Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Les Chalets de Philippe

France

Les Chalets de Philippe offers unique and quirky luxury in the heart of the French Alps

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Les Chalets de Philippe
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Les Chalets de Philippe

Location

At the head of the Chamonix valley with views of the town beneath Mont Blanc

Travel Information

1.5hr drive from Geneva Airport. 2hrs from Turin Airport.

Top Tips

Each chalet is unique, so choose one to match your mood from a romantic escape amongst the snow-clad pines or a snug family winter, spring or summer retreat

5-Star X-Factors

Fairy tale alpine luxury with plenty of quirks, authentic objects d'art, a heartfelt welcome and fine gastronomy.

Chalets de Charme in Chamonix

Sipping a glass of champagne with Philippe Courtines on our late-November sun-soaked terrace, facing the snow-capped tips of Alpine glory, it was hard to decipher what came first; his love of collectable alpine antiquities, or the fairytale retreat he has taken 20 years to create.

The privileged setting - snuggled on a mountain slope just outside Chamonix in the endearingly pastoral enclave of La Lavencher - looks down onto the sprawling valley and across to some of the world’s most revered mountains; Mont Blanc, Aiguille du Dru, the Bossons Glacier, Aiguille Rouge and the Aiguille du Midi.

When the sun shines on this ‘hotel hamlet’ it does so from sunrise to sunset - Philippe did indeed find a magical spot to unravel his dream. There was a good covering of snow from the first real fall of the early winter, which still clung to the tips of the sweeping pines and cloaked the chalets’ roofs in true picture-postcard style. I visited with Kelly, a contributing editor for Luxury Explorer, who owns a wonderful chalet in Chamonix and is thus an expert source of local knowledge.

Philippe was, and is, a well-known musical and theatrical impresario to those in the ‘know’, and his guests today are often superstars as well as billionaires. However, he is ‘so over’ being impressed by anyone. Instead, his raison d’être is to play out and complete his childhood fantasy; a vision and passion way beyond anything else, by offering a cossetting alpine homestead, reminiscent of an 18th century Savoyard hamlet. Think the ultimate setting for a Baz Luhrman take on Hansel and Gretel; or a scene from Lord of the Rings, where the heroes arrive at a utopian setting in a secret clearing to rest after many gruelling battles.

In the late 80’s he left his flambouyant life in Paris - where he managed and produced many famous bands, including the Ramones; wrote musical scores; ran the Cannes Film Festival for several years - in order to create this magical hamlet in a  shepherd-inhabited, rural enclave. Having a magpie acquisitiveness to amass venerable and vintage objects, several garages or ‘mazots’ were soon piled to the hilt with archaic, ancient, obsolete and highly covetable antiques and objet d’art. These ranged from medieval peasant homeware to palatial sinks and furniture, catholic icons, stone cheese presses, weighty embroidered cowbells, masterpiece paintings, iconic statues and way more. So where was he to house his collection?

THE NINE CHALETS DE PHILIPPE

Philippe opened the doors to his dreamland in 1996 and has never looked back; in fact, he rarely ventures out of the valley these days, having already satiated his highlife chapters. So, what began as a desire for a weekend retreat turned into a lifelong fairy tale romance. He started by buying a shepherd’s hut and subsequently moving it, fully intact, to his carefully chosen plot. This chalet is Les Trolles and is, perhaps, the most coveted; though each one offers a unique charm and presence, and none would disappoint. Les Trolles is where we stayed. Our dining table beside a crackling fire was laid out for lunch with Philippe’s signature crystal, candles, silver and plant pot (the quirk here is combining authentic rustic with chic), but we chose to dine on the alluring terrace. We sat outside in t-shirts in late November, while the snow reflected the sun’s glare from the sloped eaves of the surrounding chalets.

There are nine chalets so far, each one having been transported from its original location and carefully reconstructed here. There are plans for a pièce de résistance, ‘Chalet de Luc’, with a push button glass roof that retracts to expose the galaxy overhead, built around a towering centre stage, uplit, conifer. Two more chalets, which are to be nestled into the pine forest, one a feathered love nest, will bring the total to ten. 

Each chalet has its own piquant personality stamped by Philippe’s indomitable character. The chalets vary in size, but comfort is always paramount, as is authenticity. Each can be divided into suites or chambres upon request. Of particular note for me, other than Les Trolles, was Chalet Le Lavaret. It’s perhaps the most contemporary, with the upstairs boudoir being exotically encased by glass to create all consuming views, while it also feels a little more remote, being positioned on the hamlet’s floor facing forest and mountains. Perfect for a treacle, honey or mini-moon.

My boudoir in Les Trolles (well, we had three to choose from) was up on the terrace level, rather than the master bedroom below, which has an en-suite Moorish bathtub large enough for all the family with a rich glow of golden zellige tiles, in keeping with the hammam. My room was simply too inviting, too cosy, like a bed for Sleeping Beauty (no reference to myself), but I did feel like a medieval princess when I turned out the lights.

The bed is encased in an ancient raised, hand carved shepherd’s ‘box’ with lead window panes to the front and side looking down onto the valley, framed by short pleated rouge curtains and a small flat screen TV suspended inconspicuously overhead. The hand-embroidered bed linen is sumptuous, while the pillows are soft and downy. It has to be one of the cosiest sleeps ever with every little detail telling a tale.

It may be authentic and rustic here, but luxury and mod-cons are discreetly filtered into the composition without compromising charm. There is a very cool cinema downstairs with great big armchairs and Dolby surround sound, perfect for watching your favourite classics, and a great way to end a memorable evening; though you may want to finish off your night with a detox in the hammam, followed by stargazing from one of your two outdoor Jacuzzis.

GASTRONOMY

Being more of a sybarite than a skier, climber or para-glider, food is extremely important to me and we had heard great things of Philippe’s kitchen. The communal dining area is separated by glass from the kitchen, in order to view culinary theatre in real-time. We were not disappointed and enjoyed succulent langoustine with a frothy lobster foam, sweet and perfectly pitched scallops in a teriyaki sauce, turbot faultlessly prepared on a sweet carrot and pumpkin puree with crispy ribbons of leek, local mountain cheese, and a dessert that looked too good to eat. We ended the evening dancing with Philippe beside the fire to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”…

We accompanied each course with wines chosen by our host, including: Véssigaud Pouilly-Fuissé ‘Veilles Vignes’, a Genot-Boulanger Puligny-Montrachet and a Thierry Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin. Of serious note is that this excellent meal was executed before the impending arrival of the new master chef, who arrives at the beginning of December. He is Jean-Pierre Tan Kim Foa, with an eye-glistening and star-studded resumé. These include top positions with Alain Ducasse, Romaine Corbières and Oliver Guillon.

CHALETS FOR ALL SEASONS

Chamonix is as busy in the summer as in the ski season, as there is simply a plethora of things to do, from the extreme to the preening. In the summer you can even ice-climb on the Mer de Glace if you are so inclined, while the shops in Chamonix are fabulous; there’s even a Chanel and a Moncler (where you may spot Kylie Minogue, she's also a big fan of Philippe's) if you’re missing your designer labels.  There are great bistros, bars and cafes – it offers an awesome hubbub all year-round.

What’s more, Les Chalets de Philippe is open all year, but think ahead as high season this winter may be long gone… Philippe’s creation really is a one-off, a place to romance, revive, imbibe and, of course, somewhere to stay if you love the magnificent mountains and all they have to offer. It is also an amazing stay for all the family.

We had breakfast in our sitting room facing that pristine view: freshly baked croissants, home-spun jams and breads, perfectly diced fruit salad and thick yogurt with muesli and honey, accompanied by the entrancing scent of burning pine.  The rest of the world felt, not just far away, but like another planet. 

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer