Gina Baksa enjoys superb hospitality at the discreet luxury hotel La Sivolière, Courchevel 1850. A ski-in, ski-out haven for the discerning guest who enjoys attentive service and refined accommodation
Welcome Mr Bond. We’ve been expecting you…
Viewed from its snow-cleared drive, La Sivolière, Courchevel 1850 looks like an authentic Savoyard stone and wooden luxury chalet… yet once inside her sliding glass entrance – especially if you arrive after dark – you might feel like an extra in a Cubby Broccoli production. Whippet-thin, handsome young men clad in dark navy polo necks and black trousers greeted our group under soft, subdued lighting. Reception is a complementary mix of light wood and stone. Lalique lamps, deep Art Nouveau-inspired sofas with strategically placed throws, set against the orange crackle of a warming fire, it felt cool yet sexy. My first impressions of La Sivolière, Courchevel 1850 were of entering a Blofeld-like lair, and I half-expected the Bond villain’s white cat to make a sudden theatrical appearance.
Recognising my fatigue after a superbly indulgent dinner the night before (thank you Les Terrasses de Lyon) my imagination was in overdrive and I conceded that once tucked up in a snug-soft bed, I’d feel a whole lot better. Not shaken but definitely stirred, I was led, charmingly, to the second floor and the warm embrace of Room 42. A beautiful suite at the rear of the hotel with dual aspect over snow-laden pines, and, as I discovered, the most comfortable kingsize in the world. Warm, capacious and pin-drop quiet, I slept deeply and long, cocooned against the snowdrifts outside.
Ski in. Ski out. Two essential factors for a perfect ski holiday. La Sivolière, Courchevel 1850 not only has direct access to the slopes from its ski room, the hotel is tucked away in a quiet part of the resort only a five-minute walk to luxury brand retail heaven – and superb gourmet restaurants. Offering a superb choice of accommodation the hotel has 24 rooms, 11 suites and two massive apartments – perfect for groups or families. For those less inclined to walk, the hotel’s shuttle will take you anywhere downtown.
In daylight, the interior design, by Tristan Auer (l’Hôtel Jules, Paris) is apparent: sophisticated yet comfortable, a successful blend of modern and traditional Savoyard aesthetics. A humorous addition is the giant ‘Sifel Chair’ in front of the hotel. Designed by sculptor Caroline Corbeau, this four-metre red edifice is a nod to the owner’s appreciation of modern art and their vision of creating a home-from-home, with every comfort. And they’ve achieved their aim, with this sophisticated blend of a five-star hotel and authentic mountain chalet.
Breakfast can be taken in your room or suite, alternatively, head for the lower floor restaurant and bar area. Light pine walls and natural wood tables, enhanced with colour accents of red, black and orange provide a cosy yet spacious area for breakfast and dinner. Enjoy the views of the powder-white slopes outside, while enjoying a plentiful buffet breakfast. Lunch is available directly on the slopes from the hotel’s Dou de Midi lunch-bar, offering a nourishing soup, gourmet tartine and dessert. The interior bar – just off the main restaurant area – is small and intimate. Take a seat at the lacquered counter top or sink into the Gaetano Pesce-designed sofa by the roaring fire, with the promise of crepes, waffles, cakes and hot chocolate to come. Or quench your thirst with the hotel’s Royal cocktail, loaded with Champagne, Chambord liqueur and fresh raspberries.
The interior bar – just off the main restaurant area – is small and intimate. Take a seat at the lacquered counter top or sink into the Gaetano Pesce-designed sofa by the roaring fire, with the promise of crepes, waffles, cakes and hot chocolate to come. Or quench your thirst with the hotel’s Royal cocktail, loaded with Champagne, Chambord liqueur and fresh raspberries.
The first morning, weather was overcast with heavy snowfall. But spirits weren’t dampened as Mike – who very efficiently runs the ski room – helped our group with helmets, poles, skis and boots. If you haven’t bought your own kit, his calm efficiency will ensure you get exactly the right fit. Goggles and hats are also available to buy, and ski passes arranged.
Situated in the stunning Three Valleys area of the Alps – the largest interconnected ski area in the world – Courchevel is the perfect destination for beginners and experts, with 600km of pistes to explore. Due to its sheer size, wait time on the 58 ski lifts is minimal and since 85% of the slopes are above 1800m, snowfall is almost guaranteed between late December and early April. In addition to skiing, visitors can skate, paraglide, ride snowmobiles, enjoy hot air balloon rides, go dog sledging and relax at the vast new Aquamotion health and wellness waterpark in Courchevel 1650.
Jérome, our guide for the day, teased me as I tried on my helmet: “That’s the same make that Michael Schumacher was wearing…” It took me a few seconds to realise his statement was a positive intention of survival – not a prescient coma. “Ah, merci!” I replied, with a half-smile, relieved to hear my noggin was well protected.
A patient and fun instructor, Jérome was adept at choosing suitable blue and green runs for our mixed ability group. As we made our way down Pralong’s wide slopes on the edge of the Altiport – perfect for returning skiers like myself – we descended into Cospillot – a gentle slope lined with pine trees and super-luxe hotels and chalets.
“That chalet even has it’s own ice rink,” Jérome tells us when we stop for breath. Extreme displays of wealth in Courchevel is de rigeur – almost expected. Especially in the rarefied atmosphere of 1850, where a bottle of mineral water at the hotel is €20. Visibility was increasingly bad, but the sheer joy of being back in the mountains outweighed the lack of views and increasing snowfall. The crisp air and sheer thrill of gliding downhill in this magical Narnian landscape was intoxicating. My ski legs were back after a five-year hiatus. There was no stopping me.
But we did stop – for a superb lunch – at the hotel restaurant Pomme de Pin. Well situated at the bottom of the competition piste, in Courchevel 1850’s Loze area, the hotel enjoys superlative views of the Alps from its fifth-floor outdoor terrace. An hour turned into two as we feasted on salmon rilletes, a nourishing beef stew and divine chocolate blanc desserts. Palate-pleasuring wine arrived in the form of a crisp bold white Les Lunelus and Rhône-favourite, the fruity Domaine du vieux Micocoulier.
After a fabulous day on the slopes, I made for La Sivolière’s spa and pool area, relaxing in the steam and sauna rooms. Guests also have the services of an on-site osteopath whose team provide a range of massages and osteo treatments.
Gourmet cuisine is a highlight of any ski vacation in Courchevel, a pleasure Sivoliere’s Head Chef Bilal Amrani joyfully provides. “I’m inspired by French gastronomy using fresh produce prepared in such a way that it always keeps its flavour,” he tells us.
Delighting guests with his inventive cuisine at La Sivolière since 2008, he joined us several times over a succulent fondue – graced with Mont d’Or and Comté cheeses and mouthwatering charcuterie. Creative, authentic and sophisticated, the cuisine at the hotel is gourmet with a capital G.
A great pairing was the wine – Mas Amiel Maury Vintage 1998 from the Roussillon , delicately flavoured with cocoa, figs and spices.
Amrani is keen to support local provenance where possible and sources wines and other ingredients from the Med to the Savoy. Choose from the à la carte or tasting menu, while alternate specials are available each evening: Try the soft-boiled hen’s egg, cream of morels and bear’s garlic emulsion. Desserts are a visual and gustatory celebration: a classic poire Belle-Helene – a decadent concoction of vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate – or after a cold day on the slopes, perhaps a Grand-Marnier-warming soufflé to take you into a nightcap of Génépi herbal liqueur or a vintage Port.
General Manager, Mme Florence Carcassone has encouraged Amrani’s talents, and he has since trained under Chef Joel Robuchon and Chef Alain Ducasse.
A beautiful, sophisticated retreat, La Sivoliere feels more like a private chalet than a hotel, yet retains its luxury credentials. Children are well catered for too, with their own Mini Sivo Kids Club: a dedicated dining area and playroom with interactive video, and snacks in the hotel’s very own igloo. And if you are travelling with a pet, they will be welcomed with Sivolière-branded food and water bowls, and even a leash. A professional dog handler will also take your four-legged friend for a daily walk.
La Sivolière, Courchevel 1850 is highly recommended as a discreet luxury utpost from the glitz of central Courchevel 1850. Its superior and attentive service, clearly inspired by the leadership of Mme Carcassone and Julien Strozyk, provide a warm welcome and superbly appointed accommodation that even Mr Bond would relish.
La Sivolière, Courchevel 1850 – Where and How
Address: Hôtel la Sivolière, Rue des Chenus, 73120, Courchevel 1850, France
24 rooms, 11 suites and 2 apartments.
T: +33 (0) 4 79 08 08 33
F: +33 (0) 4 79 08 15 73
E: [email protected]
FB: la sivoliere
Getting to Courchevel
Car: 2.5 hours from Lyon or Geneva. 7 hours from Paris via the A6.
Train: 4 hours (via TGV) from Paris Gare de Lyon to Moutiers-Salins Brides Les Bains, followed by transfers to Hôtel La Sivolière by taxi or limousine. The ride is 30 minutes.
Plane: Courchevel is 2 hours from the airports of Lyon and Geneva. Transfers to Hôtel La Sivolière can be arranged by cab, limousine or helicopter. The Altiport at Courchevel is minutes from Hôtel La Sivolière. British Airways operates a 1.5-hour flight from London’s City Airport to Chambéry throughout the ski season.
About Gina Baksa