By Srinivas Krishnan
There are ski resorts and there is Courchevel. It’s where the jet-set from around the world hang out when they want the unique adrenaline rush of skiing. Stunningly beautiful and blessed with the finest of ski pistes on the planet today, Courchevel is a luxury destination that’s a cut above the rest. Literally, at 1,850 metres above mean sea level. Located in the French Alps, with the iconic Mont Blanc looming majestically, here’s where the A-listers of the world land up during winter, after working on their suntans at the posh Saint Tropez on the French Riviera during summer! It has one of the highest densities of Michelin-starred restaurants in France, after Paris and the Riviera. Amazingly, for a destination like this, Courchevel did not even exist as a winter resort till as late as the 1940s…
Courchevel was a simple area with small villages populated by sheep farmers. In 1942, the French Tourism department decided to develop it as a ski destination, taking advantage of its high altitude, magnificent landscape and the quality of the snow. Eventually, with access to a small airport, and luxurious hotels and chalets, it metamorphosed into a winter destination for the rich and famous from Paris.
What made it unique as a ski resort was the way it was developed: giving access to the skiers to ski runs directly from the accommodation, a concept called ski-in/ski-out. Of course, there had to be more than just skiing to keep the visitors happy, and that was a convergence point for the ski runs where visitors could relax, hang out, enjoy, meet others and have a ball. It also helped that the ski runs were professionally and immaculately groomed so that everyone – from beginners to experts – could enjoy skiing, in safety. The sophisticated ski lift system which links all areas has been engineered in such a way that there are hardly any queues to get on them.Courchevel accounts for one-third of the Three Valleys, the world’s biggest ski area. It has a wide choice of pistes (which is the formal word for a ski run formed by compacted snow) for skiers of different skills, as much as 600 kilometres. But the geography of this place is unique. Courchevel is essentially five main villages that are linked by lifts and free shuttles: La Tania (built for the 1992 Winter Olympics), Courchevel Le Praz at 1,350m altitude has a rustic Alpine village charm, Courchevel Village at 1,550m offers affordable accommodation, Courchevel Moriond at 1,650m offers a lively après-ski environment (post-ski entertainment and social activities, essentially, partying!) and finally, Courchevel itself, at 1,850m.
Courchevel 1850 is the most affluent part of this area, where most of the palace and luxury hotels and chalets are located. And here’s where you would spot celebrities like pop stars, royalty, sports people and of course, film stars… and yourself!
Ski for yourself
The Wanderers have put together a Courchevel plan that will have you hobnobbing with the jet-set, skiing under the care of expert instructors and living it up in one of the newest hotels in this place. You land at the Geneva airport from where you are whisked in great comfort in a luxurious Mercedes-Benz to Courchevel – a journey that takes you inside of three hours, going through the beautiful Alpine landscape. The stay is in one of the newest properties here, the Barrière Les Neiges boutique hotel. It may be new, but it was originally the first luxury hotel in Courchevel – now revamped inside out. The location is also terrific – right on the Bellecôte slope, where you can slide down to the ski lifts from the ski room or from the warm outdoor terrace.
Even if you don’t know how to ski, you can take the optional ski lessons privately or in a group, and you are good to go. Courchevel is blessed with great ski pistes that will ensure you will have enjoyable hours of skiing and relishing the experience of the landscape blurring on both sides as you slide down, surprising yourself with your pace. You will completely be immersed in the unique adrenaline rush of skiing and wonder how time literally flies downhill! There are other activities too, like going on a relaxing dog-sledge ride, shopping, eating out at Michelin star restaurants or people-spotting at the swanky bars. You can also visit the Savoie region of France which has a pristine mountain lake awaiting you. This region has some of the most spectacular views of the Alps, and is famous for its different type of cheese: Beaufort, Tomme, Reblochon and Raclette. You also have the option of taking a flight over the Alps to get a bird’s eye view of this magnificent landscape.And then, of course, there is the hotel. You can rejuvenate yourself at the Spa Diane Barrière – a vast, well-appointed place offering Biologique Recherche facials, St Barth body treatments and a massive swimming pool. The philosophy behind this boutique hotel is that it is a mountain retreat with all modern amenities and luxury appointments.
After hours and hours of skiing in the world’s finest ski area, you deserve it, don’t you?