Courchevel World Cup: The Only Six-Star Experience on the Slopes

17th December 2013 | Shauna Farnell

News Regions: France

Resorts in this article: Courchevel

Courchevel at night

Courchevel at night

Copyright: Patrick Pachod

Good snow tires are a great idea in order to reach the summit village of Courchevel, which is perched—Dr. Seuss style—atop a winding road up a series of tight switchbacks in the Savoie region of the French Alps. Rustic yet superbly classy, portions of the resort are situated on various levels up the mountain, giving it a magically floating feel.

Part of the largest collection of linked ski areas in the world—Le Trois Vallees—you could spend an entire week exploring Meribel and the seven other areas and not come close to skiing half of the runs. The village of Courchevel begins with Le Praz at 1,300 meters and continues up the road with additional sections of town—Courchevel Village at 1,550, Moriond at 1650 and the ultimate ski access Courchevel resort at 1,850.

International royalty and celebrities are among the regular affluent guests, but the ski area itself, while offering a myriad of well-groomed easy and intermediate runs, is famous for possessing some of the steepest and most challenging couloirs worldwide.

WHERE TO STAY

Nowhere else in the world other than France are you likely to find a six-star hotel rating, but in addition to being home to nearly a dozen five-star hotels, Courchevel boasts two of the country’s nine six-star “palaces,” both located with easy access to the slopes at the 1,850-meter summit.

As you might expect of six-star hotels, these palaces are equipped with a full-service beauty and hair salon, massage spas, indoor swimming pools and fitness areas, saunas, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis.

Les Airelles has a snow cave and showers with light and sound displays, children’s day care and private ice rink while Cheval Blanc has a private yurt. Both boast exquisitely decorated rooms, each equipped with oak antique furniture, thick, handmade quilts and each possesses two Michelin-rated restaurants, every dish featuring the finest locally made cheeses and Tarentaise Valley-grown ingredients.

In the Jardin Alpin summit of Courchevel, both palaces offer ski valet and on-slope services. In case you can’t spot it while taking in the panorama of luxury lodges (the most of any ski resort in the world) Cheval Blanc is unmistakable as its collection of unique artwork includes an enormous glass horse outside its property.

Courchevel Cheval Blanc

Copyright: Cheval Blanc

WHERE TO EAT

Tucked into an unassuming wooden lodge in the lower portion of Courchevel (Le Praz), the hands-down dinner favorite among international visitors is Azimut. The beautifully crafted dishes—seared scallops, tender duck, chocolate mousse topped with a flag of spun cotton candy—are nearly too beautiful to eat. But don’t hesitate. By all means, dig in.

WHERE TO APRÈS

Le Refuge is smack in the center of Courchevel 1850 (stumbling distance from the slopes) and is typically wall-to-wall with revelry from afternoon late into the night and like a surprising number of establishments scattered throughout the resort, prices are surprisingly reasonable. 

WHERE TO WATCH THE WORLD CUP

When the World Cup re-emerged at Courchevel in 2010 it was following a 31-year hiatus, as previously the resort only hosted a single men’s giant slalom in 1979, which was won by Sweden’s legendary Ingemar Stenmark. Now a regular stop on the ladies technical tour – this year the slalom landed today, Dec. 17.

As is its custom, Courchevel spared no expense for the spectacle—the Dec. 16 bib draw was comprised of an ice-skating show featuring former Olympic skaters and the race itself preceded with a display of acrobatic airplanes roaring overhead. Although access to the bib show is free, seats fill up extremely quickly and the finish area of the slalom race on the course Emile-Allais—also free to access—is filled by an enthusiastic throng of thousands.

Just follow the parade of drummers, magicians and costume-clad revelers as they parade through town and up the slope. Austrian slalom veteran Marlies Schild has staked a claim on the last two Courchevel tight-gate events.

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