Why Ski Fanatics Race to the Glitzy French Region of Courchevel

By Jonathan Soroff | September 26, 2019 | Lifestyle

From Moscow to Miami, London to L.A., the global elite have come to use the term “Courchevel” as a synonym for ski-luxe. The name itself is often used by foreigners to refer to the entire Three Valleys area of the French Alps, seven interconnected ski resorts (Courchevel, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle) in the region of Savoie. It’s most easily reached from the U.S. by flying into Geneva and driving two hours into the Alps. Not only is it the world’s largest ski area, boasting an impressive 370 miles of runs (by way of illustration: it’s five times the size of Manhattan), but each of its towns has a distinct personality, and in addition to killer skiing, all offer some of the finest hotels, restaurants, shopping and nightlife, with a uniquely French flair.

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In Courchevel 1850 (the town’s highest and glitziest section), there are numerous fivestar accommodations, including the Cheval Blanc (chevalblanc.com), Hotel Annapurna (annapurna-courchevel.com) and Le Strato (hotelstrato.com). But arguably the most convenient is Hôtel Le Lana (lelana.com), a French confection of a luxury inn located near the village center, where your ski butler will have your boots warmed up and your equipment waiting on the slopes. For those who prefer the sport of shopping, boutiques like Graff jewelers, Valentino, Prada and Dior, as well as excellent art galleries, are literally around the corner. For gourmands, the superb dining options include Le 1850 Be Organic (hotel-la-sivoliere.com), helmed by acclaimed chef Bilal Amrani. However, an absolute must is a trip to Le Farçon (lefarcon. fr), a one-Michelin-star standout in the nearby enclave of La Tania, where the inventive cuisine will impress even the most jaded palate.

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Close to Les Menuires (and within easy skiing distance) is the more low-key Savoyard town of St. Martin de Belleville, the setting of the Marquis de Sade’s infamous 120 Days of Sodom and (more congenially) home to the Relais & Châteaux property Hôtel-Spa La Bouitte (la-bouitte.com), a tastefully sumptuous take on a traditional French farmhouse. Its three-Michelin-star restaurant is aptly named afer father-and-son duo René and Maxime Meilleur (in English, “meilleur” means best), and it attracts discerning diners from around the world, while their more casual spinoff, Simple & Meilleur Bistrot de Montagne, offers delicious on-piste dining. La Bouitte’s spa, La Bela Vya, meanwhile, is an ideal place from which to watch the setting sun stain the surrounding mountains pink.

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Roughly an hour away, Val Thorens is the highestaltitude ski area in Europe, known for its superb snow well into late spring. While its reputation as a party town (catering especially to a U.K. clientele) is welldeserved, high-design oases like the Hôtel Pashmina (hotelpashmina.com), with its L’Occitane spa, and Fahrenheit Seven (fahrenheitseven.com), with its midcentury ski-chalet vibe, are both welcome escapes from the après-ski scene. Be sure to stop for lunch at Chalet de la Marine (chaletmarine.com), the resort’s buzziest spot.

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Ultimately, regardless of where you choose to ski in France’s majestic winter playground, one thing is certain: In Savoie, savoir faire is everywhere.



Tags: skiing travel

Photography by: SNOW SHOPPING PHOTOS BY DAVID ANDRÉ; LE LANA PHOTO BY PATRICK PACHOD