As we arrive at Hotel Slalom in Les Houches, the English propriétaire Tracey, welcomes us with a cheerful Bienvenue and we step into the breakfast room of this unassuming but stylish small boutique hotel. We’ve chosen it as a base from which to launch into our 3 day walk on the Tour de Mont Blanc Trail above Chamonix, as the village is one of the popular start and end points of the 11 day circular walk.
Hotel Slalom is set by the road at the edge of the village of Les Houches, a pretty place with a few restaurants and shops that is a satellite of the much larger and swisher Chamonix, 20 minutes away by bus. With only 10 rooms the hotel is cosy and personally run with a bar area where you can sink into a leather sofa or perch at the bar for a cocktail. In addition to the ground floor bar and breakfast room, there was a little reading corner tucked under the stairs with plenty of books, magazines and DVDs to borrow or use in the bedrooms.
The hotel operates on a B & B basis with breakfast laid out on the copper topped bar; fresh croissants and baguettes from the boulangerie across the road, with creamy natural yoghurt and reblochon cheese from the local farmer. The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant but we were recommended to try the small Restaurant Le Basilic around the corner where we tried the Savoyard fondue on our first night and on our second visit were defeated by the 3 course set menu, that would have been the perfect end to an energetic day on the pistes. The starter of grilled goats cheese salad was practically a meal in itself and despite my sweet tooth I could only toy with my ice cream desert.
The hotel owner, Tracey, told me how she had left a successful career in the city of London behind, to change direction and run the hotel. She gutted the hotel’s interior and completely remodelled it in a labour of love – at one point in the building work you could see from the ground floor right up to the rafters. Tracey insisted on keeping the authentic wooden bar with polished copper top even though her architect wanted to throw it out, and now it doubles as a serving counter for breakfast as well as the reception desk. The alpine scenery and charming setting haven’t changed though, and you can still throw open your window and washed blue shutters for those mountain views and bracing fresh air.
Hotel Slalom is a haven of good taste – modern but with a nod towards traditional Savoyard style. The rooms are just what you might hope for, with natural materials, carefully chosen furnishings and pretty red and beige quilts and woollen throws in the bedrooms, with charming little touches – a painted dish of sweets or a miniature cactus. Our rooms were a good size, with spacious bathrooms in natural colours, housing a bath tub as well as powerful shower – bliss to soak aching muscles after a day’s walking, climbing or ski-ing. If I was being picky I might have liked to find a hair dryer in my room, or perhaps a slightly more luxurious selection of toiletries than the shampoo sachets and small boxed soap on offer. But having said that, Tracey and her staff were extremely helpful in lending us anything we needed, including the mountain poles I used on our walk, which I embarrassingly managed to break on my way down the mountain.
The hotel is ideally placed to explore the Chamonix valley where there’s plenty to see and do in summer as well as the winter ski season when you can ski to the door of the hotel. All hotels in the area can provide their guests with a free local bus pass in the summer season to get around the valley. Hotel Slalom is a great place to stay in Les Houches if you’re doing all or part of the Tour de Mont Blanc as we did, and a haven to take a rest during your circuit if the basic facilities of the mountain huts are wearing down your enthusism. Tracey can also organise packages with a guide to take you climbing, mountain-biking, white water rafting or any number of other adventurous activities.
I’d highly recommend Hotel Slalom as a well priced, stylish boutique hotel, with extremely helpful and personal service from Tracey and her staff. In the late summer when we visited the room rate was €86-95 for twin or double rooms plus €10 for breakfast.
Hotel Slalom, 44 rue de Bellevue, 74310 Les Houches, Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France, Tel: +33 (0) 450 54 40 60,
Restaurant Le Basilic, 105, Place de la Fruitiere, 74310 Les Houches, Tel +33 (0) 450 54 41 85
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Other Tales from the Tour de Mont Blanc
Resources for those walking the Tour de Mont Blanc
We used the Cicerone Tour of Mont Blanc guide by Kev Reynolds – we found it to be an excellent guide for both the clockwise and anti-clockwise route with detailed route guide, maps, accommodation information and points of interest along the route.
We stayed at Refuges de Bellachat and la Flegere above Chamonix. Bookings for Refuge de Bellachat can be made only by telephone (04 50 53 43 23) and cost €40 for dinner, bed & breakfast. The cost of staying at Refuge la Flégère was €47 per person for dinner, bed and breakfast and bookings can be made by e-mail [email protected] or telephone (04 50 55 85 88 ). To avoid disppointment and a long walk, you should book your place in all refuges but can normally do so a day or two before, or from the previous refuge.
We booked our transfer from Geneva airport to Les Houches through Chamexpress and found them to run an extremely efficient airport to hotel service – cost was €25 + tax per person each way.
The walkingthetmb website has useful information to help you plan and prepare for your Tour de Mont Blanc walk, with a packing list and some links to other people’s photographs and on-line diaries to inspire you.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey