In Australia, with a few rare exceptions, accommodation in the snow is utilitarian; it matches its market. Service is often friendly, but to uncover it at a level unimagined at home, head to the European Alps, where all the stars line up for the five-star establishments.
Megeve, a classy, understated, mountain resort in France's Haute-Savoie region, is perched at the luxury end of the scale, founded as it was by the Rothschild family and still very much in its fold.
The Four Seasons Hotel Megeve, which tops the tree in a forest of luxury accommodation, opened in 2017. The interior design was a collaboration with Ariane de Rothschild, with much of the art (and there's plenty) coming from her collection or from her patronage of local artists.
The vast window behind the reception desk is like a landscape painting in itself, of an alpine view so breathtaking it's difficult to converse with the staff. The hotel's food is Michelin-starred, the indoor-outdoor pool has an integrated music system, there are clubs within for teens and younger children, the suites have open fires lit for guests in the afternoon.
In summer, the Mont d'Arbois Golf Course is a short buggy ride from the hotel; in winter that buggy transforms into a horse and sleigh with a ski rack on the back to trot you over the inconvenient few hundred metres of flat land to the lifts.
But before you hop aboard the sleigh, you need to make your way to the ski room. If you travel a little for skiing, the condition and location of the ski room will generally tell you everything you need to know about the underlying quality of your accommodation.
Sometimes they're in an out of the way stinky basement, sometimes they have ski-to-the-door convenience, sometimes they'll be attached to the gear and rental shop and you feel attached to the sport by virtue of the action and expertise adjacent.
What about the ski room at the Four Seasons Megeve? I have no idea, can't tell you a thing about it. Didn't get so much as a glimpse of it.
I followed the signs to the "ski room" but before I got that far I found myself in a lounge where Jean-Pierre, a well-groomed, athletic and sharply dressed gentleman greeted me with a "good morning Monsieur Darby." As far as I knew, I hadn't met Jean-Pierre before, but I couldn't dispute his knack for names. Thank goodness he was wearing a name tag so I knew his. I smiled and returned the greeting.
"One moment," he said ,"please take a seat and I'll fetch your gear for you."
So I took a seat and watched as my skis and poles were whisked outside, then along came my boots. I was about to stand up and assume my usual wrestle-into-the-boots-in-the-morning posture but he said "no, no, please, stay in your seat, allow me."
And he got down on one knee, opened my perfectly pre-warmed boot, had me step in, did the same with the other and then did up the buckles. The last person to do up my boots for me was my Dad, and that was only a year or two after they started using buckles on ski boots.
But wait, there's more. Rather than the horse and sleigh, we wanted to catch the hotel shuttle to the lifts on the far side of the resort (his recommendation also – "no people, better terrain and you'll have the morning sun") but it wasn't due back for five or 10 minutes.
"Can I get you a coffee while you wait Monsieur Darby?" I'm thinking about a glass of Chateau Rothschild (Lafite or Mouton, I'm not that fussy), but agreed that at this hour an espresso would do the trick. So there, in the flash of a few buttons, was just the shot I needed.
Along came the shuttle and still I wasn't quick enough to touch my skis – they were collected by my valet, whisked into our black, leather-seated, tinted-windowed Mercedes van and off to the snow we go. "Enjoy your skiing Monsieur Darby."
"Merci, Jean-Pierre, I certainly will."
Emirates has regular flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Dubai with connections to Geneva; see emirates.com.au Megeve is about an hour by road shuttle from Geneva Airport.
The Four Seasons Hotel Megeve opens seasonally for winter and summer with rooms starting at $1010 in the winter season. See fourseasons.com/megeve
Jim Darby was a guest of Megeve Tourism and Four Seasons Hotels.