This story does not begin on a mid-January Friday, while we gather our mountain clothes, boots, maps, two old issues of Meridiani and a guidebook into our tartan bag. It starts on the day Éric Boissonnas – a visionary entrepreneur – and Gérard Chervaz – an architect – discover a plot of plain protected by the spotless faces of Grand Massif, in Haute-Savoie. Thanks to that love at first sight, and to the urban project Éric and his wife Sylvie – art and music lovers – carried out in the following years with architect Marcel Breuer, today we follow at a walking pace the whims of a D106 covered with snow, slowly enter Flaine, and leave our luggage at the reception desk of Totem, the only hotel in town. Then we leave our car in the hotel parking, because here man's impact must be very low and respect for nature very high, as it has always been. Another snowstorm is coming; tomorrow it will be difficult to find our car in the snow and we will realise why the reception staff has provided us with the perfect-shoveler’s kit. We will warm ourselves by the fire and watch tiny-looking skiers going up and down beyond the glass wall. We will play videogames with French kids with red cheeks. We will hop barefoot in the snow to the hot pool, and then warm ourselves in the sauna. We will satiate ourselves with a huge and precious Savoyard buffet. We will close and open our eyes again in the same storm, as in an enchanted snow globe. Walking on the few streets, we will see works by Jean Dubuffet, Picasso, Victor Vasarely, and Pol Bury, the serviced apartments and the private ones, which are a collection of Bauhaus masterpieces, and the small ecumenical church that Protestant Éric and Sylvie built to welcome every believer.
The first of Friendly Mountain Hotels by Groupe Sibuet, Totem is the perfect interpretation of trim and affordable alpine hospitality. Among the wonders of the only resort built in the 1960s that belongs to French Historical Monuments Survey.
Words and pictures Laura Taccari. Translation Alessia Andriolo.