In Review

Cheval Blanc hotel review: supreme comfort and courtesy in Courchevel

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From the outside, Cheval Blanc in Courchevel 1850 looks like a large, traditional ski chalet – albeit one with a massive, mirror-clad horse regally guarding its entrance. Inside, though, it’s a highly styled and contemporary “maison” – so called because every effort is made within its walls to make guests feel at home. It’s modest in capacity, with just 36 rooms and suites, but the modesty truly ends there.

This is the kind of place where ski boots are deftly removed from your feet and replaced with cloud-like slippers, where staff appear out of nowhere to place tiny bottles of Evian in your hand, and where salads come sprinkled with a literal handful of truffles. Even the peanuts at the bar are infused with truffle oil.

Owned by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), Cheval Blanc is a growing collection of hotels, the other locations of which so far are St Tropez, St Barths, and the Maldives. Despite the exclusivity, though, the atmosphere created for guests is welcoming and warm, with staff if anything so eager to please that you’re afraid you might somehow disappoint them. At this branch, the first of the four to open in 2006, general manager Wilfried Morandini is on hand at all times armed with a giant grin, and seems to genuinely delight in amazing his guests with little (or sometimes not so little) surprises.

Each room at Cheval Blanc is unique, decorated to its own colour scheme by interior designer Sybille de Margeri, who makes her mark with whimsical touches like, in my case, life-sized woolly sheep by the bed. The rooms are spacious, all with balconies, and kept pristinely tidy by the staff, of whom there are significantly more than guests, and who will even fold the clothes in your separate dressing room while you’re out on the slopes.

If, like me, you have never taken pause to debate the respective merits of duvets versus sheets and blankets, be warned that you will be asked to state your preferences on this among many other specifics in a questionnaire the hotel will send you before your stay. Think that’s too much? Wait for what is perhaps the pinnacle of all luxury to appear by your bed at turndown service: a little foam cushioned mat in a cotton case, especially for you to get out of bed onto, in case you simply can’t bear to step on the floor yet. For larger groups or families, there are two duplex suites, a private three-bedroom chalet with its own spa treatment rooms and screening room, and a massive four-suite penthouse apartment with a dedicated service team.

Though every room has its own hammam shower (like a tiny steam room) as well as a bath with a TV disguised as a mirror in front of it, there’s also the maison’s newly renovated Guerlain spa. Serene and stylish, with a mirrored ceiling and a view onto the slopes, it’s equipped with a pool, sauna, steam room, and a new traditional Russian “banya”, from which you can sprint straight out into the snow before dipping into the outdoor hot tub. My 80 minute “Warming Winter Pause” treatment, which involved being cocooned in a towelled duvet before receiving a full-body hot stone massage and moisturising facemask, was so hypnotic that when the staff started saying things like: “It’s really very important to have a massage every day after you ski,” I found myself nodding earnestly.

Cheval Blanc’s close partnership with Guerlain, one of the world’s oldest cosmetics companies, continues beyond the spa. The brand has developed a signature scent for each of the group’s four hotels – in Courchevel it’s called Mountain Chic – which is spread throughout the building and in the myriad creams and candles found in the rooms. You can even book a session in which you develop your own personalised scent with experts at the hotel. And while the grown-ups are enjoying all this, children can explore the joyous playroom designed to hold their attention firmly in the analogue world.

The village of Courchevel 1850 – the epicenter of all luxury in the Alps – of course has plenty of swanky restaurants and bars, not to mention a boutique for every designer you can name, but if you wanted to, you could very easily live out your entire trip at Cheval Blanc. There’s a moody, chic bar that serves delicious nibbles and hosts live music every night. The main restaurant, Le Tryptique, decorated by Peter Marino, is modern in dramatic, deep shades of red, and the menu by Yannick Alléno is no more conventional. The starters in particular are meant for sharing, and I’d recommend sampling a few, from exquisite ceviche, to finely chopped steak tartare, to giant, meaty asparagus. Mains and desserts are equally eclectic and delicious, and in good weather the outdoor terrace is open for juicy lunches from the grill. In the morning, you’ll find every breakfast food known to man arranged at an enormous buffet – or you can choose from a substantial room service menu.

As if all this variety wasn’t enough, tucked away completely out of sight at Cheval Blanc is another, even more special restaurant called Le 1947, named for the year of the Château Cheval Blanc vineyard’s most famous vintage. Stepping into the three-Michelin-starred Le 1947 – the restaurant with the most stars in all of Courchevel – genuinely takes your breath away for a moment. From the white fur throws on the chairs, and the expansive windows, to the semi-spherical domes over each table (meant to isolate the acoustics of your private conversation), the room, which only seats 22 at a time, is spectacular. The food (which I sadly didn’t get to taste) is presented less as a casual meal here and more as part of an immersive experience in which you can pop into the open kitchen to see how it’s all done if you so desire.

Aside from all the luxuries within the hotel itself, the ski experiences on offer at Cheval Blanc are also second to none. From the 2019/20 ski season, they’re introducing “First Tracks”, which means you can head up the lifts before they’ve officially opened for the day and ski down pristine, freshly combed snow. It’s just as fun as it sounds, but be aware that later in the day, you’ll find yourself quite outraged by the presence of others on your private mountain.

The piece de resistance on offer, though, is a day out with three-time World Freeride Champion, Manu Gaidet. Despite his frankly terrifying abilities, Manu will patiently and cheerfully mould an excursion to fit your preferences and skill level. Ours was an off-piste expedition using “seal-skins” strapped to the bottom of our skis to climb up the slopes, and while not experienced off-piste myself, I felt very safe and confident in following Manu’s detailed instructions. Having returned from a day of skiing to Cheval Blanc, you simply leave your labelled skis outside the hotel to be dutifully tidied away with your helmet, goggles, and whatever else you like. All your gear is prepped and ready for you to go again the following morning.

The list of what’s on offer at Cheval Blanc goes on – I haven’t even mentioned the Cigar Yurt, which is exactly what it sounds like, the Hair Room Service, or the horse and carriage rides through Courchevel – but the essence is clear. This hotel doesn’t just want to give you a brilliant holiday. It wants to anticipate and fulfill every one of your needs – and many things that are not needs – before you even know you have them.

Stay at Cheval Blanc Courchevel from €1,850 (£1,570) per night, based on two sharing on a half board basis. www.chevalblanc.com | +33 4 79 00 50 50

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