Cosy, luxurious and with an unbeatable ski-in-ski-out location, Courcheval's Hotel Barriere Les Neiges is the ideal pick for a treat weekend in the Alps
People who say they don’t like skiing often give three main reasons why: 1) it’s too cold, 2) it’s too much of a hassle and 3) it’s not relaxing enough – why spend all that money (because skiing ain’t cheap) on a week sitting in a chairlift blizzard in Les Deux Alpes when you could be stretched out on a sun lounger in Los Cabos, margarita in hand?
Well, point 1) can be partially remedied by going in the Spring or investing in some decent thermals (as the Norwegians say, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’). As for points 2) and 3), these days there are myriad options if you want a ski trip that doesn’t make you end the week feeling more tired than you began it, and with all the luxury trappings and ease of a beachside resort. Case in point: Courcheval’s Hotel Barriere Les Neiges.
The place to stay: Hotel Barriere Les Neiges, Courcheval
A few years back one of Courcheval’s oldest hotels, Les Neiges, was snapped up and given a luxury revamp by the Barriere Hotel group. Since reopening under its newly extended name in December 2016, the hotel has become one of the most sought-after spots in the upper reaches of Courcheval 1850.
The location is very much The Thing with ski hotels – as anyone who has had to do a John Wayne walk back through town after forgetting their ski pass can attest – and you’d be hard-pressed to beat the location of the Barriere Les Neiges: it’s a ski-in-ski-out high up on the green Bellecote piste, nestled in the trees and just a short ski to the main lift station that’ll lead you virtually anywhere in the resort.
The fanciest boot room (ever)
I’m visiting Barriere Les Neiges with a pal has never skied before and on the car journey from Geneva airport she asks what the deal is with hiring skis. I explain that once we’ve arrived at around 3pm we’ll probably go to a ski shop in town to get kitted out. The place would inevitably smell quite badly of feet, I warned, and there would be a bit of a queue. It would take about an hour.
But at the Barriere Les Neiges it takes 5 minutes. The hotel has its very own boot room, with brand new fur-lined gear, sleek monochrome skis and rows of Fendi togs to browse in the tiny amount of time it takes them to measure you up.
The next day, when we come down from breakfast to hit the slopes, we’re not only offered a coffee as our boots are put on for us, but head out the door to find our labelled skis and poles already laid out in the snow. You could, if the moment called for it, stage a Bond-style getaway: breakfast room to snow in under 60 seconds.
The boot room operation is worth its weight in gold: it means you can easily beat the crowds to the first lift each morning, and it makes a long weekend ski break – when you have less time to play with – seem far more feasible.
The beautiful larch-clad rooms (with intelligent loos)
The interior of the hotel is done out in the traditional chalet style: all larch-clad walls, cream and faux fur upholstery, but with the slick additions you’d expect of a modern 5 star hotel.
There are, to our amusement, some extremely active Japanese loos in every room, which open in greeting when you walk up to them, as well as a ‘pillow menu’ providing a home-from-home level of squashiness.
The upper rooms feature balconies that overlook the town and slopes – giving you plenty of opportunity to judge the style of people carving down the piste at the end of the day, or the wardrobes of your swanky fellow Courcheval residents as they walk into town for a mooch around the shops.
Whether you’re after flambéed langoustines or a big pot of melted gruyere, the hotel will cater to both. On our first night we eat at chef Mauro Colagreco’s BFire, where the flame-cooked menu is inspired by Colagreco’s Argentinian upbringing (and also features the most gorgeously buttery mash I’ve ever eaten).
On night two we plump for the more traditional Alpine fare of a hot, melting raclette at Chalet Fouquet, the hotel’s tiny purpose built alpine chalet, surrounded by a metre-high drift of snow with a wood-burning stove in the corner. Hygge doesn’t even cover it.
If you’re a fair-weather skiier who doesn’t mind blowing a few hours out the middle of the day, it’s worth booking somewhere good for lunch.
Alpine mountain restaurants tend to repeat the same frites / spag bol carb-on-carb menu, but for something special try the Cave Des Creux.
Run by locals, ski instructor brothers Florian and Boris Glise, it’s a converted sheep shed with magnums of rose chilling in the snow outside and a delicious menu featuring everything from roasted shoulder of lamb to lobster.
If you’re not skiing that day the restaurant even has a special snow mobile shuttle service to whisk you up the hill.
The (frankly enormous) spa
Strict building regs in Courcheval mean the Barriere Group didn’t have much above-ground space to play with in their revamp of the hotel.
Instead they built downwards to create 1000 square metres of spa, featuring treatment rooms, two pools, a sauna, a steam room, a hamman and an outdoor jacuzzi. You could spend most of the day there if going skiing wasn’t so easy…
And of course, the skiing…
Courcheval is part of the Les Trois Vallees (three valleys), widely regarded as one of the best places to ski in the Alps, as you can cover the huge interlinked area on a single pass.
The people-watching is brilliant, too: the resort has long been a bit of a swank-fest and there’s more yellow Fendi onesies and Chanel ski gear per capita than virtually anywhere else in the mountains.
It’s also a great resort if you’re a beginner as – unlike Val D’Isere, for example – the main run back into town is a gentle green/blue combination, so you have more chance of getting home in one piece. Always a plus.
Double rooms at Hotel Barriere Les Neiges start from 1,200 Euros per night (approx. £1,065). To book visit the hotel’s website or call +33 970 81 85 01.