The exterior of Terminal Neige Totem, an original Marcel Breuer building
Pascal Lemaitre/ Artedia/ View
When people tell you Flaine is ugly, they are missing the point. Unlike many of the modern-day ski resorts (I shan’t name them, but you know the type I mean), Flaine was conceived and created in the Sixties as a showcase of contemporary architecture, art and design. Indeed, Marcel Breuer, celebrated Bauhaus maestro no less, was the man tasked with delivering a
modern, innovative ‘urban’ resort respectfully integrated into its natural surroundings.
So perhaps it is no surprise to learn that first, Flaine was awarded the label ‘Architectural Heritage of the Twentieth Century’ by the French Ministry of Culture in 2008, and secondly that it is home to three celebrated outdoor sculptures – Le Boqueteau by Jean Dubuffet, Les Trois Hexagones by Victor Vasarely, and La Tête de Femme by Pablo Picasso. These are positioned unceremoniously on the piste and you can bet your bottom dollar that, to some of Flaine’s visitors, the art and Breuer’s trademark modular, prefabricated concrete panelled buildings are an irrelevance to a holiday in the snow.
More relevant, of course, is where you might stay in a resort where, over the years, as the appeal of Flaine’s utilitarian-style architecture waned, its once-fashionable hotels were converted into sultry apartment blocks. Only Le Totem – an original Breuer building – remained until it, too, was finally abandoned in 2013. Fast forward three years and in steps the Sibuet family (famous for several exquisite hotels in France, not least Les Fermes de Marie in Megève) who, after a lightning-fast refurbishment, relaunched Le Totem as the first of their small Terminal Neige brand, which will roll out a handful of hotels in unconventional Alpine locations (Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers opened high above Chamonix a few months ago).