Les Airelles Courchevel is open for its annual winter season. Which celebs will you spot this year?
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: January 23, 2024
That Courchevel 1850 is the world's most luxurious ski resort destination is a given. Of course. Less known arguably is that it has become one of the top haunts of Indian celebrities, from Shahrukh Khan to Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor, Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli, Hrithik Roshan, Varun Dhawan and many others. Of course, given that the resorts are open only in winter for a three-to-four-month period in winter, they are clearly there for the snow!
For any luxury life practitioner, Les Airelles Courchevel is one of the must do pilgrimages in the service of opulence. For the unacquainted, however, it is located on the south western side of the Les Trois Vallées, the largest linked ski areas in the world. Part of the French Alps, the valleys are areas that are fairly close-by, and visitors can often visit the other ski areas such as Les Arcs, La Plagne, Val d'Isère and Tignes. For those looking it up on the map, or planning a trip, it’s in Savoie département, Rhône-Alpes region.
Why Courchevel particularly? It is known for having one of the longest ski seasons and the best snow cover in the whole of the Alps, usually opening in early December. The hotel Les Airelles Courchevel remains open till March – this year until March 8. There are 19 five-star hotels in Courchevel 1850 and 6 Michelin-starred restaurants. From royalty from all around the world, oligarchs, oil sheikhs, to celebrities – think Elton John, the Beckhams and more – each of them bows down at this altar, once a year.
The hotel originally was built for the opening of the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. It has since changed ownership and been renovated. While there is little need for spreading the word with its potential clientele, Jean Pierre Lerallu, General Manager, during a recent visit to India, pointed out that the best form of getting the message about the hotel is word of mouth. “Before new clients of course we need to take care of our regular clients. We have a lot of repeat guests, some going back 30 years.”
Mr. Lerallu, who was on his first visit to India, said the country is becoming more important as “for the past few years, we have seen more and more Indian clients, mainly families. We notice an interest from the Indian market. We want more Indians as we like each other. We looked at it for one or two years and decided it was time to come to India.”
He admits that India is not majorly a non-skiing country, and says that is precisely the reason Indians want to come. “We understand that skiing for Indians is something that is possibly new. When you start learning skiing as an adult or young adult, it’s a little bit more difficult, so we have a huge range of activities besides skiing. He points out that the hotel provides fabulous food as one of the main concerns of guests is about food choices while travelling.
He also points out that the hotel does not want to focus on just the same markets, noting that the crisis has seen a drop in Russian clients, hitherto a big segment of the hotel’s guests.
There is a huge programme for children, which draws families. “Every day, we have different activities for the kids. So from daily activities such as games, cinema, snacks, a treehouse etc, holidays also have special activities such as dog sledding, pastry classes, ice hockey and even a snowmobile and a magicians.
Being on the slopes is what draws people from around the world. Les Airelles Ski Lounge, in partnership with Bernard Orcel, acts as a hub - the perfect place to prepare for a big adventure on the slopes, and unwind afterwards. Under advice from experienced ski valets, winter sports fans can equip themselves with the latest cutting edge gear, set up according to the day’s skiing preferences and conditions. For those needing a little fuel for the day ahead, the Ski Lounge boasts delicious traditional cuisine, along with an impressive drinks menu for any apres ski needs.
Of course, there is life beyond skiing, even at Courchevel. Touchpoints of luxury permeate every moment. Guests not only have a Rolls Royce at their disposal to be driven around Courchevel 1850; included in the stay are buffet breakfasts, and lunch or dinner at any of the resort’s six restaurants. There’s a private car park on booking. There’s champagne on arrival and the minibar is refreshed daily.
Then there’s access to La Mer Spa and the fitness room for relaxing post the ski workout, along with access to the Bernard Orcel ski room and ski valets – ready to help whenever you need them. Located on the ground floor, the spa draws inspiration from its surroundings, offering a programme of treatments that emulate the frosty winter temperatures and the cosy warmth of a cocoon. After an intense day on the slopes, guests can enjoy the snow grotto and the cryotherapy cabin, which both harness cryotherapy technology for a speedy recovery. For those looking for something warmer, they can discover the jacuzzi, heated to a toasty 40°C.
Dining is a focus area, and there are no less than six F&B outlets for an establishment that has less than 50 keys, including three chalets, each with 10 dedicated staff. La Table des Airelles is the cynosure and offers the choicest of foodstuff from around the world. For dinner at Carrara, chef Marco Garfagnini transports you to Italy with the elegance of the restaurant and the refinement of the dishes. Only for dinner is Le Coin Savoyard, which, with its checkered tablecloths and wood paneling, heightens the romantic image of the mountains. Raclette, black truffle fondue, Savoyard charcuterie and Génépi guarantee an authentic alpine evening. For a lavish afternoon tea – which is a big deal in ski resorts as most skiiers return in time for this, Le Bar is a must-visit, with plenty of comfortable sofas and a discreet cigar lounge.
There are choices for eating while out on the slopes too. The Chalet de Pierres serves delicious Savoyard cuisine at the summit of the Verdons slope. Japonais Au Aman Le Mélézin offers Japanese cuisine while La Folie Douce, with its offers of lunch and afternoon clubbing, is a must-do for anyone hoping to get a glimpse of Courchevel’s wild side.
Les Airelles Courchevel also offers a range of activities. There is a chance to go cross-country skiing accompanied by a guide. A note, this is accessible only to those willing to hike. A popular activity for kids and adults is dog sledding, which has a long tradition in the Alps, and is a very unique way of getting around Courchevel. For a more comfortable ride, also harking back to a simpler era, are the horse-drawn carriage rides. It offers a chance to explore the village of Courchevel while staying warm under a cashmere blanket in a Hermès branded horse-drawn carriage that has been specially designed for Les Airelles!
The snow scooter is a more modern way of getting around the village. For a high-adrenaline experience, ride a snowmobile on fresh snow with a specialist while taking in the snowy covered slopes. And here’s an activity strictly for the snow-covered slopes – heliskiing, i.e., leaping off a helicopter and skiing down slopes that are out of bounds to the general public. Then there is a night ride on the Snowcat, wherein you can travel through the ski area by night. Guests can, of course, have a picnic on the slopes.
Most of all, perhaps, is the impossibly pretty image of the hotel covered in white powdery snow. As the lights peep through this at night, keeping guests warm and cozy, its almost a lyrical image of a fairy tale abode where everything is wonderful and magical. No wonder then, as Mr. Lerallu reveals, there are people who only come to Courchevel if they stay at Les Airelles.