Destination: France: Courchevel
Imagine a ski network with views of Mont Blanc whose acreage is bigger than Vail, Aspen and Telluride combined. Think of a mountain village with four-star hotels that rival those in Cannes— currently sixteen in all and one an Amanresort, at that. Then add slope-side restaurants where oysters, lobsters and sea bass are brought in daily from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; whose wine cellars compare with the best in Paris where the tarts are made with raspberries picked on the mountains you just skied on; and where the crowd includes ladies who peel off their Chanel parkas to sunbathe on chaise longues after lunch. This is Courchevel, a place where the skiing is as superb as the pampering.
It’s not a place for those seeking something quaint (try Zermatt), charming (try Zürs or Lech), ritzy (try St. Moritz or Gstaad), extreme (try Jackson Hole), social (try Aspen), convenient (try Deer Valley) or not so convenient and so a bit rarefied (try Sun Valley). But if you love to enjoy life’s luxuries as much as you love to ski, there is no better place to mix the two.
I’ll never forget sitting outside on one of the vast mountain terraces on my first day in Courchevel, sipping an ’85 Bordeaux with the sun on my face and listening to the chatter of the British, Russians, French and Argentines lingering over their lunch. The next day, though, was even better: I followed my private instructor (who had already become a friend) down an endless and empty run past shepherds’ huts to arrive in a village where the bell of the Baroque stone church still chimes at noon, as it has for centuries, and the crowd of chic skiers couldn’t have been farther away. We ended up at a Savoyard farmhouse restaurant nestled in a tiny village. There chef René Meilleur makes everything, from the four kinds of bread to the after-dessert mignardise, all of which are worthy of his last name, which means “best.” At the end of the day, soaking in the Jacuzzi-warm indoor hotel pool before a massage, I realized that even if snow and sports aren’t the first things that spring to mind when I think of the French, they, like most things, are improved by French savoir faire.
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