Located a stone’s throw from the ski slopes at an altitude of 1,650m, in one of Switzerland’s sunniest regions, LeCrans has a special meaning to Dubai-based Abdulla Al Gurg, executive chairman of Abdulla Al Gurg Global Investments. “I had a stroke in 2019 and recovered through a new life science program,” he explains. “This life-altering event inspired me to share that healing experience with the world. During my recuperation I was in constant consultation with the medical team and developed an interest in the benefits of a life well-lived and the body’s powerful natural capacity to heal itself,” he furthers. “Having always had an affinity for European culture – and Swiss traditions and expertise in particular – beginning this journey of growth and healing in Crans-Montana was a decision that came naturally.” Al Gurg decided there was no better place to cultivate bespoke wellness solutions than in the abundant energy of the Swiss surroundings.
In July 2020 – on his birthday – Al Gurg purchased this property originally built in the 1960s after discovering it while visiting Switzerland for two weeks with his eldest son. Formerly a small family farm, it was transformed into LeCrans in 2005 by the previous owners and renovated by interior designer Christophe Decarpentrie in the typical Swiss chalet style, characterized by rustic carpentry, heavy pine doors, and tables made of tree crowns. The building features pine wood and traditional roofing techniques and materials with curved terraces to experience the breathtaking panorama of the Alps. “During my first walk around LeCrans, I saw how it was entirely surrounded by nature, and I couldn’t help but immediately fall in love with the place,” remembers Al Gurg. “I come from the desert where it only rains once a year, but at LeCrans, I felt like my eyes were opened; everything is so green and beautiful here. I thought this must be a chance for me to change my destiny and become as green as this beautiful spot. So, I made it my goal to make that happen.” Centered around a lofty, double-height entrance hall, from which the various wings emerge, the hotel spreads over 3,300sqm. Spacious yet cozy, it features alpine decor, with each of the 13 rooms and one apartment inspired by a different mountain region of the world, including Kilimanjaro, Annapurna, Everest, the Dolomites, and Anatolia, among others. “We also drew inspiration from the beautiful villages of Valais, respecting the authenticity of its pastoral origins while adapting to the new demands and standards of comfort for the 21st century,” says Al Gurg. “The alpine setting, the cyclical nature of the seasons, of time, and how we interact with the natural environment are at the core of the project.”
They made a lot of changes in the hotel, he continues. “We wanted to enhance the natural spirit and healing nature of this location as well as educate our guests on the benefits of a life well-lived, not just for them but for future generations.” Described as his “little piece of magic” by its owner, LeCrans is more than a ski destination surrounded by lakes, forests, and mountains. It also focuses on wellness and well-being through the easy access to nature all year long. “The importance of our new wellness offering is integral to this strategy, with its tailored week-long programs that guests are recommended to take each season, giving them the chance to experience our beautiful surroundings and the variety of mountain life, all year round.” A key offering at LeCrans is the spa, which features indoor and outdoor heated pools, a secluded terrace, a Jacuzzi, hammam and sauna, a fitness suite, and three treatment rooms, as well as the possibility to have a personal coach for guided activities and hikes.
Al Gurg doesn’t intend to stop there. He is currently working with Jean-Daniel Masserey from MJD Architects and Christophe Tollemer for the interior design and overall art direction on other plans, which include a holistic spa offering tailored wellness programs. “Our vision for the spa area includes the use of more contemporary materials, while keeping to a visual language that fuses the weathered robustness of the ancient and the practicality and comfort of the modern for a timeless feel.” The remaining spaces will be transformed in phases over the next few years while LeCrans remains open as a place for peaceful restoration.
“My hope is that LeCrans will have the feel of a small village. That it will be animated around central communal areas with architectural features to inspire and evoke a sense of playfulness and wonder; for example, a bridge, an old tower, and a library,” explains Al Gurg. “All these authentic elements, which can be found in traditional villages of the Valais will – I hope – revive childhood memories. I want our guests to feel comfortable and protected, as though nestled in a mountaintop citadel. They should feel at home, with the warmth of an open fire bringing the rustic comfort of a mountain cabin into their otherwise luxurious surroundings.”
Among some of the pieces that have already been acquired to create this warm feeling are a pair of modern brass and glass photophores from Maison David Hicks; La place du village by Marc Chagall; Slurp, Snap, Arm Akimbo by Misha Kahn, a ceramic wall sculpture by Peter Lane; an M&C high console by Pierre Charpin; Easy armchairs by Pierre Jeanneret; It’s a Healing Process by Ramon Aular; a Plug Table by Rick Owens; a chandelier by Viktor Udzenija; a DC1404 desk by Vincenzo De Cotiis; and Swiss antique pieces from the 17th century. Meanwhile, with its sophisticated rotunda dining room and sun-drenched terrace offering exceptional views from every table, Michelin- star restaurant LeMontBlanc is led by French chef Yannick Crepaux, who offers up contemporary cuisine inspired by the terroir with an innovative twist.
A new chapter is starting, offering an invitation to reconnect with oneself and the surroundings in a unique environment. “Whenever I am at the hotel, I immediately feel safe and protected – and incredibly lucky,” concludes its visionary owner.
Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2023 edition of Vogue Living Arabia