I have something to admit, Pat and I are confirmed Alpi-philes. Sitting at the bar watching the orange blaze sun set behind the white alpine Megève mountain peaks. Espresso martinis and Negronis draw our attention back to the table in front of us. We’re taking a peak (no pun intended) at the night’s menu: coquilletes aux truffes pasta or tender beef cheek. Food for the soul, as well as the stomach. We share stories of the day’s ski adventures, our faces still red from the sunny day in perfect spring snow. No, we are not in a movie, we are living life and loving it at the Sibuet Maison & Hotel in Megève: Les Fermes de Marie, which translates to Marie’s Farm. The luxury Megève hotel is owned by Sibuet Maison & Hotels, a family run business that owns a series of boutique properties in glitzy French towns and islands and occasional spas and boutique stores. The brand was originally run by Jocelyn and Jean-Louis Sibuet, and now by their children Nicolas and Marie, and their spouses like Marine.
We’re skiing Europe, but by a route that remains undiscovered by most Americans. We chose Megève because of it’s over 400km+ of trails and glitzy food scene and old world charm. Les Fermes de Marie is a 74 room property with 11 private chalets available for weekly rentals. 2 are located on the hotel property and 9 others are spread throughout the village of Megève, with services and amenities superior to all but the most luxe grand hotels including dedicated housekeeper, breakfast, concierge, afternoon tea service in chalet, and extras like private chefs, transportation and all your concierge needs. Afterall, it is a 5-star hotel, so the chalets are bound to come with the same excellent service.
– The unexpected history –
We pulled up to the quaint Megève hotel and disembarked. The chalet hotel looks much like the rest of Megève village, it’s a classic take on Savoyard architecture mixed with modern. Rough-cut boards form the superstructure, supported by a ground floor of local stone, with a sloping slate roof and balconies tucked under the steep, snow-shedding eaves. Les Fermes de Marie chalet hotel opened in 1989 in the Sibuet’s hometown of Megève and is made entirely of reclaimed wood. Over the years, the Sibuet family bought over 70 different barns in different locations around Mont Blanc, dismantled them, took different wood beams apart, put numbers on them, stored them, and used them to create Les Fermes de Marie Megève hotel you see today. The whole process took 4-5 years to complete and you can relive it all in photographs in a dedicated hall that connects the chalet to the wellness center.
I open up with this story because it speaks to what the true essence of staying at a Sibuet property is all about. They’re about preserving the past, taking care of it, and presenting it in a modern way with the utmost attention to detail so that guests can truly experience a destination and location in it’s purest, rawest most authentic form. Experience a destination as if globalization and tourism had never become a thing. When you’re in a Sibuet property, you know you are because of the sense of place you feel. You will never find a place like it anywhere else in the world. It’s not cookie cutter by any means. Just pay attention to the choice of old reclaimed furniture or selection of cow imagery and lamps around that represent “the farm.”
Imagine the crème of European terrain combined with all the high lights of a five-star hotel life: crisp linens, coffee in bed, spacious bathrooms, laundry service, wellness amenities, concierge, private shuttle, private ski shop and rental and more. Then add a chauffeur to retrieve you from distant slopes. These are just some of the services offered by Sibuet Maison & Hotels.
The concierge grabbed our gear, careful not to be damaged, drove our car into the private garage, and we walked in. We were greeted amicably as I looked around the romantic setting.
The social epicenter is the chalet’s dining, living, bar and sitting rooms. Each room commands royal views up the Megève mountain peaks of Rochebrune and Mont D’Arbois. The furniture is all stuffed and plumped to sink into. The chalet hotel property is rustic and old world with an enchanting roaring fireplace, brass ornaments and wood paneling along with set tables. I could not wait to settle in and have a warm drink downstairs. “Patrick, look, how inviting!” I exclaimed, upon seeing the rustic dining room. Inside the feel was more cozy and homey, than ritzy or grand. It was inspired by a chalet after all, not a chateau (although it may look like one from outside!).
Rooms are scattered on 3 levels. A meandering maze of mountain rugs and carpets and oversized French mountain furniture set the mood. Ours was located on the second floor. I could not believe how cozy the room was. The bed was laden with a gingham red covering that matched the texture and color of the wallpaper giving the room a rustic look. I was impressed by the room compared to European standards, its modern bathroom, and amenities: double vanity, shower and bathtub, private vanity for us women and our bags of makeup and jewelry, and fully equipped with extra beauty products from the properties beauty and wellness brand Pure Altitude. The secret des alpes complimentary hand cream came super in handy during the winter. But shoot! We forgot our adapter! Not to worry – Les Fermes de Marie brought us one within minutes of stepping foot into our room. Another advantage of this 5-star hotel.
Chalet life revolves around food, wine, and of course, skiing. And our days on the slopes provide a stark contrast to the pampering of the Megève hotel. Most days we head back to Les Fermes de Marie after skiing and stay there, rather than trek to local cafes. Each afternoon, tea, homemade cookies and sweets await guests. A before dinner tradition becomes the sipping of a chilled negroni or delicious Espresso martini. Some people read, while others wile away the cocktail hour with chess and various boardgames. It feels as if we are at home. We sit in front of the crackling fire and nibble on canapés.
– Inventive chefs, seasonal, ever-changing menus –
The first night it’s clear we are going to gourmandize at a level equal to the skiing. The menu is never the same since it’s based on seasonal local ingredients. The fish is from the mountain lakes, the meat is from the nearby farms and les fromages is from the famous Boujon cheese factory. There’s no signing of bills as the property offers demi-pension for just 90euros per person at any of the properties 5 restaurants including Les Fermes de Marie’s very own Le Restaurant Traditionnel, Le Relais in Hotel Mont Blanc, Le Beef Lodge in Hotel Lodge Park, L’Alpage (summer only), and their most recent addition to the list, Le Vieux Megève. Le Vieux Megève is a Megève institution that’s been around since 1964. If you’re looking for traditional or local cheese fondue, this is the place to go. The Sibuet fmaily bought it and manage it, but kept the original rustic and authentic atmosphere.
All the dinners are classic French country fare with a modern touch. Our feasts range from truffle pasta shells or coquillettes, sauget ham, and beaufort cream to a half roasted chicken in it’s jus or tender beef cheek braised for 8 hours in Mondeuse d’Arbin wine. We dine together with other guests in a warm atmosphere of camaraderie. Every night we try a different Sibuet restaurant and sample a different local cheese, an essential part of being in France and even more so in the Haute Savoie region. The dessert is always buffet style with a myriad of options to choose from. Indulgence is the word here. Your on vacation after all. No one asks if the crème caramel, apple tart, or chocolate souffles are fat-free.
The wines, served generously, are carefully selected for quality and to match the menus. While François Plantation has an extensive and impressive wine list, we wanted to be completely immersed in the Les Fermes de Marie experience so ordered bottles of the house reds and whites. The Sibuet family owns a vineyard in Ménerbes where they produce their own family wine.
– Mountain experiences in winter and summer –
If you’re a guest at Les Fermes de Marie in the summer, you cannot miss this guest only dining experience at L’Alpage des Fermes. It used to be where the farmers used to take their animals in the summer to get pasture and better grass. Today, it’s been restored. There’s no electricity, no running water, only water from the stream coming from the mountains, no cell service – so it’s really an experience. Getting there is no easy feat. It requires a one hour and a half hike up the alps or a cable car and small 30 minute walk. But once there, you get to experience an old restored chalet up in the peaks of the Alps with other guests over a communal table. The experience is only available two times a week a for lunch and dinner.
We head up to our room and notice the turndown service. Les Fermes de Marie gets the little details right, such as endless bottles of mineral water on the bedside tables and the latest paper out on a bookshelf in the hall. You can choose from the French papers or American papers like the New York Times each morning. We shut our eyes and and close our eyes to hear the pitter patter of the rain on the wooden beams and roof. We have a hard time falling asleep with the anticipation of tomorrow’s snow.
It’s thundering outside after dinner. There’s nothing better than a lake or mountain thunderstorm, they’re just more powerful. It feels like you’re really in nature’s hands. Plus, rain down in Megève village, means snow up in the mountains.
Stay in Villa Marie St. Barth
The next morning we awake under our fluffy duvet and plump pillows and head down to breakfast. Petit déjeuner is served in the dining room, but again it feels like you’re at home. You walk into the communal kitchen where a chef cooks you custom omelets, waffles, and crêpes. Or you can choose from the homemade yogurt with fruit for the muesli or pain au chocolat and baguettes. We breakfast in ski clothes. I looked over and saw a puppy casually sitting next to their owner having breakfast indoors. Les Fermes de Marie is dog friendly and kid-friendly, but you’d never know. Somehow they are able to make it feel like it’s an adult-only hotel. The kids have their own play area and staff watching over them during the day in a separate part of the hotel. So the parents can relax, while the kids have fun and are taken care of.
– One stop shop with a private ski shop –
Our first morning we went down to the private ski shop. A hotel with a private ski shop exclusive to guests only? Yes please. And it’s just as chic as the hotel itself. They asked us if we wanted to rent any gear or purchase any ski apparel or a private ski instructor or local guide. Patrick and I are more wanders, but if there is one thing we learned about mountains in Europe, is that a guide like Ski Itineraries is always a must. This time around though, knowing the trails would be a bit more self-explanatory (or so we thought..) we skipped the instructor.
– Easy access to the mountains –
The ski shop grabbed our skis and boots from the back, and had the chauffeur plop them in the shuttle. Next thing we knew we were on the Mont Arbois cable car, just a hop, skip, and traverse away from our doorstep. No need to queue up for lift tickets, the first day we arrived, the concierge purchased ski passes for us right on the spot, without even needing to leave the property. We do not need to walk to the ski lift, find a place to park the car, or worry about transportation into town. Instead, Les Fermes de Maries shuttle service are waiting in the reception area. The drivers whisk us in a Mercedes van to Hotel Mont Blanc where we are in the center of Megève and just steps from the Rochebrune cable car. From the summit we look down at a lattice of lifts and slopes stretching across the valley. A super view. After a day of powder skiing, our legs are cooked. Ironically, the French do not ski in powder so we had all the slopes to ourself. And luckily, just around the corner was the Les Fermes de Marie and the relief of the hot tub.
– Rich and plentiful wellness experiences and spa services –
Relaxation at Les Fermes de Marie is inevitable. Post-skiing Les Fermes de Marie has one of the most elaborate wellness spas I’ve ever seen at a hotel and it’s all focused on hydrotherapy, a word for using water to heal in various ways. It begins with a Turkish Hammam, or steam room, to open up the pores. Followed by a few minutes in the sauna. Once you’ve opened your pores and elevated your heart rate, it’s time for an ice cold bucket to jolt you back to life. Follow that with a warm plunge in a Japanese hot wooden soaking tub followed by a cold plunge in a Japanese cold wooden soaking tub. The cold water stimulates the body and boosts oxygen use in the cells. Hot water dilates blood vessels, which improves blood circulation, speeds the elimination of toxins, and transports more oxygen to the brain. In between some of these cycles, you can use either the adult only or adult and kid-friendly pools for some lap swimming.
End it with some recovery time in the “relaxation” room that features Turkish zavarka herbal teas followed by a spa service at the Pure Altitude Spa. Patrick got a sports massage and I received an oxygen bowl facial. If you’ve got more in you, like Pat and I did, we later immersed ourselves in the steamy bubbling outdoor hot tub while the icy air cooled our faces. Afterward, when I looked in the mirror, I saw the French in me–skin aglow, face relaxed, eyes clear–only a few days after our arrival.
– Exceptional artisanal shops –
The next morning we enjoyed another hearty breakfast before bidding adieu to Les Fermes de Marie. We were going to ski the day though, so they let us keep our car in their garage until our departure. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped by a few stores in town to purchase some food for our chalet in Chamonix that night. Of course, a must-stop was l’Epicerie de Marie, the Sibuet’s very own market in Megève town. The market offered everything including a lot of their Megève hotel restaurant meals in to-go containers – wow! A petit souvenir to take with me to Chamonix. To counteract the wind and sun exposure from spring skiing, we also stopped by their Pure Altitude store to purchase a couple of hand creams and body creams that use their special Edelweiss ingredient from the Megève mountains.
When it was all over, we couldn’t really decide what we’d enjoyed the most: the service, the food, the amenities, or the authentic Alpine ambiance. For us, Les Fermes de Marie was the perfect “snowasis.” We’ll be back.
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