Megève, The French Alps

 

 

 

Projet Vertigo
Projet Vertigo is perched atop Mont d’Arbois and is reached via ski lifts.

 

Nestled in the French Alps beneath Mont Blanc, we say Megève is one of the world’s great winter destinations. Why? Since the 1920s, when the Rothschild family decided to fashion it as a ski resort to rival Switzerland’s St. Moritz, Megève has drawn the rich and famous, who arrive by private jet to frolic in the snow in designer threads. Note: This winter playground is a place of sophistication; you won’t find raucous après-ski carousing, but you will find Michelin-starred dining, a lively cultural scene and outdoor pop-up bars where the well-heeled mingle under heat lamps, sipping hot mulled wine and people-watching.

From the village, powder hounds can explore 275 miles of skiable trails, accessed by 107 chairlifts and gondolas. Uncrowded pistes and fresh powder make for some epic skiing. Top View: The peak that inspired such romantic poets as Percy Bysshe Shelley. Note: Chamonix—with higher-altitude slopes—is just a short drive away. Off-the-mountain adventures include snow-shoeing, snow polo matches, horse-drawn sleigh rides and shopping at the high-end boutiques lining the village’s cobblestoned streets.

Accommodations are, as one would expect, downright swank. Step into Les Fermes de Marie, where the scene is straight out of a design magazine: fur throws draped across leather couches in front of a roaring fire, a flute of Champagne within arm’s reach, tall windows framing the snow-covered landscape outside. This five-star hideaway is pure alpine chic.

The brainchild of Jocelyne and Jean-Louis Sibuet, Les Fermes de Marie is designed as a veritable village in the heart of Megève. The Sibuets—a prominent Megeve family, which now helms a hospitality group—opened the hotel in 1989 as an ambitious project to preserve centuries-old Savoyard farms. From the region’s high mountain pastures, traditional chalets were dismantled, and then pieces of timber numbered and reassembled in a five-acre park. The hotel’s main restaurant is, in fact, an old barn with soaring timbered walls and a fireplace fit for a king’s castle. The nine chalets are all interlinked underground, so a spa-bound guest doesn’t have to brave the cold en route for a massage or Himalayan rose facial.

A treatment at the Pure Altitude spa is not to be missed. Launched by the Sibuet Group, the cosmetic line draws on mountain plants like edelweiss, “the white star of the snows,” for its natural antioxidants and rejuvenating effects. Guests can also hit the outdoor Swedish sauna, soak in the Jacuzzi or pool, or get toned in the workout room with the help of a virtual trainer. Top-of-the-line fitness equipment boasts iPod hookups and Internet connectivity. Luxury travel advisors can contact Spa Manager Dorothée Jossot with questions.

Getting There

The word “Megève” means “in the middle” in the local Savoyard dialect, a reference to the French town’s location between Switzerland and Italy. In fact, the closest airport is in Geneva, an hour and fifteen minutes by car. Another option is to book your clients on flights into Lyon, France’s gastronomic capital, about two hours and 15 minutes to the east. If your clients want to fly through Paris to tack on a few extra days in the City of Light, TGV trains make the trip in less than five hours. The closest train station is Sallanches-Combloux-Megève, and tickets can be booked at www.raileurope.com.

The 60 guest rooms and 10 suites are decked out with gorgeous antiques handpicked by Jocelyne Sibuet. Two separate chalets, the Chalet des Fermes and the Chalet Chatel, are the ultimate in privacy and exclusivity. Accommodating up to 10 guests each, the chalets have private spas, fully equipped kitchens and a governess to provide breakfast and cleaning services. For VIP bookings, luxury travel advisors should contact Director of Sales Karine Moiroud (kmoiroud@groupe-sibuet.com; 011-33-450-906-363). Note: Les Fermes de Marie is a family-friendly hotel with a brand-new dedicated chalet where kids are entertained with arts and crafts, Nintendo Wii and magic shows.

Clefs d’Or concierge Ben—everyone calls him by his first name, he says—can arrange heli-skiing expeditions to Italy and handle exacting Russian oligarchs all in a day’s work. He can arm guests with ski equipment, book a table at any Megève hot spot and track down the perfect Prada snowsuit. Foodies may be tempted to sign up for the hotel’s cooking class in the new L’Atelier. With only six participants, the classes offer hands-on instruction in an intimate space; the kitchen workshop is designed in wood and glass, with lots of natural light and garden views. On the menu? Pure Altitude recipes focusing on healthy, inventive cuisine with ingredients from the on-site herb garden. Tip: For gourmands, reserve the exclusive Chef’s Table, where diners are privy to 15th-century recipes first prepared for the Savoy Duke. For stick-to-your-ribs Savoyard cuisine like raclette and fondue, the Alpine Restaurant awaits.

The town’s other iconic property is the Rothschild-owned Domaine du Mont d’Arbois, which has been luring fur-clad movie stars and royalty to Megève since 1921. Today, the Rothschild empire includes multiple restaurants and hotels under the “Domaine” umbrella. A beloved fixture above Megève, the Chalet du Mont d’Arbois comes with a taste of traditional luxury and soul-stirring valley views. Generations of devoted clientele have wintered here with their families, some even storing their wardrobes for their return the following year. Current owners Benjamin de Rothschild and his wife Ariane have inherited a deep respect for tradition; Hotel Director Claire Bardoux nurtures the chalet’s family-friendly feel.

 

Du Mont D’arbois
Domaine Du Mont D’arbois stretches back three generations of the Rothschild family.

From the wood-beamed ceilings to the Art Deco paintings on the elevator doors, the hotel has the ambiance of a traditional alpine lodge. Hunting trophies adorn the public areas, while flickering chandeliers made of deer antlers create a warm glow. The main chalet comprises 23 rooms and one apartment, all with private terraces and L’Occitane bath amenities, while the Chalet Alice, nestled in a grove of trees adjacent to the hotel, has six rooms and two suites. Next door, Chalet Noémie—named after the baroness who founded the ski resort of Megève—has five suites. The best of these is the Noémie Suite, a plush and refined space with a private bar, flat-screen TV, and Jacuzzi tub. (Note: Stairs lead down to the bath areas.) In the main chalet, we fell for the large Apartment Suite in rooms No. 30-31. When making bookings for your VIP clients, contact Aurélie Masson (montarbois@relaischateaux.fr; 011-33-450-212-503).

 

 

 

Rochebrune Suite
Les Fermes De Marie’s Rochebrune Suite is situated in a stone tower.

Come après-ski hour, your clients can sink into luxury at the hotel where a snack spread awaits. There’s also a Swedish sauna and a sublime indoor/outdoor pool that is heated to 86 degrees. Fatigued skiers will appreciate the spa’s high-performance treatments using the Anne Sémonin aromatherapy line and L’Oréal’s Kéraskin products. In the summer months, the Domaine’s 18-hole mountainside Golf Course is just a few minutes away by golf cart. After working up an appetite with all these outdoor pursuits, guests can indulge in Chef Olivier Bardoux’s cuisine, showcasing local products like the only “label fermier” Meaux brie cheese in France, made at the Rothschild-owned Trente Arpents farm in the Seine et Marne department. 

 

 

 

 

Fermes de Marie
Le Restaurant Traditionnel at Les Fermes de Marie boasts pure altitude cooking.

While on the slopes, your clients can hit up one of the Rothschild restaurants like the popular L’idéal 1850. Another Option: Vertigo, helmed by Top Chef 2010 finalist Pierre Augé. Perched on top of Mont d’Arbois in the shadow of Mont Blanc, the bar/restaurant is accessed via multiple ski lifts. On the panoramic terrace, skiers can warm up with a hot toddy while wrapped in a chenille blanket and taking in the sun and mountain views. While Luxury Travel Advisor was in town for the 2011 winter season, the gastronomic restaurant was hosting a weeklong culinary event where 10 of France’s best Michelin-starred chefs prepared lunch for lucky guests.

But more than a restaurant, Vertigo is a cool, new five-star hotel project. The mastermind is hotelier Jerome Foucaud, who shook up the Parisian hotel scene with Murano Urban Resort and Kube Hotel. (He’s also launched much talked-about properties in Marrakech and Saint-Tropez.) Slated for 2012 on the site of the former hotel L’igloo, the 32-room Vertigo promises the height of luxury with cutting-edge designer furniture, artisanal cocktails by famous mixologist Sandrine Houdré-Grégoire and a hip vibe.

 

Swimming Pool
The Spa At Domaine Du Mont D’arbois features an indoor and outdoor swimming pool heated to 86 degrees.

For the best food in town, check out Flocons de Sel, whose chef, Emmanuel Renaut, was awarded his second Michelin star in 2006. Renaut has an impressive resume. He started his career at Les Ambassadeurs, the revered restaurant at Le Crillon in Paris, training with Eric Fréchon and Yves Camdeborde under Christian Constant. He has also overseen the restaurant at Claridge’s in London. Today, he serves up perfection on a plate in his elegant Megève eatery. Renaut is passionate about food and sources imperial ingredients from the region’s top producers: lake fishermen, Beaufort cheese-makers, local beekeepers, Valais wine-growers. To learn Renaut’s culinary secrets, take a cooking class at Flocons de Sel and go home armed with two or three standout recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

Mont D’arbois
The Salon Chalet At Domaine Du Mont D’arbois.

Those in-the-know book one of the six guest rooms at Flocons de Sel, a member of Relais & Chateaux. Designed in wood and stone in a contemporary style, each luminous room has a wood-burning stove, and a balcony or terrace with mountain views. Flocons de Sel also boasts a spa with innovative treatments that reflect the chef’s culinary style. In addition, Emmanuel and Kristine Renaut rent out a spacious apartment smack dab in the heart of Megève. Note: The hotel has an annual closure from May 1-June 2 in 2011.