You’ll also receive insight into how we appraise different regions and resorts, matching them to our clients and providing an essential framework.
This month’s topic is a breakdown of four French ski resorts – Courchevel, Meribel, Val d’Isere and Megeve – why you would choose them and how they differ from one another.
Courchevel belongs to Les Trois Vallées in the French Alps – the world’s largest connected ski area offering exceptional high-altitude skiing and the promise of excellent snowfall throughout its long ski season.
Yet, perhaps the most important takeaway on Courchevel is that this is the resort for unequalled luxury infrastructure where absolutely everything is taken care of.
The Altiport enables you to access the resort by helicopter from Geneva or Chambery and be seated at Cap Horn for lunch within moments of arriving. It really is a stone’s throw from all the top hotels and restaurants so the whole arrival process couldn’t be simpler.
Many of the top chalets and hotels are ski in/ski out, bringing complete effortlessness to the ski experience.
And when we speak of “top” chalets, we really mean it. From ski rooms where boots are warmed for you each day, to sumptuous spas with oversized indoor pools, games rooms and cinemas, highly accomplished staff and a dedicated house manager available around the clock, everything has been thought of for the affluent traveller. It also has at least five top luxury hotel brands, including Aman Le Melezin, Cheval Blanc, Oetker and Airelles.
Think of Courchevel as the St Tropez of the Alps. Frequented by the jet set, a real party atmosphere, late lunches and après-ski on the slopes, this is where you go to be part of the crowd and soak up some winter joie de vivre.
If you like being driven in a Rolls Royce SUV, from the hotel to the Dior boutique in the village, Courchevel is most definitely for you (and you’d probably be happiest staying at Airelles).
For those who prefer to avoid the high season, there’s plenty to be said for choosing quieter weeks when the resort still offers some of the most reliable snow and best skiing opportunities in the Alps.
Meribel is Courchevel’s quieter sister. More the stay-at-home kind than a slope-side party animal.
With the same access to Les Trois Vallées, you can still ski to Courchevel’s restaurants during the daytime, but it feels a little less assertive, appealing to a more British clientele.
Families with younger children tend to like Meribel as there are some gentle pistes suitable for beginners, a selection of excellent ski schools, and it offers far better value than Courchevel on the accommodation front. With 85% of the area above 1,800m, it also offers a wide range of open runs for advanced and expert skiers.
Accommodation-wise, there are one or two highly-accomplished Savoyard-style chalets with excellent service and amenities, including an excellent property owned by the Smith Haut Lafitte family, suitable for up to 12 guests. Chalet-style boutique hotel, Le Coucou, reopens its doors on 14 December and is a good ski in/ski out option for those seeking something fairly small and with an excellent location at Meribel’s Rond Point.
In summary, for families looking for diverse ski runs, a quieter energy and better value, Meribel has a lot to offer. It doesn’t have the same vibe or party atmosphere as Courchevel, but if you want to dip in and out without staying in the thick of it, Meribel might be your answer.
Val d’Isère is an excellent option for highly accomplished skiers and snowboarders, with Olympic and World Cup runs, vast off-piste terrain and a wide selection of challenging red and black runs, including La Forêt which cuts through the trees, or La Face de Bellevarde, used for the men’s Olympic downhill.
It also offers a pretty village, stone built houses, and panoramic views. Real estate values are on the increase, reflecting its position as one of the most sought-after parts of the region.
As one of the highest resorts in the Alps, Val d’Isère has one of the longest, most reliable ski seasons, somewhat less affected than lower altitude regions by the environmental changes caused by global warming.
And with the opening of ski in-ski out Airelles Val d’Isère, we now have a serious world-class hotel contender for Nota Bene skiers. The hotel’s top floor comprises five apartments, including a 200m2 4-bedroom penthouse. They also manage a fully-staffed, privately owned residence with direct access to the slopes.
Megève has historically been one of our least requested and suggested of the Haute-Savoie resorts. Largely due to a lack of notable accommodations and a rather more provincial feel.
That changed marginally with the opening of Four Seasons, which mightn’t scream glamour in the same way as Courchevel, but still appeals to families seeking the comforts and amenities of a big brand hotel.
Megève also offers some very good dining options, beautiful views of Mont Blanc, a charming village with cobbled streets and horse-drawn carriages, and plenty of cafes and boutiques.
For beginner skiers, there are ample runs to choose from and this makes it particularly appealing for children at the start of their learning journey. It’s also quite sheltered from the wind by its proximity to Mont Blanc so weather conditions tend to feel quite mild.
Having said all this, for more advanced skiers and snowboarders, Megève won’t be challenging enough so we’d likely steer you to one of the other Alpine regions.
This merely skims the surface of our vast review material covering the French Alps. As one of our private clients you’ll receive access to detailed breakdowns of all the different hotels and chalets, our top restaurant picks re-evaluated each season, and how to travel in the most comfortable, time-efficient way.
Better yet, we’ll have it all taken care of by one of our senior private client directors, who’ll secure lunch reservations, track down the best massage therapist, and brief your hotel or chalet manager on all the fine details, including shoe sizes for ski boots, preferred wines and champagnes, whether you like duvets or sheets and blankets, favoured housekeeping times, the list goes on.
For help with making all the right decisions for your next ski, snowboarding or heliski trip, CLICK HERE to contact us.