At 2,551 metres in the sky, and perched on top of Val d’Isere’s Solaise ski area, Le Refuge de Solaise is Europe’s highest hotel and offers an unparalleled luxury alpine experience that is in a class of its own. Accessible only by the Solaise cable car, there’s a real sense of privacy and seclusion once you’re “locked in” for the evening; especially when the headlights of the piste bashers are the only source of external light during the night (aside from the moon and stars). The best part of sleeping on the mountain is you can be the first one down it each morning. Ideal if you want that freshly groomed piste.
While formerly a cable station (and the destination of the original Solaise ski lifts), Le Refuge de Solaise has a cosy feeling inside; wood chip fires adorn walls of exposed brickwork and stone, and various vintage skiing paraphernalia decorate each corner. The main lobby has a great communal feel to it, and is populated with plenty of things to keep its 110 guests entertained – aside from a well-stocked bar, there are board games, sofas and a beautiful telescope that lets you spy upon the surrounding mountains. There’s plenty of glass too, which is ideal as you can soak up the dramatic landscape around you.
During our two-night stay, we managed to stay in two different room categories (partly influenced by just how busy the hotel was when we came to book). One night was spent in a Competition Room which, aside from the ten-bed dormitory, was the cheapest option available that night. It didn’t disappoint – alpine living often feels claustrophobic but, at 35sqm, this room had plenty of room for the three of us and ticked all of the boxes. The second night we stayed in an Olympic Room which was on the other end of the spectrum. At over £800 per night, it is certainly an investment, but not one you will regret. It was palatial; split across two levels (a double bed downstairs and three singles on the mezzanine), the view down to the valley below was absolutely breathtaking. I spent the majority of my time in the chair with my feet up, watching the busyness of Val D’Isere from almost a kilometre above. Needless to say, this is a suite that you sleep in with the curtains open. Even the roll-top bath has a view out to the mountains, and every corner of this room category is designed to take in the breathtaking scenery. It easily ranks as one of the top five rooms I have ever stayed in.
Elsewhere, the onsite Gigi restaurant has plenty of options to satisfy any palette and is dominated by some great Italian cuisine. Try the cuts of pork and the creamy mash – both were beautifully prepared. Breakfast is served each morning in the restaurant and is for guests only, as is dinner. There’s a real sense of being in your own home as any visitors can only join for lunch. This can be a very busy time of day but, as a guest, you (unofficially) get some priority over the best seats in the house. The window tables have, unsurprisingly, the best seats in the house.
If eating, drinking and skiing isn’t for you, then the onsite spa provides a very enticing alternative for guests at the hotel. The 25-metre swimming pool provides ample water to get some morning laps in and, if you want to relax, there are two Jacuzzis, two hammams, and an outdoor sauna to spend time in. The outdoor sauna was a personal favourite; no better feeling that jumping into fresh snow after sweating for a few mins. There are also a range of massage and beauty treatments should you want to really relax.
There are very few hotels in the world that offer an experience as unique as Le Refuge de Solaise and, if you’re looking for a stay in Val d’Isere that offers as much indoors as it does outdoors, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better option than here.