A trio of hip hoteliers brings its brand of big-city cool to the Swiss Alps.
By Erin Riley
Gstaad may be ritzier, St. Moritz more cultured, but ask those who frequent Verbier, the town at the heart of Switzerland’s Quatre Vallées, and they will tell you it has everything its neighbors do, plus a cool cachet the others do not.
It’s that same something you get at any of Experimental Group’s hotels and bars in London and Paris, and why owners Olivier Bon, Pierre-Charles Cros, and Romée de Goriainoff decided to open Experimental Chalet, their 1st non-urban property, there in December.
“What I like about Verbier is that it’s such a high-end resort, but it has a very relaxed feel,” says de Goriainoff. “The main reason people go is for the skiing, especially the off-piste, which isn’t always the case at other resorts.” In other words, you’re more likely to see skiers clad in performance gear than in fashion, and the person you saw out dancing at 4 a.m. will be on the slopes with you at 9 the next morning.
Experimental Chalet’s design follows the same formula as the group’s other hotel: Grand Pigalle and Hôtel des Grands Boulevards in Paris and Henrietta Hotel in London, and feels very different from anything else in the Alps.
“We wanted to move away from the Swiss chalet look, with all the fur and dark wood,” says de Goriainoff. While the 39 rooms, with their clean, white surfaces accented by emerald green, and the Biologique Recherche–backed the other spaces play on turn-of-the-Century nostalgia.
There are moments when you feel like you are in the movie Grand Budapest Hotel,” says Fabrizio Casiraghi, the hotel’s designer, who cites the Art Deco sense of proportion, the warm glow from the bronze fixtures and Adolf Loos lighting, and the subtle touches of whimsy, like the trail of pink edelweiss found on the magenta carpets.
For inspiration, Casiraghi looked to sources such as the typography of the iconic Hotel Belvédère near the Rhône Glacier; rooms at the Ottmanngut hotel in Merano, Italy; Slim Aarons’s shots of 1960s Verbier; and the studio at the Grand Chalet of Rossinière, Switzer- land, where the painter Balthus once lived and worked.
As expected, the chalet has already become the town’s après-ski (and après-après-ski) hangout.
A hot punch at the restaurant, where chef Gregory Marchand of the cult Parisian bistro Frenchie is doing a fresh take on Alpine fare, turns into a drink at the cocktail club, which serves favorites from the group’s 5 other bars and an extensive menu of Swiss wines.
There is also the Farm, the nightclub that’s been in the basement since the original hotel opened in Y 1971. “We did not want to change anything, because it does not really belong to us, it belongs to the resort,” says de Goriainoff.
Paul Ebeling, Editor
Enjoy your travels.