After an eight-month renovation was followed by the global pandemic, guests at famed Courchevel hotel Le Chabichou can now finally take full advantage of this French institution’s stunning transformation.
Once you pass through the town center of Courchevel 1850, there’s just one more bend to take before you see it. Its imposing profile makes it impossible to miss: standing at the foot of the slopes, and matching the surrounding peaks, Le Chabichou is the resort’s only edifice garbed in pristine white, lined with balconies boasting enchanting, open railings. In the winter season, the added snow creates a charming tone-on-tone effect.
Le Chabichou? What a funny name for a luxurious five-star getaway in the mountains. But while it is indeed the name of a traditional, natural-rind French goat cheese, and sounds rather like “shabby shoe” to English speakers, the name actually comes from a character in a 1930s French operetta that was given to the first chalet built on the site in 1950.
An unusual name, perhaps, but one that the property’s owner, Jean-Claude Lavorel, head of the Lyonnais hotel group of the same name, never once considered changing when he took over the establishment in 2018: “I’ve visited many hotels in Courchevel and none of them exude this warmth, none of them can match this history,” he says.
Its history is, in fact, the story of a celebrated couple, Michel and Maryse Rochedy, the emblematic owners who penned a legendary chapter in the annals of this Savoyard resort. They bought the chalet in 1963, when it had just nine rooms, to turn it into a hotel and restaurant. Over time, and with successive expansions, the property swelled first to 25 rooms, then to the 41 it has today. Madame managed the hotel side of the business and Monsieur the kitchens, where his work earned him a first Michelin star in 1979, then a second five years later.
Michel Rochedy passed away in November 2021, having sold Le Chabichou to the Lavorel Hotels group when it came time to retire. Within 12 months, the establishment had been revamped from top to bottom. “The idea was to preserve the soul of the hotel, to better showcase the 55 years of history it enjoyed when managed by the Rochedy family,” explains Émilie Rollet, the interior designer in charge of the metamorphosis for Lyon’s Patriarche agency. “The white wooden façade makes the building a landmark for many people. The soul of Le Chabichou is its family feel and family history, its authenticity. It was important that guests not sense that anything had really changed – there couldn’t be anything flashy or ostentatious. It was essential that they feel at home.”
The reception area, formerly at street level, has emerged substantially enlarged by virtue of being moved one level down, becoming a welcoming lounge of wood and stone, where guests wait on soft upholstered armchairs before a large fireplace. It is also a strategic location, as it creates a smooth flow between the building’s two sections, as well as to the bar and the exit to the slopes, with direct access to the vast Les 3 Vallées ski area (Courchevel/Méribel/Val-Thorens).
In the comfortable-yet-elegant interior, one can still, in many places, make out the original wooden frame. The colors and materials were selected to generate a feeling of peace: “The aesthetics were created per very precise specifications,” explains Émilie, “using an emblematic dark green, chalk white for the walls, wood reminiscent of the original structure and, lastly, a few touches of warm, glowing brass.”
The rooms, too, exude serenity. The largest, Number 714, is none other than the apartment in which the Rochedy family lived, with a kitchen, living area and, to top it all off, a splendid fireplace, all tucked beneath the ornate framework of the roof. “For a touch of originality and additional visual comfort we’ve introduced a few decorative elements, like throws, wooden objects – a writing desk or coffee table, a diminutive squirrel, a hanging or hand-held mirror – pieces that have a warm, cozy side,” she says.
The same goes for the broad, ribbed boards covering some of the walls, niches and built-in desks, and for the distinguished tartan covering a number of headboards. It makes for an atmosphere that’s distinctively snug. “The idea for this pattern came to me when Mr. Lavorel entered the office one day wearing a gorgeous wool jacket in green and blue check,” recalls Émilie. “I immediately realized that cloth like that could be a new, personal touch that would act as a discreet signature.” The bathroom features large, Terrazzo-style sandstone tiles in a soft shade of greige.
The décor in the gourmet restaurant is equally low-key: elegant, dove-gray armchairs, themselves brightened by a few pumpkin-orange siblings, encircle round tables with legs shaped like the branches of a tree. The wine cellar becomes a landscape, “planted” with a border of white porcelain flowers. On the large outdoor terrace, skiers can eat lunch the moment they’ve taken off their skis.
Le Chabichou is also home to a spa, an experience all of its own. Guests can alternate between the dry heat of a banya and the steamy heat of a hammam, a polar bath and bucket-shower, salt cave and ice fountain. There’s even an “experiential shower” – a watery wonderland ranging from winter chill to summer storm and even a tropical downpour: beneath the pristine pistes of Courchevel lies the beach!