant Alpine alternative. But if you don’t want to choose between parts of France at all, then a five night stay in Courchevel gets you a two night treat in the recently Jacques Garcia-ed Hôtel Le Fouquet’s in Paris too. Best of both worlds. www.hotelsbarriere.com.
Built in 1842, and restored in 2010 by owners Lucy and Rob Mundell, Le Ferme Du Lac Vert is a sweetly authentic (from the outside) 19th century Savoyard farmhouse with a little sister next door, La Petite Ferme. The larger chalet has eleven bedrooms, the smaller has three, and they can be hired together or separately, catering for up to 36 guests in total – a big family party or maybe a funky small wedding. (The classical Mairie or the Baroque village church Église de la Visitation are both a two-minute walk away on the main village square of Montriond.) Inside the interiors are a blend of antiques, vintage finds and contemporary pieces, and the shuttle service, in-house chef, and outdoor hot tubs make après-ski a treat. Run by Tipperary man Tadhg Ryan, Le Ferme Du Lac Vert is Morzine with an Irish accent. www.lafermedulacvert.com.
Remote, rugged and ridiculously photogenic, this is one for the dare-devils. From whale watching, hot-spring hopping, Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, sea kayaking in the fjords, riding the famous Icelandic horses, puffin chasing and surfing there’s an activity for everyone, up to and including the most dramatic of all, heli-skiing. Dropped onto pristine snow from a helicopter and making your way from the mountain top all the way down to the ocean shore, long descents over the North Atlantic are lit up by never-ending sunsets. Deplar Farm was a working sheep farm and is now ground zero for adrenalin junkies. Surrounded by 3,000 foot peaks in the Troll Peninsula with access to over 1,500 square miles of untouched mountain terrain, the location in Northern lceland means extended sunlight hours, so there’s up to ten hours per day of ski time – the more you ski the more you save. After a massage for those aching legs, and to counteract your own back-slapping, watch the Northern Lights from an outdoor, geothermal infinity pool, heated to 38 degrees by thermal springs, with a built-in sound system and a bar. Get a box of Milk Tray under your arm, and climb on board. www.elevenexperience.com.
Tim Magee @manandasuitcase
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