Known as the world’s largest ski zone, Courchevel experiences winters abuzz with adventure junkies. We tell you how to hit the slopes in style. By Malavika Bhattacharya
For a four-month spell in winter, the ski-resort town of Courchevel in the French Alps booms with activity. Chic hotels usher in glamorous guests from around the globe, dexterous skiers dot the slopes, and restaurants are abuzz with travellers. Time and again I have heard that for the remaining eight months of the year, hotels are shuttered, and the town is a mere shadow of its winter avatar. But I cannot imagine Courchevel without its lively vibe, or the thick blanket of white it so gracefully wears.
View this post on Instagram
Part of Les 3 Vallées—the world’s largest ski area with 600 kilometres of ski runs connected by ski lifts— Courchevel is a collection of villages, each named after its altitude. I’m staying at the gorgeous chalet-style Hotel Barrière Les Neiges at Courchevel 1850, where guests can ski in and out of the resort. As a Leading Hotels of the World property, Les Neiges spares no luxury. Sumptuous rooms are hard to leave, all pale wood, shaggy throws, and snow-peak views. But leave you must, as the hotel’s most unique feature is the expansive Maison Orcel ski shop with gear for even the most fashion-conscious skier.
Much of the next two days are spent outdoors, indulging in the simple pleasures of this magical landscape: sub-zero alpine air, crunchy-fresh powder snow underfoot, dazzling blue skies punctuated with snowy peaks, and a wealth of active pursuits. After a three-hour ski lesson with my instructor Yannick in a beginner’s area, I manage to successfully whizz down a surreal, tree-lined piste.
At Courchevel 1650—a bustling village with bars and cafés—I ride a gondola up the mountains and hurtle down a three-kilometre-long, heart-stopping, arm-numbing, luge run.The rooms at Hotel Barrière Les Neiges exude a warm, homely feeling.
For dinner, we head to the rustic La Petit Bergerie in Courchevel 1300. Bathed in candlelight and draped in fur throws, the cosy wooded restaurant’s pièce de résistance is a glorious wine-infused Beaufort and Abondance cheese fondue.
The vibe is convivial—everyone seems to know each other, but I suppose that’s expected in a town this size. We, too, spot a friendly face, our ski instructor Yannick, at the bar. Our indulgent meal is par for the course in the French Alps, the perfect end to exhausting but unforgettable days on the slopes. On our last night, we dine at Fouquet’s, Les Neiges’s outpost of the popular Parisian brasserie. We eat Provolone cheese with truffles and a spread of cured meats as a French duo livens up proceedings with renditions of classics by Prince, Madonna, and other legends. It’s a lovely way to wind down after a day in the outdoors, especially when the meal ends with a taste of Génépi des Alpes.
View this post on Instagram
The age-old practice of making the traditional digestif is an exact science. 40 herbs, 40 grams of sugar added to 40 per cent alcohol, and 40 days of rest. The herbs and flowers for the drink are painstakingly collected from mountaintops in summer, something that grandmothers in these parts still do today. As visitors who experienced Courchevel’s wintertime charms, it’s lovely to taste a little bit of the region’s summer in a glass.