Ski review: Rock Noir hotel, Serre Chevalier
- Credit: Archant
Emma Bartholomew checks out the first four-star boutique eco-hotel to open in Serre Che, which was the trail blazer for an upmarket trend.
The Rock Noir is really right up my street I decided, as we tucked into a salad with goats cheese encased in strands of ‘angel hair’ served in a chunky bowl carved out of a tree, with a view of the fire pit blazing away in the courtyard outside.
The ultrahip boutique auberge combines my eco-conscience and penchant for luxury hotels just nicely.
It’s warmed by geothermal underground heat making it totally self-sufficient energy-wise, and also powers the sleek basement sauna where you can ease your ski-weary muscles.
With black ceilings and walls giving the lounge area a cavernous feel, the design is kitsch with curved horns acting as chair backs and lashings of cow skin rugs.
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It’s also decked out in art made by its Camargue-based owner Didier Rivière, with plenty of cow horns adorning the walls, and kitsch memorabilia from ski seasons past hung on a log wall.
Bedrooms are just as plush and have an ultra-modern but natural feel with stripped back wood, log tables and more animal skins.
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Rivière took the risk of setting up the first four-star hotel in Serre Chevalier, believing in the station’s potential be upscale and started a trend.
Until now it was never a fashionable resort, having been dominated by modestly priced Logis de France accommodation, and favoured by the Marseillaises who make the two-hour trip at weekends.
I was surprised to find out on arrival Serre Che isn’t a resort as such, but the name given to the ski domain linking up a string of villages stretching as far as Briançon to the left of the valley over towards Le Monêtier-les-Bains at the other extremity.
Rock Noir lies in Villeneuve, in La Salle des Alpes village, and is virtually ski-in ski-out, with just a minute’s walk to the Aravet bubble cable car.
I revelled in the best skiing I’d ever done in my life here - thanks for the most part to my new ski boots which I’d had custom moulded to my feet at Surefoot in Fulham before I left.
I’ve skied a fair bit, having spent three seasons running a chalet but custom-fitted boots never existed in those days.
Now you can get sized up by specialists who use precise state-of-the-art technology to measure up your foot with a computer which produces a design to mould a sole using an ‘engraving’ machine.
This then gets put inside a boot and foam is injected into the liner giving full customisation to your skeletal shape, and the ski boot equivalent of Saville Row quality.
Boots make or break the ski experience I now realise, as no matter how good your technique, if your feet are jiggling around in the boot – as mine always seem to be when hired out in resort - then skiing is always going to be a frustrating experience.
It took time to adjust to the tight fit of the boots once I hit the slopes, but very soon it was incredible how much extra control I had.
I realised how much I’d been using excess energy from all the wrong places to try and control my skis, when in fact with a snug pair of boots all it takes is slight pressure from the feet.
Serre Che is a massive ski area, with 250km of slopes and is amazing for intermediate to advanced skiers with a fantastic selection of challenging red and black runs.
In March it snowed during our four days here and we converged on the Chantemerle area protected by the pines and loving the fresh powder.
When we worked up an appetite from skiing, we began a daily Serre Che habit, skiing down the black Casse du Boeuf piste and eating tartiflettes and goats cheese and walnut galettes in Le Break at the bottom, at really reasonable prices compared to up the mountain.
We would then summon up enough strength for a couple more runs before afternoon tea at the hotel beckoned - a complimentary spread of fine leaf teas in Japanese tea pots, freshly baked cake, cappuccinos and pain au chocolates, to be devoured in the dark design hotel.
I’m a big fan of hotel breakfasts and here is as good as it gets with home made jams, pancakes and maple syrup, freshly squeezed orange juice, to enjoy in the intimate dining area decked out with pristine shiny white tables and chairs.
Compared to a stay in an equivalent hotel in a more ‘fashionable’ resort like Courchevel, prices at the Rock Noir are very reasonable - and with the vast ski terrain on its doorstep, it’s well worth splashing out for affordable luxury.
Prices start from around £147 for a double room with half borad, see www.rocknoir.fr.
For information about Serre Chevalier see www.serre-chevalier.com.