Skiing in France
Good luck with shrinking your thinking back to Aspen-Utah after the French exuberance
skiing in France
Part 1 of 2
Read Part 2 of 2 here
Les 3 Vallées, Savoie, France
»» 600 kilometers of ski-in interconnected runs
»» 169 high-performance lifts
»» 2,100 snow making machines
»» 1/3 of the ski area equipped with artificial snow
»» 73 piste groomers for 1,512 hectares (3,700 ac) of groomed runs
»» Minimum skiing altitude: 1,300 meters
»» Maximum skiing altitude: 3,230 meters
»» 321 Alpine ski runs: (51 green, 132 blue, 106 red, 32 black)
»» 25 accessible summits including 10 above 2,500 meters
»» 6 glaciers
»» 35,000 hectares (86,500 ac) of nature
»» 62,000 meters of combined vertical drop
»» 1,200 ski lift staff
»» Flight—to Geneva or Lyon $630/1 stop
»» Non-stop flight to Geneva or Lion $1000
»» Business class flight by La Compagnie to Paris $1800
»» Car rental—€50/day
»» Shuttle bus or bus for lower rate
half board/low season/high season
»» 2 stars hotel—from €80 to €155
»» 3 stars hotel—from €105 to €385
»» 4 stars hotel—from €250 to €400
»» in low season from €48 for bed and breakfast
Ski+boots+helmet (6 days)
»» Children: €54 to €170
»» Teenagers: €75 to €337
»» Adults: €90 to €337
Snowboard (6 days)
»» Children: €56 to €197
»» Teenagers: €75 to €249
»» Adults: €134 to €302
»» Adult—6 days: €289
»» Child—6 days: €234
»» Family/couple discounts
We are proud of American nature’s diversity which affords skiing on the West, East and even in the midland. The question is can a skier/snowboarder consider themselves complete before they skied in the French Les Trois Vallées?
600km of ski runs, 169 lifts, 321 slopes (32 black), 2,000 instructors, 2 altiports (jet airports on a slope), a helipad, 86,000ac, 62,000m of combined vertical drop—the stats unthinkable for any other resort in the world.
Add a scenic beauty of a hundred years old well preserved Alpine villages stuffed with top-notch infrastructure and a variety of specifics—a youngsters’ hip, high altitude club-like Val Thorens, athlete’s yearround- guaranteed-snow Val d’Isere, family-inviting Tignes, bourgeoisie Meribel, and the the eye-pocking excess—a billionaire nest, famous and sometimes even infamous for its lavish new year and Christmas parties Courchevel. Priding itself with enormity of everything— from cartoon-post-card villages to mind wrecking Alpine peaks and snowy pine trees’ skyscrapers.
And still, most American skiers have never heard of it. And maybe for the good. As after this French exuberance it will be hard to shrink one’s thinking back to even our beloved Aspen-Utah.
You don’t need to drag here your last season gear: rentals cater to the most demanding and athletic clients with delight. Binge-ski the latest models for any snow and race completed with staff’s stories about each ski’s temper and character, until you fall in love with your soul-matepair of skis.
And that French Ski School. My son used to attend it every season for some seven years, competing in slalom and giant slalom weekly, so I can tell you everything about it. Nothing like any American way. The Ski School thoroughly sorts kids by skiing/ snowboarding levels and serves as an advanced daycare—you get rid of kids early in the morning and meet them in the late afternoon, prodigiously trained, fed, entertained, with their tongue on the shoulder; with stories of learning to jump over a creek and racing giant slalom with Olympians. You might turn in a shy and slow one and get back a fierce and fearless competitor—the French Ski School spirit skillfully mends little souls, once and forever. The downside— you won’t be able to race your kid anymore, even tailgate. Their only fear will be of not returning to The Ski School.
If you would enjoy riding a ski lift with a face from a tabloid front page, with a sly CEO of a giant bank, a couth British royal or a clamorous Russian oligarch, Courchevel is your choice. Spoiled crème de la crème revoltingly land their jets on this Alpine crown jewel’s spectacular high-altitude runway for a reason. Nature’s luxury is what it is built on—the widest, the longest, the hardest and the easiest, any kind one could think of, breathtakingly beautiful runs are in excess. It never looks overcrowded, never has long lines due to enormity of natural capacity and high-tech maintenance. Add run-throughs on skis to other resorts—Meribel, Val Thorens, La Tania, Brides les Bains, Les Menuires, Orelle, Saint Martin de Belleville.
Despite the reputation and the status thing, Courchevel’s tourism office suggests abundance of economic choices for families and plentiful sport festivities. Make reservations months in advance to get a 1-4 star ski-in. 5-7 stars (yes, 7 stars—it’s Courchevel) and villas will last not much longer.
Would you like your French onion soup or a banned in the US foie gras on a wooden village table on top of the mountain? Or on a white table cloth with silver and a view of jets jerking to stop before they’d hit the rock? Or a view of all three vallées from one peak helps with onions? Les Trois Vallées totals 18 Michelin star restaurants. 7 out of nearly a hundred Courchevel’s restaurants share 11 Michelin stars, including three restaurants with two Michelin stars. Not bad for a tiny high-altitude village. But not to worry if a family budget is a priority- the enormity of the place accommodates almost any, with extremities on both ends.
A skier just can’t skip shopping in Courchevel, even if only window shopping—our own Rodeo Drive pales here in the utter shame. A cultural shock for an American skier—the extravagant world of rhinestones, embroideries, fur and feather on an actual, high-tech ski clothing, if you can call it that. Targeted to oligarch’s dependents, it is there no doubt to elevate one’s observing experience to a level of an amusement park: spotting the former solemnly wearing the made-for-stage pieces while energetically socializing on La Croisette could be worth a pay.
Lunch: Le Portetta (www.portetta.com) Courchevel 1650 Dou du Midi, Courchevel 1850
Dine : La Sivoliere (www.hotel-la-sivoliere.com), Courchevel 1850
To Dine with oligarchs: Les Airelles (www.airelles.fr), Courchevel 1850
To Dine with riches: Le Zinc Des Neiges, Courchevel 1850