Made of latex, memory foam, something artificial… At a time when science is infiltrating mattresses, the Refuge de la Traye honors the old-school straw bed. Around it, four wooden walls, massive frames, an aged oak floor and felt curtains. It is not a room created for those who limit their luxuries, but rather a space dedicated to relaxation, which you can reach after slipping into a bath of donkey milk with moisturizing properties. You curl up in a woolen blanket, roll up in the dry material and feel intoxicated by the smell of fresh hay. This rustic room is like the rest of the hotel: elegant in its simplicity, surprising in its authentic approach to the mountains.
Recently renovated under the leadership of Jean-Victor Pastor, son of the famous Monegasque businessman, and his wife — the owners of the premises — the establishment has retained the soul of this refuge, opened in 1982 for mountaineers and hikers who wanted to have a meal or spend a few nights there. Located at an altitude of 1,655 meters, not far from Méribel, it consists of three chalets linked by an interior corridor, two independent cottages and a small chapel, all now devoted to luxury, calm and pleasure.
Only accessible on foot, by snowmobile, or on horseback, the Refuge de la Traye is protected from the ravages of noise and time. Here, there are no electric poles or residential towers, only a pack of wolves lives in the neighborhood. The most experienced skiers can set off directly from the refuge, accompanied by an instructor, off-piste. The others will be dropped off at the foot of the lifts, or can try their hand at cross-country skiing, tours on skis, biathlons or snowshoeing near the hotel.
After dark, head to the spa. Then, after a few welcome drinks based on local specialities, you return to the main area. The establishment has seven rooms and suites, plus a private chalet. In the warmth of wood, the fabrics and volumes offer comfort without arrogance. The discerning eye will note the excellent workmanship of the materials (straw coverings enhanced with dried daisies, wooden logs, marble). Outside, Nordic baths invite you to enjoy in the steaming water under the starry sky, unless you prefer to bundle up in softness of the sheets of a bed (a real one!).
Here are six mountainside hotels, starting with the Refuge de la Traye, to provide you with an enchanting alpine stay like no other.
1. Refuge de la Traye, rustic chic
The right choice: It’s a “mazot” (i.e., tiny wooden cabin). A 9.60 m2 space, on two levels, with two single beds, a shower and a living room. Beige-furred mules are provided to move around the area.
A zen moment: On a bed made up of 19,200 LEDs called Mostleds, the therapist treats muscular pains and skin cells with light. Find a breath of fresh air on a health trail with tree climbing and zip lines.
2. Le Trait d’Union – Refuge du Danchet, familial
Of course, it can be reached by car or gondola lift. But if you want to experience the mountains like a serious outdoorsmen, you might as well get to this mountain chalet on the heights of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville by skis or, better yet, on snowshoes. What’s more, at nightfall, Viviane, the owner of the place, has illuminated the place with candles to make the arrival easier. This attention to detail cannot be understated, from an aperitif in the Nordic bath to a Savoyard dinner that you can enjoy by the fireplace, before heading to one of the three beautifully furnished rooms.
3. Le Refuge de Solaise, a modern hostel
Don’t be fooled by appearances. In this case, this is a traditional chalet, as can be seen everywhere in Val-d’Isère. Except that it is not in a resort, but rather at an altitude of 2,551 meters, in place of the old Solaise cable car station. This wooden refuge with its bay windows is now a new type of refuge, starting with its decoration (contemporary alpine) and its services (bar, restaurant, spa, swimming pool…), worthy of a top-of-the-range hotel. The services are all the more audacious as the logistical constraints are numerous.It’s worth testing for a night or a daytime stopover, as long as you respect the gondola timetable (from 9 am to 4.30 pm).
From 100€ per night in a dormitory and 300€ in a double room. website.
Téléphérique Solaise, Chemin de la Vanoise, 73150 Val-d’Isère
4. Refuge de la Blanche, the alpine purist
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Dormir dans un refuge en pleine montagne, sous la voie lactée : ✅😍 Ça y est je peux le checker sur ma liste 😎 Bon, j’avoue, c’était pas sur ma liste, mais maintenant que je l’ai fait, je me dis que ça aurait dû y être depuis longtemps 😇 C’était vraiment une expérience exceptionnelle!!! À 3h de raquette du premier village, entourée par des montagnes (et puis c’est tout!), pas de pollution lumineuse, la voie lactée visible à l’œil nu 🤩, digital détox offerte vu qu’il n’y a aucun réseau 🙈 et pour finir de convaincre mon petit coeur fragile : une cuisine exceptionnelle 😇 Gratin de crozets et tarte tatin inoubliable 😍 Et croyez moi je l’avais bien mérité parce que 4h de raquette dans la neige, ça creuse VRAIMENT! Je pensais peut être vous faire un petit article sur mon expérience vu que c’était ma première fois en refuge, ça vous tente ? #RefugeDeLaBlanche #Queyras #EnviedeQueyras #MyHautesAlpes #PureAlpes #Voyage #vacances #Paysage #HeureuxTousLesJours #CestCaLeBonheur
Dormitories, large tables and shared showers… Let the followers of the pure and simple refuge reassure themselves: there are still many of them, and they are still in their prime. Proof of this is this location in Saint-Véran, in the Queyras, well known to lovers of snow sports and hiking, such as the writer Sylvain Tesson, who, braving a strike by railway workers in March 2018, stayed there and attended a literary meeting — by skis — in Val-d’Isère. In addition to the bunk bed experience, there are numerous excursions (snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, etc.) offered around the refuge with maps and GPS.
5. Le Cocon, offbeat in all ways
It’s like being in Finland. Well, almost. Thanks to its location — at 2,737 meters on the peaks of Valfréjus — the Snowburger restaurant had the good idea to install two pods on its panoramic terrace. Each of the two wooden huts with curved roofs, accompanied by a Scandinavian bath to immerse yourself — alone in the world — is facing the peaks of the Vanoise. To get there, take the Punta Bagna chairlift, which has its last run at 4:30 pm, thus offering total exclusivity of the place.
6. Les Chalets de Mont d’Arbois, the elite choice
A domain of the Rothschild family and a veritable institution in Megève, Les Chalets du Mont d’Arbois nonetheless cultivates “adventure.” Perched 1,850 meters above the hotel’s high-altitude restaurant, the Ideal Suite is well deserved. There is no other way to get there other than by ski lift or all-terrain vehicle. But after the effort, the comfort is unrivaled… 140 square meters across three rooms, decorated in alpine chic style and open to a view of the valley. All of this is enhanced by the services of the 5-star hotel, which recently became part of the Four Seasons Group.
From €1,990 per night. website.
447 Chemin de la Rocaille, 74120 Megève
This article was first published on Le Point and is published here in partnership.