Most agree that Courchevel in the French Alps is the ski capital of the world and 1850, in the Jardin Alpin where Les Airelles Courchevel is located, Les Airelles, is its most glamorous district. The setting is worthy of a fairy tale with its backdrop of tall snow-draped pine trees against a backdrop of gargantuan rocky peaks.
From Courchevel you can access the largest ski area in the world, Les Trois Vallées, with over 600 km of ski runs, 80 green and blue runs and over 140 red and black runs – plenty to keep skiers of all levels busy for whole days. to finish. The largest snow cover in France guarantees you snow cover all season long.
There’s plenty of glitz and glamor both on and off the runway with chic designer boutiques and chic restaurants and bars. If you’re at Les Airelles, however, you might find yourself lounging around in your slippers until it’s time to hit the slopes. It’s a ski-in ski-out affair and you might find that’s the only reason to go.
Why come here?
Airelles Courchevel was built in the 1990s but it feels much older, with 19th-century Austro-Hungarian charm, lots of aged wood, antiques, heavy stone fireplaces, and plenty of quiet, cozy nooks. It has “palace status”, a distinction awarded by the French Ministry of Tourism to five-star hotels that achieve “excellence”.
The enchanting hotel is the pinnacle of chalet chic with its 48 spacious rooms and suites, full of beloved old woods, dark red carpeting, and huge beds; the bathrooms are equipped with deliciously scented toiletries and hammam showers, ideal after a day on the slopes. Minibars stocked with delicious treats like Alain Milliat nectars and Fouquet chocolate are free. The suites extend outdoors with wide wooden balconies offering spectacular views of the picture-perfect Alps and gingerbread chalets.
The technology in the bedroom is not an afterthought; a bedside iPad will tell you the weather and allow you to order room service. TVs are cleverly hidden in wood-framed mirrors.
The service is brilliantly efficient with no task too big or small and a slightly unnerving knack for reading minds; professional, courteous and charming without falling into the trap of obsequiousness. The men don the all-white uniform of the Chasseurs Alpins with their oversized berets or in suits; Alpine milkmaids make up the majority of servers. In the on-site ski room, you can put on your heated ski boots while sipping a café au lait and munching on a croissant. Stroll outside to find your skis and poles waiting for you, buckled up on the trail.
Eat and drink
We have never seen a breakfast organized like the one in Airelles. A table laden with all kinds of pastries: classic pastries, puff pastry brioche, chouquettes, pies and cakes; poached dried fruit sits alongside delicate slices of tropical fruit and a hot egg station. Bowls of jaw-dropping sourdough are served at the table with shots of fresh green juice for a quick nod to health.
La Table Des Airelles is infamous for its “Festin”, a remarkable buffet consisting of piles of fresh seafood, lobsters, oysters and sea urchins, sushi rivaling the best Japanese tables, piles of salads and meats from the rotisserie. Don’t miss the hot sides – typically decadent treats like tartiflette.
Desserts are a signature Airelles, a groaning table of sweet, sticky and tangy French classics – fruit or chocolate tarts, crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, Paris Brest, St Honoré, rum baba, strawberries with whipped cream and our favorite, rotisserie pineapple bathed in rum syrup.
The hotel still has a few gourmet tricks up its sleeve; Le Coin Savoyard offers a range of warm mountain classics: fondues, raclette, charcuterie and large fries are perfect post-slope fodder, expertly and deliciously executed. Get your porcini mushroom and morel fondue for a touch of decadence.
The Italian restaurant, Piero TT, has a new chef this season, Marco Garfagnini, who previously worked at the hotel outpost in Saint-Tropez. Truffle pizzetti, crudos dressed in silky olive oil with fresh, tangy jalapeño and more truffles, snow crab salad and decadent lobster spaghetti are the star attractions.
At the foot of the slopes, there is Le Chalet de Pierres. Swap your ski boots for slippers and sip fabulous wines from the hotel’s cellar in the south of France. Food ranges from lighter bites like seared tuna and steak tartare to full mountain fare like truffle and pecorino gnocchi; truffles are the order of the day here, heaped on fries, on their famous ‘Chalet de Pierres truffle burger’. Seafood platters and various large cuts of meat and whole fish are offered. This signature dessert table makes a second appearance – remarkably with a range of different choices from the main hotel.
The SmokeHouse Bar is all plush velvet, with low ceilings and open fireplaces, reminiscent of 19th century gentlemen’s clubs; well-balanced cocktails show real showmanship: for example, served on wooden boards with bells full of smoke whipped up beside the table, a final spritz of something delicious sprayed just before serving. On Thursdays, bar staff spin around a cocktail cart to whip up a treat for you. There is also a smoking room for those who love cigars. For the oenophiles among you, the cellar is extremely rich in rare and interesting wines.
What to do
Aside from skiing and snowshoeing, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained within the grounds of the hotel. Perhaps most importantly, there’s the Salle De Jeux, a space for kids with dedicated staff to keep them entertained; there are toys, games and even a mini-cinema.
Take advantage of the calm and tranquility to go to Spa La Mer for a tailor-made treatment from the famous brand; it’s the perfect place to relax sore, worn-out skiing muscles. The spa has an indoor and outdoor jacuzzi, a superb swimming pool with waterfalls and two saunas; our favorite was to warm up in the steam room and then cool off in the icy indoor snow cave. A nail salon and barbers complete the offer.
Airelles Courchevel, Les Airelles, Rue du Jardin Alpin, 73120 Courchevel, France. Rooms from £1,000 per night; airelles.com