Courchevel’s airport stops you in your tracks. It has a very short and steeply sloped runway, which is only 1722 feet long and has a gradient of 18.5%. The airport approach is through deep valleys, which can only be performed by specially certified pilots. On landing there is merely a very steep hill and then you are the end, in other words, no radar support. The airport once saw larger planes such as Twin Otters and Dash 7’s that carry up to 50 people but over the years these have been phased out and smaller Cessnas and helicopters are all we have seen. The History Channel’s Most Extreme Airports, ranks it as the 7th most dangerous airport in the world, and it sits right outside my room!
We are staying at the ski-in, ski-out Hotel Courcheneige. The hotel sits on the Bellecôte Ski Slope, at an altitude of 6,500 feet. It is an older Chalet style hotel. There are three of us in a room that has four single beds and the cost with half board (breakfast and dinner) is 3450 Euros ($3750US on March 2015) for a Saturday to Saturday package. The food is really spectacular, dinner has always included three courses that were delicious with a dessert groaning board guaranteed to pack on extra pounds.
The rooms and the hotel itself are spartan, so it is not what one thinks of when you hear of the select clientele of VIPs, wealthy people and royal families, including Prince William and Kate Middleton that frequent the area. They, however, are more likely staying at the 5 and 6 star hotels in the area. Courchevel has 11 hotels with a 5-star ranking. In 2011 France introduced a 6th star ranking for hotels, named “palaces”. The palace ranking is only awarded to the most prestigious, exclusive and luxurious hotels in France. There are only eight hotels in France that have this rating and two of those are in Courchevel.
The Town of Courchevel 1850.
Our hotel, the highest in the valley, is above the town of Courcheval 1850. I took one day off from skiing and spent the day in this very small town. It is filled with the high end shops of Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Valentino, Prada, Bulgari, and others, but also some smaller stores filled with good food and pastries.
We did the classic horse drawn carriage tour (40 Euros for 15 minutes – ridiculously expensive).
Courchevel is known to be an expensive resort. One of the reasons for this are the high prices of residential and commercial property. Courchevel 1850 is the 6th most expensive place in the world with an average square foot price of $3600.
One odd thing I have noticed is that there are a lot of hotels named after items in the Himalayas, such as Hotel Annapurna, the Hotel Le Lana and the Hotel Kashmir. I really have no idea why or what it means, but I came across this tidbit in some of the Three Valleys Public Relations pieces : The mountain has 62,000 metres of cumulative vertical drop equal to 7 times the slopes of the Himalayas…
The Olympics and World Cup
During the 1992 Albertville Olympics were held in Albertville the Nordic and Ski Jump events took place in Courcheval. The World Cup will be held here, in Maribel, the week after we leave.
IF you are taking the train, DON’T. We had two bags per person, and one person with a wrist in a cast. We were going to Geneva. You begin with the train from Moutiers and then transfer in Chambrey. We had 15 minutes to make the transfer and that meant going DOWN a set of stairs and UP another. Yes there is a lift, but with all of our luggage we made it with exactly 15 seconds to spare. Spend the extra money and take a private automobile service to Geneva.