This season the slopes of Courchevel are even more compelling. The French resort is celebrating its 70th birthday so expect even more sparkle than normal; and thanks to recent snowfalls there’s the allure of fresh powder. So, grab your Moncler parka, as we’re off to the alps! writes Andrew Forbes.
(Image ©DavidAndre, courtesy of www.Courchevel.com)
Last month I discovered Portetta, at Courchevel Moriond. It’s a charming, chic ski-in/ski-out spa hotel, conveniently located by the ‘bubble’ gondola, that connects you with one of the largest ski areas on the planet.
an elegant Alpine lodge style…
I really fell for the Portetta hotel; it has an elegant Alpine lodge style, together with a relaxed ambience, thanks to a friendly, informal, but very attentive staff.
The property is sibling to the acclaimed Lime Wood Hotel in the UK’s New Forest National Park so expect the same effortless elegance, yet here with stunning mountain views.
There’s a fabulous restaurant, ‘Cucina Angelina’ by one of Britain’s best loved chefs, Angela Hartnett. The warm décor and tempting menu is just perfect for ravenous skiers looking for hearty, yet sophisticated dishes. As if skiing wasn’t enough to fire up your appetite there’s also an excellent cocktail bar for sophisticated aperitifs.
For a stylish lunchtime pit-stop whilst out on the mountain, or to kick off a fun evening’s après ski, the hotel’s ‘Fire & Ice’ sunny terrace, said to be the largest in Courchevel, is the place to be.
The property has its own winter sports rental store, so you can purchase or rent anything you need; as well as organise lessons, and excursions such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing etc.
When it comes to where to sleep, then Portetta has even more to offer. There are cosy guest rooms with plenty of character; or maybe one of the family-friendly two-room suites would be more your choice?
My recommendation though is to book one of the sophisticated Lofts (self-contained apartments) on the hotel’s upper floors. Here you have loads of space as well as your own fireplace and a private terrace.
For the ultimate in exclusivity and privacy then choose the fabulous Portetta Mountain Lodges – 4 beautiful, ski-in/ski-out Courchevel alpine chalets at 2000m altitude.
For more information just read on…
Courchevel surely needs little introduction; it’s been a favourite amongst elite travellers for generations; although admittedly some confusion remains about which villages make up the resort area.
the world’s largest connected ski area…
So, here’s a quick background resumé. Found at the eastern side of the ‘Les 3 Vallées’, said to be the world’s largest connected ski area, with over 600km of pistes, the Courchevel resort area encompasses four villages, which for many years were distinguished by their position in metres. However, this led to a little bit of altitude stigma with guests thinking the higher resorts were better. So now the direct reference to each altitude is being removed. The truth though, is that all the accommodation areas, although situated in different parts of the valley, are within a few hundred metres of each other in terms of altitude. The fast lift network means that where ever you are staying you enjoy the same slopes.
So, the four villages are Courchevel (formerly Courchevel 1850) which is the glitziest – think 6 star hotels, and designer stores like Prada and Chanel; Courchevel Moriond (1650), a more relaxed ambiance with a great choice of facilities including a new indoor water park. This village is a good choice for couples and families that want Courchevel style without the double-parked Bentleys; Courchevel Village (1550); and finally, Courchevel Le Praz (1330).
Where to Dine – Cucina Angelina
Portetta makes you feel at home immediately and much of that for me was the welcoming open-plan restaurant and bar area that also leads out onto the après ski terrace. The serving team are international, and in my experience, they all shared the Portetta culture of excellent service delivered with a natural, unpretentious style.
The décor at Cucina Angelina continues with this welcoming, comforting feel. The presentation, with its warm woods, stylish fabrics and bespoke banquettes is smart yet cosy.
Hartnett’s award-winning Italian gastronomy…
But of course, most important is the menu – and it’s a winner, created by the UK Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett (Chef Patron at the renowned Murano restaurant in London’s Mayfair and undoubtedly one of the UK’s most loved chefs). The dishes bring together the local Savoyard cuisine with the flair and creativity of Hartnett’s award-winning Italian gastronomy.
Angela’s Courchevel team is led by Head Chef Colin McSherry whose kitchen works with both local and international produce. I particularly enjoyed the rustic country terrines, different each day, served with crisp cornichons and roasted sourdough bread from the grill – perfect for sharing. The first plates also include chicory salad with pecorino & local pears; an outstanding sea bream ceviche; and a generous bruschetta to name but a few. The grill is exceptional; I recommend the British beef dry-aged in Himalayan salt.
Each day, the kitchen prepares specials, so for guests staying a week, there is always something new and tempting.
Fire & Ice
Refuel whilst out of the slopes at the hotel’s terrace bar restaurant. No need to kick off your boots; just bag a table or one the deep comfy sofas with faux fur snugs, and order one of the truly delicious thin crust pizzas from the wood-fired oven.
Then at the end of the day come back for the fun and sociable après ski, starting typically with a Portetta signature frozen shot!
Hotel Guest Rooms
There are 38 guest rooms, including family suites which include an additional room with bunk beds for children.
Décor is mountain lodge with lots of wood, warm tones and alpine touches.
Modern bathrooms include all the expected facilities, and the treat of having fabulous artisan natural amenities by Banford. So, if you feel like it, relax at the end of the day with your very own spa-like bath, embraced by the aromas of the geranium, lavender, and peppermint essential oils!
Rooms have either a valley or mountain piste view – the slopes run right past the hotel. Thanks to Courchevel’s location, you can expect fantastic sunrises from many rooms, and lots of sun on the terrace and slopes.
I was lucky enough to be staying in a Loft – these spacious, self-catering apartments have large open-plan living areas with kitchenette and a configuration of either 1, 2, or 3 bedrooms – some duplex, and some with terraces.
Found on the hotel’s top two floors, they really are worth the little extra as it’s like staying in a private chalet with all the services of a hotel on your doorstep.
The style and décor captures the magic of being in the alps; think vintage pine, iron chandeliers, game trophy heads and that wonderful roaring fire to come back to after a day on the slopes.
There are lots of thoughtful touches too – in addition to the generous welcome of wine and a handmade tart from the pastry chef, the Lofts come with a food pack of Nespresso coffee, gourmet teas, milk, water, beer, cookies, candy as well as pasta and sauce, so on your first day, if you don’t feel like going to the restaurant you know you have a meal that’s going to be easy to make.
It’s such a luxury to have a spa in the hotel on a winter sports break. Portetta spa has a steam room, sauna, relaxation area and well-presented treatment rooms, offering wellness therapies with products by Bamford, Oskia & Opi.
I took a relaxing massage – excellent treatment from the therapist and I particularly liked the extra wide massage table, and the well-heated room – just perfect.
Portetta Mountain Lodges
Expect to be wowed by the stunning Portetta Mountain Lodges. Each property has a discreet staff of housekeeper, chef, butler and driver. Wake to a freshly prepared gourmet buffet breakfast, and upon returning from a day on the mountains, enjoy a tasty snack as you walk in the door, ready to then relax in the lodge’s sauna or hot tub on the terrace.
Meanwhile your chef will be preparing you and your fellow guests a sumptuous meal – served after champagne aperitifs and canapés.
This is the way to holiday in Courchevel…
Named after local wildlife, the Lodges are the Les 3 Vallées with ratings. Blanchot, Chamois and Marmotte all have 5* ratings and whilst the delightful one room Petite Marmotte is 4*.
Laure, the guest relations director, dedicated to the Portetta Mountain Lodges also offers a private concierge service, arranging fabulous experiences like night-time snowmobiling.
This is the time to go to Courchevel – there are lots of celebratory events running right until the end of the season, including:
Firework Festival: Running ‘till 24 Feb, 2017 is the final International Festival of Pyrotechnic Art, promising spectacular light and sound shows.
Exhibitions: Artists have been commissioned for sculptures and installations and, in Courchevel there’s an exhibition showcasing the resort’s history.
Easter Party: Courchevel last weekend of the season is Easter, so for 15, 16 & 17 April, the resort is promising ‘three days of non-stop celebrations’.
Hotel Portetta: Prices are from EUR 3,080 (circa £2,617) for 2 persons, 7 nights including half board (without flights – Flights & transfers can be arranged for about £500 for two from the UK).
Portetta Mountain Lodges: From EUR 2,200 per person (circa £1,870) half board based on exclusive use of a whole chalet.
Contact The Oxford Ski Company: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +44 (0)1993 899 420, www.oxfordski.com Oxford Ski