Inside Switzerland's Coolest Little Town

Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A trio of hip hoteliers brings its brand of big-city cool to the Swiss Alps.

Gstaad may be ritzier, St. Moritz more cultured, but ask those who frequent Verbier, the town at the heart of Switzerland’s Quatre Vallées, and they’ll tell you it has everything its neighbors do, plus a cool cachet the others don’t. It’s that same something you get at any of Experimental Group’s hotels and bars in London and Paris, and why owners Olivier Bon, Pierre-Charles Cros, and Romée de Goriainoff decided to open Experimental Chalet, their first non-urban property, there in December. “What I like about Verbier is that it’s such a high-end resort, but it has a very relaxed feel,” says de Goriainoff. “The main reason people go is for the skiing, especially the off-piste, which isn’t always the case at other resorts.” In other words, you’re more likely to see skiers clad in performance gear than in fashion, and the person you saw out dancing at 4 a.m. will be on the slopes with you at 9 the next morning. 


Romée de Goriainoff, Pierre-Charles Cros, and Olivier Bon, the Parisian trio behind Experimental Group . Courtesy Experimental Group


Left: The bar at Paris’s Hôtel des Grands Boulevards. Right: The Bela cocktail from Experimental Cocktail Club, which has locations in Paris and London. Courtesy Experimental Group


 Left: The lobby lounge at the Henrietta Hotel in London. Right: The bar at Experimental Chalet. Courtesy Experimental Group


The finished product: a room at Experimental Chalet. Courtesy Experimental Group

Experimental Chalet’s design follows the same formula as the group’s other hotels—Grand Pigalle and Hôtel des Grands Boulevards in Paris and Henrietta Hotel in London—and feels very different from anything else in the Alps. “We wanted to move away from the Swiss chalet look, with all the fur and dark wood,” says de Goriainoff. While the 39 rooms, with their clean, white surfaces accented by emerald green, and the Biologique Recherche–backed the other spaces play on turn-of-the-century nostalgia. “There are moments when you feel like you’re in the movie Grand Budapest Hotel,” says Fabrizio Casiraghi, the hotel’s designer, who cites the Art Deco sense of proportion, the warm glow from the bronze fixtures and Adolf Loos lighting, and the subtle touches of whimsy, like the trail of pink edelweiss found on the magenta carpets. For inspiration, Casiraghi looked to sources such as the typography of the iconic Hotel Belvédère near the Rhône Glacier; rooms at the Ottmanngut hotel in Merano, Italy; Slim Aarons’s shots of 1960s Verbier; and the studio at the Grand Chalet of Rossinière, Switzer- land, where the painter Balthus once lived and worked. 


The movie poster for Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection


A room in the Ottmanngut hotel. Courtesy Hotel Ottmanggut

Related: This Year's Can't-Miss Events at Art Basel Switzerland

As expected, the chalet has already become the town’s après-ski (and après-après-ski) hangout. A hot punch at the restaurant, where chef Gregory Marchand of the cult Parisian bistro Frenchie is doing a fresh take on Alpine fare, turns into a drink at the cocktail club, which serves favorites from the group’s five other bars and an extensive menu of Swiss wines. There’s also the Farm, the nightclub that’s been in the basement since the original hotel opened in 1971 (David Bowie and Diana Ross made appearances). “We didn’t want to change anything, because it doesn’t really belong to us—it belongs to the resort,” says de Goriainoff. “We’ll play a little less ABBA and Queen, and a little more electro, and serve better cocktails, but that’s it.” Rooms from $215.