Zermatt, St Anton, St Moritz… The Alpine ski resorts of Switzerland and Austria have their charms, but the serious skiers (and apres skiers) head across the French border to Courchevel. The six scenic villages which make up the resort nestle in the upper part of the Tarentaise Valley and open out onto the slopes of the Three Valleys, the largest connected ski area in the world.
This mountainous paradise is glorious throughout the year, but at its liveliest in the winter months when the snow falls thick on the slopes. By day, you can ski or snowboard more than 150 km of runs, but by mid afternoon it’s time to put your boots aside and make the most of Courchevel’s bars, restaurants, and other such relaxim pursuits.
Stay at Hotel La Sivoliere
Hotel La Sivoliere is the most stylish hotel in Courchevel 1850, the highest village in the resort. It’s in a quiet location a short distance away from the gondola station, but with direct access onto the slopes so you can ski down to a chair lift rather than walk.
There’s a strong Scandi feel to the hotel’s design, with plenty of exposed wood and stone, a largely monochrome colour scheme in the furnishings, and large windows letting in the bright Alpine sunshine. The starkness is softened with some sumptuous velvets, however, plus gilded mirrors and some striking works of art and sculpture.
After a day on the slopes, nothing beats some R&R, and Hotel La Sivoliere offers a wide range of treatments and massages in the NURISS Spa. A massage here is quite a ritual: take your inspiration from the shiatsu, meridian, and Swedish massage traditions, lie back, and let the therapist work her magic in the spa’s wonderfully tranquil environment.
Rue de Chenus, Courchevel 1850, France
Ski in, ski out
In Courchevel 1850, location is everything. Hotel La Sivoliere sits right alongside the piste, so your ski day can begin the moment you step out of the door.
Courchevel 1850 is the best connected of Courchevel’s villages; the Verdons gondola and the connecting Saulire cable car will carry you straight up to Saulire (2,740m), which gives you access not only to the entirety of Courchevel but also to Meribel and, by extension, Val Thorens. Beginner and intermediate skiers can zig zag gently across the mountainside on the blue and green slopes, but for those wanting more of a challenge, there are plenty of red and black routes to push yourself on, including some with fiendishly difficult moguls.
Along the way, it is well worth stopping to admire some of the sculptures positioned strategically around Courchevel. For the past 10 years, Art at the Summit has brought dramatic works by big name artists to the slopes. With sweeping mountain views behind them, they look even more spectacular.
Stay at Le C Residence
For a family ski trip, nothing beats taking an apartment so you can all stay together but still stretch out and have your own personal space. Le C Residence is in Courchevel 1650 (AKA Courchevel Moriond), positioned beside the giant escalator which takes you up to the ski lifts and the sledding track, and down to the Aquamotion centre.
Each apartment is centred on a large, open plan kitchen, dining room, and lounge with French windows opening out onto a balcony. It’s a big enough space to host quite a party, and the Sonos sound system packs quite a punch. All the guest rooms have private bathrooms (so there’ll be no fight for the shower in the morning), and there’s a combination of comfortable king size beds and bunks. The latter have been built with kids in mind, but are easily big enough for an adult.
Breakfast including freshly squeezed juice and the morning’s still-warm bread and pastries is delivered on a tray, so you can start the day slowly and eat whilst still in your pajamas. Le C Residence’s in-house ski butler will have your boots and skis ready and waiting at the front door, so that hassle is taken care of.
Though the apartment’s kitchen is more than adequate for cooking dinner, it’s well worth treating yourself to at least one meal at Bistrot Le C, which is on the ground floor of Le C Residence and open to both guests and walk-in diners. Often, there’s live music to entertain you, and the dishes such as tuna tataki, royale-style hare, and cod poached with seaweed butter served in an artichoke bowl are sublime.
122 Rue Notre Dame des Neiges, Courchevel 1650, France
In Courchevel, the apres ski is just as important as the time you spend out on the slopes. The bars beside the lifts tend to be buzzing from around 3pm, and stay lively at least until the light fades.
The best spot for a beer in Courchevel 1650 is Fahrenheit 7, immediately below the end of the Moriond sled track. Tables and deck chairs outside look out onto the piste, so you can easily see friends coming down, but if the weather is a little on the chilly side, there are two funky bars inside.
For a longer evening of drinking and merriment, La Taiga in La Tania fits the bill. It’s a chalet style building on the mountainside, but has the feel of a well run pub. Happy Hour is daily from 5-7pm and all of the cocktails on the extensive cocktail menu are less than €10, making for a very happy Happy Hour indeed.
During a full week of skiing, there might well be one day when you’d rather not hit the slopes, and instead choose to relax a little. Aquamotion is a huge swimming, spa, and activity complex, and though it gets busy in the evenings, it’s fairly quiet earlier on.
The highlight of Aquamotion is the two outdoor pools, which are heated almost to the temperature of bath water. Jacuzzi jets pummel tired muscles from below whilst you float, looking up at the sky and across the a snow covered fir trees. The view’s a balm for the soul, especially if you stay on after dark and indulge in some stargazing, too.