Kate Green, who has been skiing in Courchevel for 30 years, explains why the French resort still cuts it.
Courchevel has 150km of fantastic, brilliantly linked skiing, Europe’s highest altiport and more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other resort and is the smartest village in the vast Trois Vallées area, but that’s not why I love it.
It’s the combination of pretty tree-lined valleys and wilder, bleaker fringes, the openness of the valley, the ever-changing light on surrounding peaks, especially the evening orange-pink – at the turn of the Millenium, the sky over the twinkling pistes erupted as every surrounding tiny mountain village around let off fireworks.
Courchevel has changed in atmosphere since I worked here 30 years ago – it’s far more international, it no longer takes half a day to reach from Geneva and restaurants that impecunious chalet staff could once afford will set you back €20 for a bowl of onion soup, over €50 for a burger and €60 for the cheapest bottle of wine – but where it now excels is in its thoughtfulness.
Every night, piste bashers illuminate the mountainside, creating the best possible skiing conditions; areas that were once unpisted have been bashed into immaculate, sweeping runs and faster, efficient lifts have been created, linking the different areas and villages.
Signposting is immaculate and safety paramount – despite plenty of challenges for brilliant skiers, there’s always an easy way back home for the nervous or leg-weary.
Where to stay
Travel agency Scott Dunn have signed up the exclusive rights to rent out the new residences at the Six Senses resort, where I stayed this time – a smart move on their part, as they’re a bastion of exactly the sort of thoughtfulness that makes this such a special place. They’re set in the heart of Courchevel 1850 – the smartest of the four sub-villages that make up the resort, the others being Courchevel Le Praz, Courchevel 1550, and Courchevel 1650. You only had to float past the reception area for a friendly member of staff to pop out and offer a lift somewhere and the ski hut at the foot of slopes, where Chris or Amandine will help you escape your boots as you collapse on a furry seat and advise on snow conditions, could not come soon enough after an exhilarating but energy-sapping day skiing the entire Trois Vallées circuit.
The apartments are beautifully appointed – we loved the iPad music system on which we found a wonderful 70s channel (Supertramp on tap) – especially in the kitchen department. A thoughtful basket of provisions included Laurent Perrier Champagne, cheesy nibbles, and pasta and pesto sauce. A daily bread and croissant delivery made for a relaxed breakfast (there’s a supermarket underneath the building), but there’s also a comfortable Club Lounge for breakfast or evening drinks and light suppers.
Family-friendly activities include the Stargazers Club, an evening childcare service run by qualified nannies, and the glorious spa, with magnificent swimming pool, Kneipp footbath therapy and juice bar, offers balm to weary limbs and a cosy retreat from a white-out.
- A seven-night stay in ‘Scott Dunn at Six Senses Residences Courchevel‘ costs from £8,950 for a family of four including British Airways return flights from London and private transfers (+33 479 412 525; www.scottdunn.co.uk). A six-day Trois Vallees ski pass costs €300.
Food and Drink
For a real treat
Dinner at L’Apogee, a brand new 53-room five-start hotel with luxurious cigar room, great music and rooftop hot tubs, reached from the Jardin Alpin bubble and overlooking the mountain, is worth saving up for (and you’ll need to – this is where you’ll find those €30 bowls of soup and €86 veal chops).
Excellent service, delicious and beautifully presented food, including a Japanese restaurant, and a great wine list are matched by a delicious atmosphere of old-fashioned romance. See www.oetkercollection.com/destinations/lapogee-courchevel for more details.
For a secret hideaway
The Ferme Auberge de’Ariondaz, on the Ariondaz run in 1650, is a cave-like mountain hut cut into the side of the hill near the better known Bel Air restaurant. it’s owned by farmers who serve only their own produce – omelettes, salads, cheese and dried meats – and is particularly snug and desirable in a white-out.
It’s not yet marked on the piste map, but thanks to its huge charm and reasonable prices word is spreading – €33 for the set menu – you’ll probably have to book. See more details on the restaurant’s page at www.courchevel.com.
The best ski runs in Courchevel
- Black: Suisse is the easiest, very satisfying.
- Red: Marmotte, in good snow (it’s steep and smooth). Also try Park City, with its lovely swooping bowls, plus Chanrossa and Plantrey.
- Blue: Anemones, Creux and also the tree-lined run down into La Tania.
- Wildest: Chapelets is stunning and quiet, the nearest thing you’ll get to off-piste without actually going off-piste.
- Hardest: Jockeys, a black run where it’s hoped to host a future World Cup race.
- Best to avoid: Saulire, if you’re thinking of it as the last run of the day – it gets horribly crowded.
And finally, a tip for nervous fliers
If you’re thinking of taking a connecting flight direct to the aforementioned altiport, it’s probably best to take a look at this video to make sure you’re happy.
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