Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Courchevel

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Courchevel

Article excerpt

The last time I stayed in Courchevel it was in a tatty roadside chalet a long way down the mountain. One detail sticks: pickled cockles piled high on a platter at the closing banquet, à la Fanny Cradock. That was more than a decade ago.

This time, we were staying at 1,850 metres, which is another world. The resort, always chichi up top, has undergone a kind of wholesale rebranding in recent years and now the high end of Courchevel is ridiculously high-end. There's Prada and Chanel and Gucci and Cartier. Three of France's 16 'palais'-designated hotels are here. There are 12 Michelin stars (more per square metre than anywhere else in the world), dished out among seven restaurants, including two for Pierre Gagnaire at Les Airelles. And the seafood is not vinegary cockles. It is driven from sea to mountain daily so that if you are a Holly-wood star on a no-carb diet, you can pick at top-notch sashimi up here in the clouds, at the newly opened Koori restaurant at L'Apogée hotel.

Courchevel was the first purpose-built resort in France, and the first designed to be ski-in-ski-out. Until 1945, there was only pasture and a barn in the village centre at 1,850 metres, where three bubble lifts now converge. The Hôtel des Trois Vallées was put up, and a single ski shop next door, and thus began the transformation of the mountainside and the fortunes of its property owners. A treacherous altiport was built in the 1960s for use by private jets, and the Winter Olympics in 1992 confirmed Courchevel as one of the world's top ski resorts. …

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