On and off piste in this exclusive resort village.
The French and Swiss Alps have some of the most dramatic mountain scenery and famous ski resorts in the world, but often for the serious winter sports lover, whether novice or expert, the most popular destinations can be a little too beau monde; where style and fashion appear more important than the challenge of the piste itself.
The appeal of après-ski is long established, made popular through the last century by a list of Hollywood’s finest and many of the leading socialites of the day. For those who want this experience then look at Klosters – a long-time favourite of the British monarchy, or head to St Moritz of Olympic downhill and Cresta Run fame and home to some stunning scenery, slopes, shops and a host of fabulous bars and restaurants.
But for the full-on glamour experience that also features great skiing, then Courchevel 1850 is the alpine jewel and the winter home of international glitz, caviar and excess. Courchevel is the most eastern resort of the famous Les Trois Vallées, the biggest interconnected connected ski area in the world and benefits from an excellent and extensive lift network, which even at the busiest of times is virtually queue free.
Courchevel is not one resort but a collection of four distinctly separate villages historically named after their altitude but now known collectively as Courchevel and linked by an efficient and frequent free bus service. Frequently referred to as the St. Tropez of winter sports, Courchevel 1850 is the highest and most famous of the four and is the place to ski and be seen.
Courchevel may be the winter resort of choice for the global rich and famous, but it’s also an excellent choice for beginners and families too. Of the slopes, 56% are green or blue runs and the support network is exceptional. For families there’s an ice rink, tobogganing, sleigh rides, family restaurants and a whole lot more.
With the dramatic snow-covered mountainous terrain as a backdrop, the accommodation in the resort ranges from simple apartments offering bed-and-breakfast to truly majestic and fully staffed residences. With over 150km of well-groomed local slopes and 600km within easy reach throughout the valley, Courchevel also features a plethora of dazzling nightclubs, swanky bars, Michelin-starred restaurants and ultra-luxury chalets and hotels.
A two-hour drive from Geneva airport, highlights in the packed events calendar include the Ladies Alpine World Cup giant slalom in December, the International Fireworks Festival in February and March and the Three Vallées Enduro in mid-April.
Courchevel has a remarkable number of five-star rated hotels as well as three of France’s 16 six-star properties: the Hôtel Le Cheval Blanc; Hôtel Les Airelles; and the Hôtel Le K2. The six-star award, known as the Palace, is awarded to only the most prestigious, exclusive and luxurious hotels in France.
The guest rooms of the K2 Palace, one of our favourite properties within Courchevel 1850, are spacious and stylishly decorated providing a contemporary slant on traditional Alpine and Tibetan designs. There are four different styles of rooms: the classic, deluxe, prestige and family prestige rooms, sitting alongside a range of stunning suites.
The luxury hotels of Courchevel are complemented by hundreds of private, staffed and exclusive chalets, many with direct access onto the fabulous local piste as well as simply amazing facilities. For larger groups this may well be the perfect way to indulge in the very best of the French Alps.
Dining in Courchevel can be a spectacular experience, both in terms of location and the sublime choice of food. From acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurants to stylish open-air tapas bars that make the most of the spectacular scenery and remarkable atmosphere, there is something to suit everyone.
Pierre Gagnaire pour Les Airelles
The first restaurant in Courchevel 1850 to be awarded two Michelin stars is found within Hotel Les Airelles. A venue more in keeping with an Austrian Palace than a hotel in the Alps, its design is straight out of the Hansel and Gretel story and honours the Empress Sissi of Bavaria, known for her extravagance. Definitely one for those who enjoy the finer things in life, there’s set or à la carte menus featuring beautifully platted dishes like veal filet ravioli with gorgonzola and ginger and violet artichoke with burrata.
Le Kintessence at Hotel Le K2
Hotel Le K2 is arguably the most exclusive luxury five-star hotel in Courchevel and it boasts two acclaimed and extremely popular gourmet restaurants, including the two Michelin-starred Le Kintessence where guests indulge themselves in the restaurant’s famous Asian-infused gastronomic menu complemented by a very impressive wine and spirits list. Whilst Sébastien Vauxion will tempt with his audacious contemporary desserts, Jean-Rémi Caillon presents elegant, inspired dishes using the finest seasonal produce.
Away from the glitz.
For skiers in search of a little more Alpine authenticity head to the quieter yet no more alluring Swiss villages of Zinal and Grimentz. These two secluded farming villages are found in an often snow-choked valley, where the larch-wood chalets date back to the 12th century and offer a splendid blend of quality accommodation, great food and excellent skiing.
The terrain available at Zinal and Grimentz ranges from family-friendly slopes to some of the best off-piste skiing in the Alps. With a new cable car offering unrivalled access to the miles and miles of pristine slopes, it is quality skiing with a little less focus on the après-ski. For stronger skiers there’s the under-the-radar resort of Andermatt with its waist-deep snow and laid-back vibe.