25 January 2013 from Nikki in 'Out of the ordinary''

Refuge du Gouter

Refuge du Gouter

As promised in my article “Early birds on the slopes”, I have put together a list of mountain refuges across the Alps where you can sleep up on the slopes and really feel on top of the world! Mountain refuges are no longer cold, sparsely furnished, ramshackle huts with no running water and drafty windows. These days, many offer almost luxury services such as gourmet meals and en-suite facilities! There’s nothing better than watching the sun setting behind the mountains and knowing you’re almost alone for the night! And there’s certainly no better way to be first on the slopes!

The French Alps

Refuge du Gouter had to be on this list because of its innovative nature. At 3835 meters, this is the highest guarded mountain refuge in France and after being completely renovated, now offers sleeping arrangements for up to 120 people. At this altitude, it is mainly mountain climbers who use this refuge as a starting point for climbing to the summit of Mont Blanc. It is not only the design of the Refuge du Gouter that makes it stand out from the crowd, but also its approach to energy sustainability and the environment. The new refuge uses solar and wind power as energy sources, has triple glazing, recycles water, and many other eco-friendly features meaning it has very little environmental impact.

Gite Du Lac De Gers in Flaine is a tiny gite halfway up the Piste des Cascades, between Flaineand Sixt in the Grand Massif ski area. Try some Savoyard specialities and good local wines for €55 per person. It’s rather fun getting to this refuge as there is a phone box on the ski slope where you call your host, Laurence, who sends a Skidoo to collect you! Tel: 00 334 50 89 55 14.

Refuge Lognan in Chamonix a converted army barracks, now offers wholesome mountain cuisine in a convivial French atmosphere for a mere €40 per person. Reservation is essential by calling 00 334 50 54 10 21 or 00 336 88 56 03 54 (mobile phone).

Refuge de Lognan

Refuge de Lognan

The Austrian Alps

Grillhofalm in Mayrhofen is a refuge located at the bottom of the 'Harakiri', the steepest black run in Austria! Don’t be put off by this as it can also be reached via the Penken 15 red run from the top of the Knorren chairliff. This refuge is also at the bottom of the Vans Penken fun park, one of Europe's best snow parks, making it very popular with the young snowboarding crowd during the day. If the après-ski gets a bit over enthusiastic for your liking, don’t worry, once the lifts close you’ll have the place almost to yourselves to enjoy the home-cooked pizza. Half board here is €55 per person and reservations can be made by contacting: 00 43 664 540 30 66.

Ulmer Hutte in St. Anton has been a favourite stop for the German Alpine Club, skiers and mountaineers since 1903. Here, savour hearty Austrian cooking and and typical après-ski in the heart of Austria's Arlberg ski area. Sleeping 50 people this refuge overlooks the village of St Christoph and there is a small cable car from Alpe Rauz if you have a lot of luggage. Half board here will cost you €63 per person and reservations are recommended on tel: 00 43 5446 30200 – visit their website for more info: ulmerhuette.at

Ulmer Hutte

Ulmer Hutte

The Italian Alps

Rifugio Averau in Cortina D'ampezzo nestled in the col between the Averau and Nuvolau peaks in the Cinque Torri ski area offers excellent home-cooked food, panoramic views and dormitory-style sleeping arrangements. Here you will pay €43 for half board and €26 for bed and breakfast. Bookings can be made by calling 00 39 436 4660.

Rifugio Guglielmina in Alagna claims to be the highest hotel in the Alps at an altitude of 2888 meters on the Col d'Olen. Family run, rustic and well known for its great wine list and traditional Italian cuisine, the is a must for refuge lovers! This is a great starting point for ski-touring or heli-skiing in the area. All of this for just €50 per person! You can book by calling 00 39 163 91444

Refuge Guglielmina

The Swiss Alps

Chesetta Mountain Lodge in Klosters is at the luxury end of the list but surprisingly the price is about the same – bed and breakfast from SFr65 (£30) per person. This mountain lodge is just above the Swiss ski resort of Klosters and offers excellent quality services with beautifully furnished bedroom and wonderful forest views. There is a small wood cabin nearby which can be booked for private dinner parties. Bookings can be made by calling 00 41 81 330 5688.

Hornli Hutte in Arosa sleeps up to 23 people (dormitory-style sleeping arrangements) and can be reserved for private groups. However late you stay up partying, make sure you get up early enough to appreciate the wonderful panoramic views at sunrise! For one night on a half board basis, you’ll pay CHF80 per person. For bookings and more information, you can call 00 41 81 377 1504.

Hornli Hutte

Hope you find something to suit your tastes in this list! Leave a comment or join us on Facebook if you know any others or have any mountain refuge experiences you’d like to share…

Being lucky enough to have parents who were crazy about skiing, my love for the mountains started when I was 4 years old on our first family ski holiday to Austrian ski resort of Obergurl. One ski holiday a year was never enough and tears rolled down my face as I looked out the back window of the car on the drive down the valley on the way home!