The village of Courchevel 1850 high up in the French Alpes is a picture postcard of the likes seen on Christmas cards. A festive charm engulfs the small mountain enclave with its narrow winding streets piled high with freshly fallen snow, fir trees strung with twinkling fairy lights and the vast peaks of the Alpes towering above, with Mont Blanc (the highest peak in Europe) front and centre on the horizon.
Named after the elevation at which it sits, Courchevel 1850 forms part of the world’s largest ski resort, encompassing three valleys, 600km of ski runs and over 160 ski lifts. A haven for winter sports enthusiasts and luxury jet setters. The focus of the this quaint mountain retreat is the Grandes Alpes, a property which over the years has taken on many roles, beginning as a post office, before transitioning into a bank, ski school and finally opening as the very first hotel in Courchevel back in 1948. Coincidentally, the same year as the resorts first ever ski lift.
Located in the very heart of upmarket Courchevel 1850, the Grand Alpes is an upscale mountain retreat benefitting from a prime position on the piste and making for one of the only ski in/ski out hotels in town. Sitting alongside the likes of luxury retails brands such as Bulgari, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, the stone facade of the building makes for the stereotypical representation of a luxury alpine retreat, complete with wooden balconies and rooftops heaving under the weight of freshly fallen snow. As if stuck in a state of eternal Christmas, Les Grand Alpes is the perfect marriage of chalet and luxury hotel that leans heavily into the high end market. A place where a whimsical winter wonderland awaits guests from the moment they arrive at the property, where a festive staircase aligned with foliage and and wicker creations leads the way inside…
The property which was remodeled in 2012 comprises of 9 apartments and a total of thirty bedrooms and suites. The unique layout of Les Grandes Alpes allows for complete customization when it comes to room configuration, with our four bedroom Emerald Suite occupying the entire fourth floor and clocking in at an impressive 300m2. Offering remarkable views over the tree-lined slopes and numerous ski lifts, South facing dining and living rooms represent the ultimate in comfort and feature a circular glass fireplace representing the heart of this particular penthouse. Curled up on the sofas with a mug of hot chocolate and fur lined blankets while watching the falling snow makes for a truly memorable evening and one of the (many) highlights of a stay at Les Grand Alpes.
These spacious suites have more to offer than just the view. A professional kitchen, where private chefs can create culinary marvels is just the tip of the iceberg. Similarly, the children’s play room is not necessarily what you might expect, but offers the perfect solution/excuse for adults to venture into the suites very own miniature spa, complete with massage and steam rooms that complement the luxury values of a property where it would appear nothing is too much trouble!
Les Grand Alpes offers an undeniably luxury experience wrapped up in a contemporary and quirky charm thanks to French interior designer Jean-Marc Mouchet. Arctic and Antarctic animals are utilized in both artworks and decorative touches throughout the property – from bold polar bear prints to the colourful plastic penguins that line the lobby.
As expected from this particular boutique property, the facilities and service are premium, taking the notion of five-star luxury and raising the bar that bit further. Each suite comes with a personal butler (ask for Gael), who is on hand to ensure a personalised guest experience at all times. Resulting in an experience in which no request is too much trouble and builds upon Les Grand Alpes ethos of creating a home away from home.
The bedrooms are particularly impressive. Extensive wooden cladding helps to create a feeling of alpine adventure, while insanely comfortable beds are laden with pillows and fur blankets and feature sky lights cleverly positioned above. Providing guests the opportunity to marvel at a star-filled sky through a funnel of snow as they drift off to sleep. Luxury touches are noted and appreciated from the fur-lined slippers and bath robes through to the heated toilet seats and Hermes toiletries.
When it comes to recreation, guests have the opportunity to ski or spa. Zooming down the mountainside certainly offers a thrill and even beginners are catered for via the in-house team of friendly and encouraging ski instructors. Getting kitted up while sat upon Hermes leather upholstery and slotting our feet into pre-heated ski boots has got to be the ultimate way to start an alpine adventure and we fear that there is no going back now we’ve experienced just how opulent a ski experience can be.
By comparison the Bellefontaine Spa offers a more subdued experience via a variety of bespoke treatments undertaken by expert therapists which utilise ingredients from the Alps including glacial water. An indoor heated swimming pool takes on the appearance of a luxury boat house offering views of the ski lifts and snow-capped peaks from the comfort of regal chaise longues, while solace from the cold can be found in the sauna and steam bath.
Catering to the elite clientele drawn to the slopes of Couchevel 1850, Les Grandes Alpes dining destinations are expectedly high-end. For the après-ski experience many guests will flock to Bellini’s. A lounge bar situated adjacent to the hotels reception area. As the namesake suggests, the peach Bellini reigns supreme at this late night establishment and comes served in ornate crystal glassware using freshly imported peaches representative of French decadence at its finest. There’s also Le Bizan a small sushi restaurant situated at the rear of the bar, with minimal seating. A sushi spot is perhaps the last thing diners might expect high in the Alpes but the new style cuisine which fuses together both Japanese and Mediterranean elements, astounds in both flavour and presentation, headed up by the Executive Chef of Zuma in Rome.
Though the resort is a 2.5 hour drive from Geneva along precarious mountain roads hugging close to the limestone mountainside, the demand for luxury prevails. With this specific clientele in mind and a ‘money is no object’ attitude, private helicopter charters can transport guests over the Alpes to Switzerland and Lake Geneva in less than half an hour.
Winter sports enthusiast flocks to Courchevel for the skiing, mountains and breathtaking natural beauty. With the crisp mountain air providing a brisk revitalization, it’s the cold that is most noticeable and at minus 18 degrees it feels as though your heart is being grasped by jack frost, or perhaps it’s just the magnificent views that leave us in a state of perpetual awe. But the beauty is that you don’t have to ski or snowboard, for the wealth of activities available in this compact mountain village is quite remarkable. From spa days to dog sledging and even the high-speed toboggan run which hurtles the brave down a 3km trail through alpine forests and snow drifts.
This small enclave high in the French Alpes is home to a staggering 17 five-star hotels and 8 Michelin-starred restaurants and with champagne-lunching, Fendi shopping and high-end dining all indicative of the Courchevel 1850 experience we feel particularly privy to experience how the elite live. Where else in the world are you going to take a snow cart to the top of a mountain peak to feast on burrata and gluttonous fondu? Yet as the original hotel in the area, Grand Alpes with its hybrid combination of hotel and chalet remains the prime choice thanks to its central location, luxurious surrounds and ease of access to the slopes.
The Verdict: Les Grandes Alpes
A luxury alpine retreat in the heart of upmarket Courchevel 1850. A haven for winter-sports enthusiasts and those in search of luxury hospitality. Les Grandes Alpes provides winter luxury but at a price. As the old saying goes “you get what you pay for.”