A weekend at Le Saint Roch - Courchevel
High-end living in a swish French ski town.
In times where your only issues are to get your award flights booked for 2019 - happy you have already got all Christmas gifts – I felt that I need one last getaway before the huge Christmas break filled with celebrations and New Year resolutions. Having already been in Gstaad, Crans Montana, Zermatt and so on, I was eager to try the peak of European winter sport and looked for a place to stay in nowhere else than Courchevel. The most dazzling ski town worldwide was actually only a two-and-a-half hour’s drive from Lausanne making it the perfect weekend escape pre- and post-Christmas. Be aware that though the high prices hotels are charging, they usually fill every corner throughout their winter season. So better book early and don’t mind about the daily rates around the one thousand euros’ mark. Compared to the ski hotels in Switzerland and Austria, Courchevel can call itself “different” in many aspects actually and is worth the experiment. To all my surprise I wasn’t interested in doing further research about the town as I heard only best things and was in for a new experience.
A scenic drive along Lac D’Annecy and a beautiful valley that was followed by a steep mountain road that soon saw real snow when approaching the first towns of Courchevel. Not having had any exact knowledge about the area, I expected one town with a centre rather than a few small villages spread over different altitudes that all make up Courchevel. You have Courchevel 1650, a few others and then comes Courchevel 1850 which is the actual base of the Jetset and the one percent. Being in the area for the first time, I wanted to be convinced by the very best and decided to check-in at Le Saint Roch, one of the finest hotels in the French Alps. As previously mentioned, we look for the individual unbranded luxury hotels with a very personal touch rather than huge buildings or branded hotels (though occasionally we are happy to see those too). This property was therefore perfect for Luxury Executive and also for my first time in this magnificent place.
I parked the car in front of the main entrance and as soon as the car door closed, a friendly lady approached me to welcome me to the hotel. Later turns out that she is the hotel’s general manager who works hand in hand with the hotel staff to be in front of the guests and visible to everyone. Valerie accompanied me inside to the stunningly beautiful lobby where they put one huge front desk with even bigger table lamps. A decent, elegant scent went through my nose and made me feel like at home. Another two friendly ladies working at the front desk asked for nothing less than a credit card and everything else was already done prior to arrival in order to start the tour immediately. For me, there is nothing better than an efficient check-in where you do not lose too much time and the team doesn’t keep you waiting. We started the tour at the hotel’s bar where they serve a complimentary afternoon tea setup with sweet delicacies from 3 to 5pm daily.
Afterwards we were shown the restaurant and spa before we stopped at our room. Located on the third floor, we were informed of the generous upgrade to a suite. We entered and were speechless from the first moment: a huge entrée was welcoming us and opened the views to an open fire place in the middle of the living room. Dark colours and black wood floor made this room extra special with a guest toilet to the right followed by a walk-in wardrobe next to it. On the left, there was the bathroom with double vanities, bath tub, bath amenities and enormous walk-in shower that had a built in hammam function and the most lavish shower head I have ever seen in a hotel suite/room. There were three different options to use the rainfall shower and it was simply amazing! As if that wouldn’t have been enough, all my expectations were exceeded when I hold the hotel’s branded Maison Francis Kurkdjian toiletries in my hands.
Before exhilarating too much I told myself to continue the tour but what followed was not less spectacular: a super comfy double bed with oversized table lamps, a writing desk with chair and two super vast sofas to fall asleep easily as well as a view of the slope. I have to admit that not once but three times I thought that the suite would actually be perfect to throw some private parties... (if only we would have known some event manager in the area HAHA). So the evenings ended with a cup of tea in front of the open fire place (it was real and worked) with fur plaids making the entire room the comfiest I have seen so far. Now it is time to mention the excellent housekeeping team that does a flawless job, highlighting the special turn-down service which was implemented by Valerie (the hotel manager) offering tea, a hotel branded pillow mist and a daily written newspaper with information for the following day along a bottle of Evian.
Needless to mention that the attention to detail is just outstanding: When I came back from a walk in the posh streets of Courchevel I found the coffee table filled with welcome amenities such as fresh fruits (berries, peach and kiwi – interestingly all my favourite fruits), homemade pastries by the pastry chef as well as plenty of dried fruits that accompanied us all stay long. Before the dinner, I went downstairs to see the hotel’s spa with pool. Although, on the small side, the spa had a lovely designed indoor pool at comfortable temperature and a steam room just around the corner. I heard there is also a changing room but didn’t check that out as I found the pool to be appealing and guests can access the spa by elevator from the room without needing to pass any public area. All that is left to say about the spa is that we were always the only guests downstairs even at rush hour and the lounge chairs were extremely relaxing so that I fell asleep instead of swimming.
When it was time to discover dinner, Valerie again approached all guests and asked if everything was fine with the room and that she would be there in any case. We were seated on a very nice table overlooking the main area of the restaurant with views of outside as well. I have to say that the entire restaurant team was very pleasant and it would be unfair to mention one as they all were on par and had a very good knowledge about the dishes. Our main server was the head waiter though who always recommended the perfect wine with my Carpaccio of spiny lobster (absolutely wonderful in terms of texture and taste) before I was served the main course: a beef fillet with deep-fried almond potatoes on the first evening and a sea bream on the second evening. While I never expected to eat that many fish dishes at an altitude of 1850 meters, all I can say is that the quality was even better than at some seaside fish restaurants (especially the ones in Corsica).
All guests receive bread and three different butter along with an amuse as well as three side dishes to share in order to elevate the dining experience. Before the dinner comes to an end, we were served two kind of desserts. I went for the “Grand Cru” which was a chocolate based dish and perfectly paired in order not to cause a “chocolate-overdose”. Between the great dessert and complimentary pastries, we were introduced to the pastry chef of the hotel which is originally from Australia and settled in Courchevel. Of course the evening couldn’t end already so we moved the room and settled at the bar. Having seen some of the world’s most incredible bars, never did I meet such a cool and engaging bar team. Might it be the head of the bar who was chatting with us in several occasions or the extremely passionate barkeeper from Guadeloupe, they gave us the feeling that they created the drinks just for us which is every guest’s dream. It felt as if we had our private bar team.
On the next morning, we had a lavish breakfast in the restaurant which has been set up in a white mood (they change the table cloths between black for dinner and white for breakfast). Thanks to the small size of the hotel, you tend to see some of the waiters of the dinner for breakfast service again which is nice so they remember your name and it is easier to start conversations. An interesting evolution I observe is that huge buffet breakfast disappear more often and hotels instead focus on the products they offer. I totally welcome this approach and love to have excellent and tasty products rather than a bit of everything. So I happened to find my favourites eg truffled Mortadella, hand cut Prosciutto as well as best French cheese and the most astonishing desserts. If only I could eat everything, but at 9am even my desires are limited. While the egg dishes are to be paid separately, coffee and tea is offered as freshly squeezed juices and replaced by the server on your table.
Let me conclude this marvellous stay at one of the best hotel’s I have ever stayed at. Having stayed at the two most expensive ski hotels in Austria, nothing compares to Le Saint Roch (or Courchevel) which was way beyond my expectations and previous ski hotel experiences. My colleague who is a regular at St Regis & Ritz Carlton properties said it would be his new number one property. It is the first time I actually had a ski butler who put on my shoes and it is also the first time I found my car cleaner than before I gave it to the bellmen (not only speaking of clean windows but they washed the entire car). While it is not the first time that a hotel manager feels like a friend who let us stay at his/her chalet, Valerie is one of the best managers I have met and her fingerprint can be found all over the place including the perfect management of the team. I would not hesitate a single second in booking a room at Le Saint Roch if I have the chance to ever come back.
We were guests of the Le Saint Roch Courchevel and Maison Tournier, however all above written expresses our own opinion and has not been influenced.