It’s rare you can genuinely say you were the first at something. History is dominated by the stories of the select few who went further than anyone before might have even dreamed. And just like Neil Armstrong being the first man on the moon, we were the season’s first customers at K2 Palace. The history books will remember us both fondly.
After Lucie received some warm birthday wishes, we were taken to our room on floor minus five, which at no point proved confusing – you just need to know the circumference of a Pythagorean something-er-rather, and then you’d know which floor to get to. Every time I got in the lift, I would stare at the floor numbers with an expression across my face like I was trying to crack Enigma. It all became much clearer when someone explained to me that I was stupid.
Whilst Cheval Blanc and Airelles felt very similar in execution – albeit as different as Uncle Fester pitted up against Cara Delevingne in style – K2 Palace is a challenging beast to describe. They define themselves as Himalayan, whilst another term I kept hearing was IKEA. For whilst our suite – at 110 sqm – was the largest, it was also the most basic and offered the least amenities and benefits. The style differs greatly depending on where you look; the hallways are covered in portraits of traditional Nepalese people, whilst modern art is scattered around in a way that somehow makes sense. Their newly opened Peruvian restaurant is beautifully modernised and chic; the spa feels very Asian, the DJ makes it feel very young or me very old, whilst the rooms feel like a chalet designed by an ex-aircraft hanger engineer.
Our K2 Suite suite offered breathtaking, uninterpreted views from the balcony. It was definitely a step up from Airelles but a step down in quality from Cheval Blanc. It wasn’t that anything was poor quality; it just felt like they decided space is luxury but then hired an interior designer with the skillset of a penguin to make it work. If space were luxury, we’d all just sleep in fields. At 110 sqm, it’s hardly gigantic, but it felt it through the vast emptiness. Do you know those moments when the hairs go up on the back of your neck and tell you something is wrong? It wasn’t like that at all. But it felt off.
As a duplex, the bedroom and main bathroom were upstairs, with the living room and downstairs shower. I sometimes feel that bedrooms are shrunk to make way for the living room, but they were both almost comically big here. If you’re coming here just as a couple, you might want to bring someone else’s child with you, just so you don’t feel lonely. You can thank me for the tip.
The room didn’t inspire, but it didn’t suffer in the way of annoying quirks if you ignored the that there was no way to control the temperature – you had to contact them to adjust it; there were no Toto toilets, and the phones never seemed to work. Overall, the room is really the only negative of the property. It’s not bad; it’s just not great. They also don’t offer much in the way of generosity – the minibar is complimentary but with very small compliments.
On a brighter note, they did at least remember Lucie’s birthday, with happy birthday balloons and a nicely presented hamper, mostly filled with chocolate.
K2 Palace can be quite restrictive when it comes to the somewhat useful act of eating. There’s no half-board and no deals to eat in other resorts, so your only option for lunch is the bar or room service. It’s almost like they think you should be out skiing or something. However, that does mean food prices are far more reasonable, as all half-board seems to do at Cheval Blanc is double the cost of everything. Their children’s menu was a blessing and a curse, as it forced you into three courses and a side, which is useful, but only when you have a child that eats like a human and not a parrot. Their newly opened Peruvian restaurant (also where they serve breakfast) offered a gorgeous setting, but the good service didn’t match the ok food. Just to confuse me even more and make it harder to work out the hotel’s theme, a DJ was around during the evenings. Himalayan ravers?
Breakfast offers a small buffet (but uniquely offers oysters) with fruit, pastries and cheese, then a small a la carte offering. The joy of coming at the opening of the new season is rawness. It’s sometimes fun to see people probably in their first-ever job. I ordered French toast from the menu, which had about six items on it, and five minutes later, they asked me to point it out on the menu.
Now, I have ranted before that Michelin-star restaurants are a waste of time. I saw with Noma soon to shut, parts of the industry are starting to feel the same. Yet when I saw that K2 Palace had a 2 Michelin star restaurant that only served desserts, I would be happy to eat all my words to go there. Along with eating everything they served. There are two tasting menus you can choose from, large or “would you like diabetes with that?”. I took mine with an extra hint of cholesterol and went all in, and you know what? It was brilliant. It’s started a trend for me; I can now eat a packet of cookies in a well-decorated room and claim its haute cuisine.
The service was much warmer than Cheval Blanc, with proactive, friendly staff, but that rawness of having just opened was apparent. I’m sure no one understood me as I needed to ask for everything four times. We would repeatedly be asked for our room number, even bizarrely, when calling room service. They excelled at the kids club with their daily, free, fun activities like collecting passports, which is not as dodgy as it sounds.
Special credit for their turndown gift appearing to be two pencils.
Although the design is indescribable, one consistent thing is that K2 Palace has a very warm, welcoming feel to it. Both the bar and spa are somewhere I could happily spend all day. Unfortunately, I spent most of it in the kids club, but even that is well thought through. They split it between the teenage and younger children areas, offering plenty to do. Although the slide may be in the wrong place – my daughter almost went into another timezone as she came down it so fast. It was also the first kids club I’ve ever seen with a TV permanently on – they know my family well. Next door is the cinema, and the ski-in/ski-out lounge is next to that.
The gym is next to the spa, on a different floor from the pool. It just adds to the mystery and charm of the place….is probably what the architect said after he was confronted about the mistake. The pool is a cylinder area, not really for swimming, mainly for people like me who pretend to swim by getting into a pool and standing next to a jet. It’s a hydrotherapy pool, is what I’m saying. It also offers a sauna, steam room, cold plunge pool, a warm watered relaxation area and outdoor hot tub. Once again, it offers incredible views.
- Kids Club
- Rooms are basic
- 2 Michelin-star dessert-only restaurant
In between greatness and sewage, there is a comfort in mediocrity. K2 Palace is hard to get excited about but even harder to be disappointed with. It’s a great option for Courchevel, but I would unlikely return. It sits somewhere in the middle: not as luxurious as Cheval Blanc, and service nowhere near as good as Airelles. It was the most expensive property of the trip and offered the largest room, but it was the least generous. The general facilities, like the spa, kids club, bar and cinema, are brilliant. The views are really something to admire. But there’s just that little bit missing that failed to turn a good stay into a truly unforgettable one.
Ultimately, going to Courchevel and not skiing is like going to the Maldives and being allergic to sand or going to Britain and not being stabbed. You’re missing out on the real nature of the place.
Room type: K2 Suite Duration: 15 December > 17th December 2022. €6,200/n