Mark Browne visits one of France’s most renowned resorts.
Courchevel is a name synonymous with luxury winter holidays, it is indisputably the world capital of skiing in 2023 as it plays host to the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships from February 6-19. However, this lofty title is not just founded on this latest accolade for the resort but rather is the well-earned motto of a globally renowned ski paradise.
“Courchevel is a name synonymous with luxury winter holidays”
The resort consists of six separate mountain villages ranging in altitude from 1300 meters for Courchevel-Le Praz to 1850 meters for the main resort village. Although well connected by both lifts and ski runs, each village retains its own ambience and the inherent dispersal of visitors among these separate centers ensures a more homely and local atmosphere throughout.
These five villages are not the full extent of the resort’s access by any means. Courchevel forms part of The Three Valleys – an immense ski area of over 600 km of connected ski pistes which stretches out to include the nearby well-known resorts of Meribel, Val Thorens and Les Menuires. Together this is the largest ski area in the world and all of it is accessible with a single lift ticket. It is made up of a combination of 180 green and blue level runs as well as 140 red and black pistes – ensuring a wide variety of accessible slopes for skiers of all levels. As the majority of this ski area is located above 1,800 meters and natural snow is supplemented as necessary by the largest artificial snow making system in France, the resort can stay open from early December until late April with the guarantee of snow. Furthermore, given the resort’s location in the heart of the Alps, this can be enjoyed while admiring the incredible panoramic views of the surrounding mountains as well as famous landmarks such as Mont-Blanc and the Vanoise glaciers.
Feel like a break from the slopes?
In addition to lessons, experienced local guides are available from the ESF Ski school to help explore the broad expanse of pistes and ensure new explorers are steered successfully back to base after an exhilarating day on the mountains. However, while winter sports are of course the original raison d’etre of the resort of Courchevel, it has expanded its scope to ensure that there are alternatives for those who want to take a break from the snow. Chief among these is the relatively new Aquamotion centre. An enormous waterpark and wellness centre, it offers waterslides, climbing walls and even indoor surfing to visitors along with all the facilities of a high-end spa, including a range of saunas, pools and treatments.
“There are alternatives for those who want to take a break from the snow”
For those wishing to keep to an outdoor theme, a hike to the nearby La Rosière lake may prove just the ticket. Nestled in a wooded valley, this scenic green haven is an idyllic spot for a picnic after the hike – or visitors can pop into the Chalet du Lac de La Rosière located right by the lakeside for their refreshment. Other alternative activities available include fat biking, tobogganing, horse riding or jaunting and even dog sledding.
Of course for those who wish to merely relax on holiday and engage in some retail therapy Courchevel boasts an enviable array of high-end clothes boutiques and jewelry shops that ensures it is all too easy to spoil oneself and one’s loved ones.
Eight Michelin-starred restaurants
After all this activity visitors will no doubt have generated quite an appetite and fortunately there are few better places in the world to indulge in culinary delights. Courchevel already boasts eight Michelin-starred restaurants which collectively hold an incredible 13 stars – and there are a number of other highly impressive restaurants knocking on the door to join this impressive list.
“There are few better places in the world to indulge in culinary delights”
Some of these upcoming stars to be enjoyed include Chef Damien Ducharlet’s La Cheminée at the Fahrenheit 7 Hotel, Alpage at the Hotel Annapurna (which this season is featuring the reknowned Chef Jean Rémi Caillon) or La Table de Madame by Chef Stéphane Jégo at the five-star slopeside La Sivolière hotel, which also offers a lively but elegant après-ski experience that is accessible to both guests and non-guests alike.
However, the choices go beyond haute cuisine. Restaurants such as the centrally located Le Sky Restaurant offer solid and tasty fare at more affordable prices. A great lunch spot, it’s just off piste so downtime can be kept to a minimum.
Where to stay
As with the culinary offering, Courchevel presents an almost embarrassing wealth of world-class hotel options, including 22 five-star hotels, five of which have even attained the ultimate “palace” designation. This is in addition to the many luxury chalets which may be rented for private groups.
The five-star Hotel Annapurna in Courchevel represents an ideal choice for a luxury stay. Located directly adjacent to the pistes to ensure ski-in-ski-out access, it is the highest hotel of Courchevel and its location at the summit of the Courchevel 1850 village ensures it offers commanding views, including from guests’ private balconies. A family-owned and managed property it maintains the intimacy of a boutique hotel despite its size (over 77 rooms and suites) and considerable on-site facilities, which include a spa and wellness centre, interior and exterior pools and hot tub and full fitness centre.
The hotel has undergone numerous upgrades, extensions and renovations since originally opening in the 1970’s to ensure the highest standards of elegance and comfort. It is characterized by an eye for unique and distinctive detail such as the tables made from giant Californian sequoia trees or the ski trophies of members of the founding family, who still operate the property along with their polished and highly professional team. Having seen families enjoy the hotel across several generations, it ensures all ages are catered to through well-staffed facilities such as its children’s playroom and teens’ games room. Its highly impressive suites, some of which are multi-story, can be the perfect option for those entertaining extended family across the generations at this level of luxury.
Mark Browne was a guest of Courchevel Tourist Office and the Annapurna Hotel.