Among the super-wealthy in Courchevel, Stylist contributor Georgie Lane-Godfrey eats like a queen and skis like a granny
Ask any skier to describe Courchevel, the glitzy ski resort in the French Alps, and they’ll probably conjure up an image of A-list celebrities in cutting-edge skiwear, Moncler-clad ladies carrying lapdogs in their handbags and prices that will make your eyes water. And to be fair, they wouldn’t be wrong. But thankfully there are more affordable, less Dynasty-chic ways to enjoy skiing among the rich and famous.
During the two-hour transfer from Geneva airport, we travel in convoy with a swarm of black SUV ants, all of us heading up the same winding mountain roads to this swanky winter playground. Many are regulars, returning for their annual winter pilgrimage.
When we pull up outside White 1921, the hotel we’re staying at for the weekend, our first impression is one of luxurious chic – probably thanks to the fact it sits atop Dior and Louis Vuitton boutiques. The ultimate in convenience shopping, if you have the requisite budget.
While Courchevel has an abundance of luxury hotels (paying £1,000 per person per night isn’t unusual), White 1921 is one of the few more cost-effective options. But affordability doesn’t mean compromising on style. Designed by renowned architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, its white wooden exterior might seem more like a traditional chalet but inside the hotel is a sophisticated French take on sleek Scandinavian style – think clean and contemporary without any of the normal Nordic starkness. It has a stylish wellness centre featuring a Jacuzzi, sauna and hammam but with just 26 rooms (many have their own private terraces with epic views across the slopes), it feels more like your own private luxury cabin than a hotel.
It also has some of the most attentive staff I’ve ever encountered. Take the lift into the hotel’s basement and you’ll find a dedicated ski service, where you can hire your equipment and then forget about it, safe in the knowledge that it’ll be waiting for you in the lobby whenever you need it. Even better, accompanying your kit will be a dedicated staff member to help you get those boots on in the morning or pull them off again at night – something your tired, wobbly legs won’t fail to appreciate after a few days’ skiing.
While the slopes of Courchevel aren’t particularly challenging (think mainly blue and red pistes), they do form part of the world’s largest ski area, the Three Valleys, meaning there’s plenty to explore. Connecting Méribel (the heart of the area, with the best nightlife), Val Thorens (the more affordable resort; a Mecca for university ski trips) and glitzy Courchevel, Les Trois Vallées is a skier’s paradise thanks to its sheer size and world-class off-piste terrain.
The slopes of Courchevel are raked to perfection so they look like snowy corrugated iron and the usual icy runs are conspicuously absent. With perfect conditions, we sail down Courchevel 1850’s wonderfully wide slopes in the sunshine dodging the crowds. Well, at least I think we’re sailing down, until our private ski monitor announces: “Tu skies comme une mamie de soixante ans” – “You ski like a 60-year-old grandmother”. Granted, French ski instructors aren’t renowned for their charm (I still have nightmares about Xavier from my school ski trip), but Cédric’s gentle teasing is disarmingly charming, so my pride survives almost completely intact.
This grandma perks up though when we stop for lunch on the slopes at the romantic, rustic La Soucoupe. We grab a spot on the terrace and sit in the sunshine sipping rosé while watching the more accomplished skiers whiz down the Loze run, leaving a spray of powder in their wake. It’s oddly mesmerising. Only the perfectly pink wagyu beef burgers from the grill distract us from the on-piste entertainment.
La Soucoupe is just one of several amazing slope-side sittings we try – the other standout being Le Triptyque restaurant at the Cheval Blanc, White 1921’s famous sister hotel. Here we have a blissful lunch on the ski-in ski-out terrace. Dishes such as beef tartare, a trio of langoustines and roasted lamb shoulder drip with the world’s most prized ingredients and the speciality mille-feuille is an exercise in showmanship, letting you pick your choice of flavoured layers while it is assembled at your table.
After such culinary decadence, we make the sensible decision to ‘retire’ from the pistes. We can’t physically ski or walk any further, so we hop onto the hotel’s shuttle bus back to White 1921 to watch the sun go down over Courchevel. It’s a spellbinding sight. At night, the twinkling little town feels like it’s dropped straight out of the picture-perfect frames of Frozen and it’s the perfect fairytale ending to our visit.
Rooms at White 1921 Courchevel start from £295 per night including breakfast. To book, visit white1921.com/courchevel or call +33 (0)4 79 00 27 00