There are plenty of super-smart resorts in the Alps. Megève, Gstaad, and St Moritz all have more than a little stardust from the royals and celebrities who ski there. But for sheer top-of-the-range glitz, one resort stands above all others. Step forward Courchevel, three hours from Geneva airport in the French Alps.
In the Eighties and Nineties, Courchevel was the resort of choice for wealthy Parisians, who swapped their elegant Haussmann apartments for winter-season chalets. Then the rich Russians arrived, popping champagne corks and helping prices to soar as mountain restaurants started selling fur coats and diamond bracelets alongside their lunchtime plats du jour.
WHAT’S THE FIVE-STAR APPEAL NOW?
Courchevel’s pull today is down to one thing — its sheer quality. It is one of eight resorts in the vast Trois Vallées, with 370 miles of perfectly prepared slopes, all linked by a wonderfully efficient lift system. In one day, skiers can descend electrifying Courchevel couloirs, cruise flattering reds and blues in Méribel and bounce around off-piste in Val Thorens.
Courchevel has four distinct villages. While the big money focuses on Courchevel 1850, there is also Courchevel 1300, known as Le Praz, Courchevel Village at 1550 and finally 1650, known as Moriond, where a magnificent £33 million indoor pool, spa and sports complex — Aquamotion — opened this season.
“Courchevel has more five-star-plus hotels and Michelin-star restaurants than anywhere else in the Alps,” says Savills local associate Jerôme Lagoutte. “There are two property markets: Courchevel 1850 and everything else. Prices are at least double in 1850.”
BRANDED NEW BUILDS
The only new builds in Courchevel 1850 since 2003 have been supersize chalets, many beside the prestigious Bellecôte piste, so the launch of Six Senses Residences Courchevel in the heart of 1850 — a short walk from the designer boutiques — is significant.
This is the first residential project in Europe by upmarket hotel and spa brand Six Senses. In total, there will be 53 one- to five-bedroom apartments and penthouses in five linked chalets, all managed by Six Senses, with an extensive in-house spa and pool.
Properties are spacious, especially by the frugal standards of French Alpine homes, with wide balconies and sleek yet cosy interiors by London-based designers Morpheus. All come with storage caves and underground garages, while a full-time concierge team will arrange rentals, transport guests and ski gear and generally make life stress-free for owners.
All 11 apartments in Phase 1 are built and sold, with five buyers from the UK. Prices for the 10 freehold apartments in Phase 2 start from £1.1 million for 755sq ft. Typical weekly rents will range from £6,000 to £11,000, says Lagoutte.
VALUE RESALE HOMES
Entry-level resale apartments in 1850 start from £150,000 for a tiny 215sq ft studio and £552,000 for 538sq ft of space in an older building. In Courchevel 1650, Savills is selling a three-bedroom apartment for £353,700 and a ski-in-and-out two-bedroom flat in 1550, with a large terrace, for £331,600. In the centre of 1650, the last few of 16 new three- and four-bedroom flats at Mammoth Lodge cost £692,000 through Athena Advisers.
WHERE TO PARTY IN 2016
THE OLD FAVOURITE
A huge sun terrace, a ridiculously extensive wine list and a choice location close to Courchevel’s dramatic altiport has made Le Cap Horn the place to party. The restaurant and bar specialises in sushi and seafood, despite being at 2,000 metres. Expect dancing on the tables and a heady atmosphere.
THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Michelin-star Londoner Angela Hartnett, chef-patron at Murano in Mayfair, has put her name to a restaurant at Portetta Hotel in Courchevel 1650, her first outside the UK. Cucina Angelina will serve Italian-influenced mountain food in a smart, comfortable setting.
FOR FAMILIES AND SPORTS
Aquamotion in Courchevel 1650 knocks other swimming pools out of the water. The extraordinarily designed, beautiful contemporary building has indoor and outdoor pools, giant water slides, a wave and surf zone, hammams, spa, climbing wall and even a restaurant by über-cool brand Nikki Beach. It marks an outstanding addition to Courchevel.