Driving in a winter wonderland

This weekend at the mountain wasn’t really supposed to be a weekend at the mountain. Mid-December we planned to bring the hot JCW Hatch from Mini on Alpin apex twisted roads to enjoy the mountainous landscapes barely snow-covered on tops, to release its sporty character on a route full of hairpins, and to rest from these rally stages in one of the most beautiful establishments of Megève, Les Fermes de Marie. But snow was mush more generous than expected and some 60 cm settled just before our departure! Our hatchback became Countryman JCW All4 and made us add 2 driving wheels and more space in the trunk to pack it with a special « extreme cold » gear, including the indispensable chains. The Countryman struck a pose in front of (or rather behind) Reims’ cathedral, and we were en route for a week-end at the mountain, a real one!

We went straight down to Megève and thanks to our spacious and confortable Mini (yes that’s a bit antagonist for a car with such a name…) we couldn’t see time fly until we saw the first snow after 500 km of highway. The Jura and Aravis landscapes paraded and the road became more and more snowy and icy as we climbed to Megève. We finally arrived to THE place, and there the time stopped!

I firstly went to the Fermes de Marie during the 1000km GT organized by HappyFewRacing in June 2017 and I loved the place so much that it was inevitable to come back in the snow season. Winter adds a one-of-a-kind atmosphere to the place and this Christmas feeling makes it just magical. What a slap! We just realized that we entered a bubble where everything is made to relax and disconnect from normal life. Once inside we quickly felt like home! The hotel is a cosy cocoon immersed in the Alpin authenticity. Our room was as spacious as a whole chalet, luxuriously comfortable and decorated with traditional and charming objects. Special mention for the terrace with a view on the mountain barely out of bed!

This spectacular place is located at just a 5 minutes walk from Megève city center and close to the the ski slopes. You can even be transported in a Defender by the hotel staff to go there whenever you want! At this time of the year only the first local skiers are already present, making Megève still calm and quiet to walk around.

Our program was more than complete for our 3 days on the spot. Each day started with a royal breakfast with a buffet based on homemade and local products: charcuterie cut with a manual machine, cheese, waffle made in an instant, same for scrambled eggs, all kinds of breads, etc. We quickly got used to this!

After that it was time to get out and test the limits of the Countryman on snowy roads. We started confident with our summer tires, determined not to have to mount the chains, and we finally could easily reach the highest road of Megève (meaning the highest open road, as mountain passes were closed…). This All4 transmission was quite bluffing and surprisingly easy to drive, despite those big sporty wheels! The car went sideways with confidence and was easy to handle, and this sporty exhaust sound gave an appreciable Monte-Carlo rally stage feeling! The Countryman really looked in its element with snow, firs and mountains all around.

Just after the shooting session with the Countryman we went to visite the Coulairon domain which is a breeding of reindeers. The Chistmas atmosphere couldn’t be more magical. We were lucky enough to spend a privileged moment with the breeder who allowed us to spend some time inside the reindeers enclosure! As sun was setting, it was so cold that we had no other choice to come back to the hotel to enjoy the Alpin restaurant and its unavoidable Savoy specialities: a memorable raclette with a homemade dessert buffet. Yes, we really felt like mountain dwellers! To end the days in a blaze of glory we spent a long time in the outdoor jacuzzi. -9°C outside, more than 30°C inside, with the snow falling all around us! How could we forget this habit?!

Do you think we escaped the snow chains? We thought so, until we had to come back home under a snowstorm! The All4 may be powerful, the steep slope + thick ice + endless falling snow formula cannot be handled without chains. Leaving Megève in these conditions we only saw adventurer SUVs on the road, and we felt pretty safe and confident in our Countryman!

 

A huge thank to Mini for the trip and to Maisons et Hôtels Sibuet for such an experience.

www.mini.fr | www.fermesdemarie.com