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Lone Star to L’étoile: People and Places From the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley

Laurie Sharp climbing mountains in Les Praz, France, in the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley.

Bonjour mes amis!

Laurie Sharp's work-from-home setup.
Laurie Sharp's work-from-home setup.

By the time you read this, I will have been living and working remotely in Les Praz, France, in the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley, for over a month.  

Nestled at the base of Mont-Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, Chamonix is a one-hour drive from Geneva and has 10,000 permanent residents. However, in the winter, 60,000 visitors descend on the valley’s villages.

Despite the number of visitors, it’s stunning, pristinely clean and has an exceptional transportation system of buses and trains. 

Most weekdays, while the U.S. sleeps, I catch up on emails that arrived overnight, and then my partner and I do a one- to three-hour hike followed by a 30-minute walk along the L’Arve river to Chamonix center for groceries or a cappuccino. We prefer to visit the bakery, the cheese and sausage shop, and gather our fruits and vegetables at the Saturday farmers market—held regardless of the freezing temperatures.

I aim to be home mid-afternoon, dive into work and prep for evening Zooms. Adjusting to a completely new daily routine takes discipline, practice and constant refinement to adjust your energy, productivity and creativity—and so far, it’s been worth every minute!

[Related: Lone Star to L'étoile: Navigating the European Event Industry]

The pool at Haumau Albert 1er Hotel.
The pool at Haumau Albert 1er Hotel.

People, Places and Peak Performance

Within the first week of being in Chamonix, a local friend introduced me to various members of the hospitality community. Allow me to introduce you to a few of the venues and incredible humans I’ve met thus far.

Laurie Sharp snowshoeing Le Prarion.
Laurie Sharp snowshoeing Le Prarion.

The Haumau Albert 1er Hotel is a stunning five-star Relais & Châteaux property with 34 rooms and suites that celebrated its 120th anniversary late last year. The property has been owned and operated by Perrine Carrier’s family for five generations; it was opened by her great-great grandparents in 1903. Her grandfather, Marcel, and father, Pierre, both received Michelin stars as Chef du Cuisine in 1967 and 1985, respectively.

As the directrice and owner, Carrier graciously shared this personal and heart-warming story of success and passion in the luxury hotel and restaurant community.

Carrier’s current focus is on the property’s environmental impact and leveraging produce from their gardens and beehives to support their restaurants, as well as working closely with local artisans and food purveyors.

The following week, I was invited to a one-day yoga retreat, with no expectations outside of stretching my legs that had endured a 3,000-foot, three-hour assault to the top of the Le Prarion mountain on snowshoes the previous day. What an epic surprise-and-delight-filled experience!  

Given the destination’s focus on outdoor activities, wellness and the mind-body connection, the bench of local experts, instructors, corporate coaches and thought leaders available between Geneva and the Chamonix Valley is deep.

Private chalet at Granite Mountain Lodge.
Private chalet at Granite Mountain Lodge.

The retreat was hosted by the Granite Mountain Lodge, a new 7,000-square-foot privately owned chalet with views of the Les Boisson glacier that is focused on C-level retreats and experiences. Lisa Aggeryd and her husband, Martin Bayer, are the chalet managers and live in an adjacent property with their two young daughters. Aggeryd is also the chalet’s very talented chef. Originally from Sweden, the pair traded in their corporate careers in Stockholm for chalet management in the Chamonix Valley in 2018. 

The chalet has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms and an adjacent two-bedroom apartment. It can accommodate eight to 16 guests. It features an indoor heated pool, sauna, workout room, home theater room that can be used as a meeting room, private office and outdoor climbing wall, kitchen and firepit. 

Aggeryd and Bayer have meticulously crafted turnkey corporate executive retreat packages that include transportation from Geneva, access to certified mountain adventure guides, chef-prepared meals using local farm and artisan products, and curated luxury experiences.

[Related: 4 Ways to Incorporate Wellness Into Your Next Meeting or Event]

The terrace at Les Vieilles Luges.
The terrace at Les Vieilles Luges.

Yoga and Yummy Food

But now, back to my yoga retreat experience!

Yoga and sound bath setup at Granite Mountain Lodge.
Yoga and sound bath setup at Granite Mountain Lodge.

Jessica Dezaux, owner of Yoganica, is a local wellness instructor who curates intimate corporate experiences as well as multi-day retreats throughout Europe. She focuses on biohacking, the art and science of maximizing human performance by utilizing breathwork, meditation, cold plunges and leadership coaching, all set in one-of-a-kind indoor and outdoor locations. She created a day filled with meditation, yoga, an hour-long sound bath by Tom Goldstein and an environment where 12 professional women could connect and recharge.

Another incredible venue find is Les Vieilles Luges, a restaurant housed inside an authentic Alpine Farmhouse originally built in 1750 and located on the slopes in Les Houches with spectacular views of the Chamonix Valley.  

Recently renovated, it is owned and operated by Serge Sozonoff and Charlotte Langenskiold, who live on the top floor of the restaurant. During the winter, the restaurant is only accessible by skiing down the slopes of Le Prarion, or for us non-skiers, parking nearby and hiking up for 20 minutes via snowshoes or ice cleats in the winter. For those guests who cannot walk up, they can transport a limited number to the restaurant. They use a snowcat to bring regional produce and supplies up and down the mountain daily.  

Goat cheese salad at Les Vieilles Luges.
Goat cheese salad at Les Vieilles Luges.

The food is without a doubt the best we’ve had in Europe. Their state-of-the-art 12x12 kitchen and chef Jenny Case produce epic French versions of beef bourguignon, warm goat cheese and puff pastry salad, tarte tatine, fondue and apple strudel. Vintage china, cozy blankets and a blazing firepit complete the experience. 

The restaurant can accommodate corporate groups or buyouts with indoor seating for 50 and outdoor seating for 50. 

Chamonix as a whole operates in a flat society structure where social status, occupation, wealth and nationality ultimately don’t matter. The hospitality community’s communal approach, centered on a shared love of this destination’s natural grandeur, a passion for creating unique corporate experiences around wellness and a desire to share these experiences while supporting each other, are the main priorities.  

This philosophy feels like a significant departure from the money-focused, individualistic pursuit of success often seen and experienced in the U.S. This distinct collaborative and inclusive culture gave me a new perspective on success, community and the meaning of hospitality.

My next blog posts will include personalities and venues from my side trips to London, Paris and Cannes. 

Thank you for reading, and please reach out with any feedback or if you’d like a personal introduction to any of these incredible people and places. 

Merci beaucoup mes amis, Laurie

Connect with Laurie

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About the author
Laurie Sharp

Laurie Sharp is a corporate event marketing executive with over 20 years of experience. She has led global event teams for notable tech brands including VMware, Dolby and New Relic. Sharp is a global strategic event architect designing best-in-class brand experiences that build community and drive pipeline. She currently serves on the Board of the Society for Sustainable Events and, in 2023, was recognized by BizBash in their "15 over 50" feature.