WITH ITS 1,300 SKIABLE ACRES, AND FIRST CLASS ACCOMMODATION, EACH YEAR THE EUROPEAN JET SET AND SKI ENTHUSIASTS MEET IN COURCHEVEL. BUT IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE VACATION THERE, PLAN YOUR TRIP EARLY, BECAUSE WHEN DECEMBER ARRIVES, ALL THE LOG CABINS ARE COVERED WITH SNOW AND THE PICTURESQUE VILLAGES THAT MAKE UP COURCHEVEL RESEMBLE THE SCENES OF A YULETIDE FILM, PROVIDING A RELAXING VACATION FIT FOR A MOVIE STAR.
By Alejandro Gasquet
This resort in Les Trois Vallées, the largest ski area in the world, is a sensational place for snow sports. Also, the aprés-ski (after-ski) is more than remarkable with more than fifteen five-star hotels, at least seven restaurants with one or two Michelin stars, nightclubs imported from Saint Tropez, and a gallery of services hard to find in other ski resorts. Arrival to Courchevel is by plane to its curious altiport, an airport mountain at an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,561 feet) which has served as a model for other airstrips built later in the Alps and other mountain ranges. The main feature of this airport is a track that is just 525 meters (574 yards) long and has a gradient above 20%, allowing pilots to take advantage of its steep slope for landing and taking off.
Courchevel, built in the mid-forties, was the first purposely-built ski resort, not based on a previously existing town. It was constructed using not only the most appropriate setting in the Alps, but placing its buildings on either side of its main slopes, providing much of the hotels and residences with direct access to the snow. So even though initially the project was aimed at the masses, the rich and famous soon discovered the advantages of Courchevel, making it their favorite resort in France.
It is no wonder there are over so many luxury hotels including two “palace” hotels, the highest category in the French hotel classification, in addition to some of the world’s most luxurious chalets, all ski-to-door. This appeal has led to the arrival of great chefs. Today, you can choose not only from the aforementioned Michelin star restaurants, but also from dozens of excellent bistros and brasseries distributed along the mountain range in the different villages that make up Courchevel. Between 1850 and 2000 meters altitude, there are many of these global symbols of luxury, but also some surprises, such as the three-star hotel La Loze, where you can feast gargantuanly for less than 10 Euros.
Anyone looking for unique activities in Courchevel will certainly find them. The BMW Polo Masters to be held in late January at the altiport is a unique opportunity to participate in something truly different. The possibility of paragliding with skis, or to dance to famous DJs flown in from around the world to the snow-covered clubs where it is possible to rub elbows with celebrities, and a red trail of over 2 km (1.2 miles) with an average gradient of 15% open until 7:30 pm on a circuit of 23 km (14.2 miles) exclusively for snowmobile practice, complete an incomparable winter vacation offer that has it all.
Courchevel further distinguishes itself by its receptiveness when it comes to families. The resort accepts skiers starting from 18 months of age, making an impressive range of activities available to them. Furthermore, the infrastructure that Courchevel provides for the disabled is an example for other resorts to follow, allowing everyone, without exception, to feel like an athlete.
While it is true that for certain activities or specific tastes there are ski resorts that can surpass Courchevel, it is difficult to find another place with its characteristics and features. And it’s not only about infrastructure, but about the glamour you breathe, which is difficult to find in other resorts. It is no coincidence that it has been a Winter Olympics resort, and it is still chosen as a test scenario of the highest level, such as for the Women’s Ski World Championship.
Spending a few days in Courchevel means to discover a giant and extended balcony to admire a magnificent 360° view over valleys, mountains, and the famous five villages, with each of them offering spectacular sights and top quality service.
FIVE VILLAGES, FIVE FACES WITH THE SAME PROMISE
In Saint-Bon (Courchevel 1100) and Praz (Courchevel 1300), you will feel like in a movie, where the traditional atmosphere in the streets of these mountain villages will absorb you in their peasant spirit, but still with that urban edge that the presence of tourism brings.
In Courchevel 1550, you can choose between the area of the beautiful chalets or the more residential downtown, with guaranteed fast access to the top of the ski area or to the most beautiful ski descents through the woods.
In Courchevel 1650, called Courchevel Moriond, you can enjoy fantastic relaxation. With its youthful and family environment, you will be seduced by the variety of its services.
In Courchevel 1850, you find the most glamorous heart of the resort, the most urban part of the village, where the most luxurious brands in the world accompany the most fanatical shoppers.
From the easy green ones to the bolder black ones, Courchevel’s 311 trails spread over the three valleys ensuring all ski levels and demands. 10,000 hectares of off-piste (off-trail) skiing and thematic areas for recreational skiing complete an irresistible menu for family pleasure that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime.