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Breaking Travel News investigates: Montagne Alternative, Switzerland

Breaking Travel News investigates: Montagne Alternative, Switzerland

Montagne Alternative welcomes visitors to the beauty of centuries-old Alpine farm buildings that have been lovingly converted into modern living spaces.

Sitting in the heart of the well-preserved mediaeval village of Commeire, this is a place for authentic tourism, a place that enables frequent contact with nature.

Here Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole visits to find out more.

As with so much in life, serendipity played a role in the launch of Montagne Alternative.

Today the resort seeks to offer guests access to the purest Alpine nature from its location in the well-preserved medieval village of Commeire.

But it might never have come to pass.

As founder Benoit Greindl explains to me during a visit: “Very often in life it is about coincidence.

“My business partner was ski touring in this area and broke a ski; he found this place.

“At that time, there were only ten people living in Commeire, mainly retirees, and there was no economic activity.

“So he asked if I would like to join the project to develop the village.”

Nature is the star at Montagne Alternative

Ten years later and Montagne Alternative has rebuilt the hamlet, with a cluster of old farm buildings converted into modern living areas with a timeless feel.

Here the traditional Swiss Alpine village meets the latest in hospitality to create something quite unique.

“This place has been designed in order to reconnect people to nature.

“Through that reconnection to nature they reconnect to themselves,” Greindl adds.

“We focus on slow activities, designed to help guests get a flavour of the region, the things that are done in this area.

“When people share these events they are creating connections between themselves; people discover themselves here through a new angle.”

Timeless interiors in one of the nine standalone lodges at the resort

With the world seemingly lurching from one crisis to the next in recent months, late 2016 seemed like the ideal time to visit.

What I found was breathtaking.

Silence, spreading for miles around, is the first thing you notice.

The beautiful barns – some of which are up to 300 years old – are perched on the side of the mountain linked by a series of paved footpaths.

Each has been stripped down to the foundations, with the roofs rebuilt, the wood cleaned, and stones polished to create something contemporary from the most traditional of materials.

Interiors are finished in a style Greindl brands ‘naked luxury’, with stripped wooden walls, bare floors and little in the way of decoration.

Nature is the star here, with huge windows filling the spaces with daylight and letting guests drink in the views.

And what views, with the surrounding Mont Blanc massif stretching for miles in every direction.

It is about as far from civilisation as it possible to get in central Europe, a sanctuary from the world outside.

Montagne Alternative is proud to showcase a range of local produce

Here the pace of life has not changed for centuries.

Greindl adds: “The lifestyle of people today is such that it creates a lot of stress.

“This place is here in order to provide them with peace.

“We want this place to enable a real connection to the wonders that you can see around, nature.”

Investment from Montagne Alternative has seen the population of Commeire recover to around 100, with many local residents employing centuries old skills to support the resort.

Until the end of the Second World War, residents lived in complete autonomy with little money and virtually no contact with urban areas.

This meant they produced all their own food, with each family cultivating their own land with a mule and planting seasonable vegetables.

These skills have endured and are now employed by Montagne Alternative, with guests able to enjoy locally sources produce for virtually every meal.

Lose yourself in nature at Montagne Alternative

Activities, too, are focused on the connection to nature.

At Montagne Alternative the tagline - ‘Find Your Nature’ - is not merely a sales technique; it is the basis of a fully formed philosophy, imbuing the whole endeavor with a sense of purpose.

While more adventurous guests can try their hand at climbing, skiing or even paragliding, many will be content to simply walk through the Alps.

I spent hours treading the paths surrounding the resort, trekking though silent forests and along crystal clear Alpine streams, barely a soul in sight.

Tranquillity reigns here.

Not only are there no televisions, Montagne Alternative even eschews room keys, allowing guests to build up a sense of connection with each other.

Relax at Montagne Alternative

While there were a couple of initial holdouts, the community has grown to welcome the benefits the development of the resort brings.

In 2014 it became a B Corporation - committing Montagne Alternative to a series of environmental and social strictures.

Greindl explains: “The idea has been to develop the project along the lines of a ‘regenerative economy’; an economy that incudes within the business model the different stakeholders

“The purpose here is not just to optimise profits, but to guarantee sustainable profitability on a long-term basis.

“We work with local suppliers, working toward a higher purpose – that connection to nature.

“We put these rules in place as a way of developing the company; it was the only way that made sense.

“This allowed us to remove negative externalities from the working of the business.”

I was only able to stay for two nights – but one could easily spend weeks here, rediscovering themselves and building up strength.

As Greindl concludes: “This is a time of deep transition in the world, we are all going through a major transition and this is the perfect place to do that.

“We are going through a real paradigm shift.

“It is deep and I am not sure people realise how deep it is, but we are only at the beginning.”

A must visit for those in search of sanctuary from the modern world.