Cheval Blanc, Courchevel, France
Looking for a blow-out getaway in the French Alps? Make this sumptuous, piste-side snow palace your next-level Trois Vallées base
17 March, 2023
Climbing the fir tree and wooden chalet-lined roads that lead to the centre of the prestigious Courchevel 1850 resort, you could almost be tricked into thinking that this is just another chocolate-box ski town in the French Alps. Until, that is, you reach the parade of designer boutiques whose names read like a guestlist for the Met Gala. Fitting, considering that the piste-side pad we're staying in puts the "haute" in "haute demand".
Situated at the foot of the slopes, with direct ski-in, ski-out access to Les Trois Vallées, LVMH's Cheval Blanc is one of the plushest snow palaces in the Alps. On our - chauffeur-driven, natch - approach, the sun catches off the head of the mirrored Trojan Horse sculpture designed by Bruno Peinado. It's appropriate, given that the building's raclette-yellow exterior resembles that of a humble wooden chalet, with the obligatory wood stacked outside, cutout motifs on the balcony and timber-clad walls. Yet, inside, it opens up into a haven of cashmere blankets, world-renowned art, Louis Vuitton luggage-tag art and signature scents. Sidenote: for someone who burns through Byredo candles quicker than people burn through Bumble matches, we were obsessed. Crafted by the nose at Guerlain, Thierry Wasser, it's a heady mix of spice and woodfire and absolutely should come home with you in miniature candle form.
Adventurers gear up for a day on the slopes, left, and the hotel's outdoor terrace.
Of course, being situated on the curve of the Jardin Alpin, a scenic run that steers through woodland and other snow-tipped five-star hotels, is testimony to Cheval Blanc's top-notch skiing credentials - all part of the maison's allure. Les Trois Vallées' 600km of slopes, from cruisey blues to nail-biting black runs, await just outside the boot room. Equal parts powder-puff pistes and pomp, with a dollop of "Jesus Christ! There's a hammam in my room" thrown in for good measure, simplistic alpine abode this is not.
Expect a boudoir as sumptuous as your surroundings. Ours - one of 36 - was decked out in swathes of sun-ripened orange with splashes of flamboyant art: the Instagram-famous life-sized sheep grazed at our bedside, bull-headed ice buckets glistened in the corner, and an ostrich-feather floor lamp presided over the living room. There are as many gasp-worthy moments as there are in-room gadgets: a wall-embedded plasma-screen TV to watch from the bathtub; chromotherapy lights in the shower-hammam; Japanese derrière-warming toilets… The bleached-wood, custom-built wardrobes had us swooning, and the walk-in-dressing room was the ideal companion to our jam-packed Away carry on.
A snug set-up, alongside a snapshot of a five-star feast.
What's for breakfast?
In keeping with the grandeur of the maison, breakfast is part afternoon tea, part gourmet picnic and part tasting session at a swanky food hall. Expect vitamin-packed juices to cleanse your morning palette, followed by locally foraged berries with yoghurt, topped off with lattes made with fresh-from-the-milking-parlour milk (seriously) and wooden chopping boards piled high with flaky pastries. A three-tier cake stand laden with delicate patisserie that makes you go "ooh" is lorded around, as are granola bars encrusted with gold flakes. Traditional hot breakfast options are up next: eggs any way you like, fancy fry-ups and a lot of smashed avocado - no gold flakes.
For a more relaxed start to the morning, guests can opt to have breakfast in their room. Take it on your suite's balcony - the baby-soft robes are warm enough to swaddle in.
How about lunch and dinner?
Let's skip straight to the main act, shall we? Staying at Cheval Blanc without a dinner reservation at three-Michelin-starred Le 1947 à Cheval Blanc would be blasphemy. Directed by chef Yannick Alléno, the restaurant cleverly waltzes between sci-fi and fairy tale - as seen in the stark white tables set beneath ginormous snow-white flying saucers (that function as an acoustic sound bath that helps carry conversation between guests across the table), and the tasting menu, which appears in a snow globe with glitter-flecked water revealing the line-up of dishes. The juxtaposition carries through to the food: Jackson Pollock-esque plates representing a walk in the woods made up of over 30 elements that take more than a year to gather; balls of yeast that rise throughout dinner, before being whisked away to reveal smoky chunks of brioche; crêpes suzette whipped up tableside. Watching the chefs in the open kitchen dance around each other is like watching the opening night at the ballet. The experience is hypnotic, theatrical and utterly extravagant, which is what you want from a restaurant that's so highly decorated.
Slightly more low-key - emphasis on the "slightly" - is Le Restaurant de Cheval Blanc Courchevel, a red-hued, all-day dining space that serves hearty, expedition-fuelling mains. Think seared slabs of wagyu, garlic-smothered scallops, and dauphinoise drowning in cream sauce. All steak orders come with a chance to sniff out your chosen steak knife based on which wood you're most attracted to.
Take a look inside Cheval Blanc...
Is there a bar?
Leave the Jägerbombs at La Folie Douce; Le Bar is as suave as they come, with its live piano music, grandpa-friendly Chesterfield armchairs and an onyx fireplace that Daniel Craig could be propped up against for his next Belvedere campaign. Nip across to La Terrasse de Cheval Blanc - an al fresco suntrap ideal for lunchtime dining or evening Aperols in spring - and you'll find an authentic Mongolian yurt housing a cigar fumoir. It's all Havana browns, soft fur blankets, lots of cashmere throws and dark wood.
The piste-level spa is the Galeries Lafayette of wellness emporiums, with treatments crafted by the beauty gurus at Guerlain, swimming pools overlooking the mountains, a Jacuzzi, chromotherapy steam room and banya steam bath. Dare-to-bare guests slap themselves (or others, consent required) with eucalyptus branches in the sauna, before plunging into the snow bath. I just happened to be washing my hair on this occasion.
The sprawling spa's crown jewel? The Hair Room Service, crafted by stylist-to-the-stars John Nollet. Less blow-dry and more blow-out, the ritual starts with a soothing scalp massage, followed by a flurry of lotions, potions and hair elixirs, before being finished off with a pimped-out blow-dry. There's a lot of teasing, twisting and copious amounts of zhuzhing, but the end result is the blow-dry you wish you'd had before taking your passport photo.
Elsewhere, the hotel also has a fully equipped gym with on-hand personal trainers - who also double up as hiking and snowshoeing guides - and swimming instructors, should you have any extra energy leftover or fancy an alternative to whizzing down the slopes.
The slope-facing sauna, left, and skis standing in the powder.
What's the crowd like?
Immaculately groomed families dressed head-to-toe in Fendi Ski - bonus points if you spot someone on the Forbes list. The interconnecting rooms, private chalet and exceptional kids' club make Cheval Blanc well-equipped to handle multi-generational getaways and flamboyant family affairs.
Within a short walk I can find…
A Louis Vuitton pop-up boutique housed in a Mongolian yurt, naturally. Aside from stocking this season's latest designer skiwear, it also doubles up as a delicious little coffee shop. Before you scoff (at the price), allow us to reassure you: the cakes - pistachio-filled choux buns, dark chocolate gateaux and miniature lemon tarts - and coffee are complimentary, with no four-figure bag purchase necessary.
Things I should know
In case you haven't got the memo by now, this isn't your everyday ski lodge. If being pampered like monarchy isn't your bag, then we'd steer clear, as, aside from actually clocking up your piste runs for you (which I'm sure they would if they could), there is not a single whim, want or desire that's not catered for here. Case in point: our gently warmed ski boots slipped on for us before we hit the slopes; the evening spa ritual in our drawn-for-us bathtub, jazz music whirling softly through the essential oil-scented air; the vintage Moët handed to us en route from spa to sauna; the talking Japanese toilet. As far as future ski holidays go, we fear it's all downhill from here…