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With kid-friendly hotels being something of a rarity in this cluster of the French Alps' Trois Vallées, when you stumble upon one that caters to the whole family, it's worth taking notice.
I remember my first time here when the hotel opened back in 2016. I was taken aback then, as I was during my most recent stay, by the snow-covered fairy tale chalet exteriors and the magical mountain views from every room of French hospitality group Barrière’s Les Neiges Hotel. Back then, as is often the case with inaugurations, paint was still fresh, light switches were still being fixed to walls and there had been an unfortunate incident where the pool fell in through the ceiling - all business as usual when you're opening a new hotel.
So six years on, I was happy to be able to see the finished, lived-in spaces of the hotel, which despite it having been some years, looks sparkling new with all the trimmings you and your kids could wish for.
With just 42 rooms, including a 3,000 square foot duplex suite, five-star Les Neiges ("the snows") is an intimate affair. It has views of snowy villages nestled in mountain valleys or the snow-dusted pine trees lined up along ski slopes below, a fully kitted out ski-in-ski-out boot room, two gourmet restaurants - where menus were designed by three-star chefs Pierre Gagnaire and Mauro Colagreco - inside and outdoor bars with live music, fire pits and soft blankets for stargazing, and a roomy spa with a 66-foot long pool. And that's just for the adults.
Les Neiges also has an elaborate kids' club where you'll find the loveliest staff, as well as a separate break-out room for teens with video games and table football. So it’s no wonder this place is a destination of choice for A-listers and their families like Prince William and Kate Middleton or football stars like France player Blaise Matuidi, who happened to be there at the same time as us.
This was my first trip to the mountains with Marley, my baby daughter of 15 months, so while I had read good things about Les Neiges, the reality can be quite different. Most hotels that claim to be family-friendly are so ill-equipped for babies that a perfectly well planned holiday can become an utter nightmare.
When we checked in at Les Neiges, I was anxious about the extra arrangements we'd have to make for Marley, but when we arrived in our room and I saw the purple and white unicorn musical mobile hanging above a cot with matching duvet, the bathroom amenities for babies — there was even a nappy bin, which, most parents will tell you, should be a must — I knew it would be all right. The staff had laid out bright jungle-themed wooden letters that spelled out Marley's name on her bed, “to take home and hang on her door," and she was also given a little teddy, and, quite possibly the highlight, a pair of fluffy slippers to keep her little baby feet warm.
Marley was all set for her first Courchevel hotel experience. The only thing that got her to leave the room was talk of the kids’ club downstairs next to the boot room. With a movie theme - a nudge to Barrière's long-standing involvement in the movie industry, like the group's Fouquet's restaurant in Paris being the location of the annual Césars movie awards lunch - and staff that are so welcoming that I found myself wishing I could be a toddler again just so I too could spend the afternoon coloring in and molding playdough into indescribable shapes.
Kids also love the spa area with the huge pool looking out to the snowy surroundings. It's managed by Emmanuel who's studying child psychology, who is only too happy to impart his tips and anecdotes and give out floaters and colorful blow-up balls to the little ones. The spa — with fancy Biologique Recherche treatments — is a high point for adults too. There are massages that will banish even the severest of jet lags or ski legs leaving you feeling as fit as a fiddle and ready for another day on the slopes. There’s also a big steam room and sauna, which you can have mostly to yourself in the daytime.
Meals with kids are a fuss-free affair with chefs happy to rustle up baby purées despite their gourmet credentials. The hotel's culinary offerings, helmed by chef Alexandre Colonna who's got more than 20 years' experience working in Michelin star kitchens all over the world, are another reason for adults to be tempted away from the snow. Make sure to try out the Alpine offshoot of the Fouquet’s restaurant for its traditional French staples created for the hotel by Pierre Gagnaire, often credited with being the most cerebral of multi-Michelin star chefs. Don't miss the creamy Mimosa eggs to start, Savoyard specialty of Reblochon Tartiflette or, for something lighter, the fleshy buttery sole meunière.
Whether staying at Les Neiges or not, dinner at the dimly-lit BFire is a must for the Argentine dishes imagined by Mauro Colagreco, whose Provence restaurant Mirazur has topped every restaurant hot list under the sun. Try the barbecued morbier cheese and truffle tartifles and follow with the wood-fired oven-cooked lamb shoulder to share with meat so tender it falls right off the bone. The space is cozy and the staff stellar at making you feel so welcome that you'll want to be back.
Les Neiges is one-of-a-kind in Courchevel for the whole family thanks to the buzzy, laid-back atmosphere, and its bars and restaurants that brim with guests. It's a fun choice for a place to stay, and also, very important if you have little ones, it's a place where Marley's tantrums could thankfully go entirely unnoticed.