How the other half live; group ski trip to Courchevel
Anyone who has ever skied in Courchevel will usually tell you two things, the skiing is fabulous but it comes at a price.
Whilst the slopes of the enormous Three Valleys are undeniably worth every euro, Courchevel is also a resort where you can fly into the exclusive altiport from ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ and eat at a Michelin starred restaurant. The not very friendly Russian billionaires descend on Courchevel each winter for a champagne fuelled shindig of socializing, shopping and (apparently) skiing. The dress code for women is ‘Roadkill’ and if you forgot to pack your floor length lynx coat like I did, worry not. The shopping in Courchevel offers all your local high street names such as Chanel, Bvlgari, Gucci and Cartier.
There is another way however for those with a budget of the shoestring variety. After our arrival in Courchevel we went to find our friends who were staying nearby. Their annual group ski trip is made up of 14 friends who should definitely not be allowed to travel without proper adult supervision. Their chalet resembles a badly furnished, run down youth hostel. I’m immediately glad we are staying a safe distance away.
In comparison our hotel is luxury. Ski Total’s Chalet Hotel Coq de Bruyere offers comfortable en suite rooms just 30 meters away from the closest piste ‘Loze’. The staff were friendly and helpful and the food was truly outstanding. With afternoon tea consisting of different cakes, biscuits, brownies and quiches, it proves hard to refrain from an après ski gorge.
Speaking of après, Courchevel is lacking considerably compared to its neighbours in Meribel and Val Thorens. There is little to none and the best we could find was some average live music at ‘KU DE TA’. If you venture over to Meribel there is the ‘Ronnie’ which really gets going but beware, leaving in time to make the last lift back to Courchevel requires enormous will power.
Snow conditions that week were amazing. With heavy snowfall on the first two nights our week was set to be a good one. Some of my favourite runs included ‘folyeres’ a lovely tree lined blue run down to La Tania, and ‘creux’ a long wide red at the top of the vizelle gondola. Not to mention ‘cospillot’ a long blue which runs all the way to Courchevel village and boasts views of the exclusive K2 Hotel, a definite bucket list hotel.
Our chosen watering hole for the week was the ‘Bouc Blanc’ which had spectacular views and reasonable prices. The first day we stopped for a chocolat chaud I realised we were never really going to fit in. Sat opposite us was a beautifully groomed brunette goddess sipping champagne in her Gucci goggles with a bouncy blow-dry and scarlet talons. As I pulled off my sweaty beanie and scraped the hair stuck to my forehead away, I realised she was probably not here to ski. Sat in my Primark hoodie and TK Maxx salopettes I began to feel a little like a chav. The most intimidating, good looking, tanned waiter stands in front of us. He says nothing. We ask for two hot chocolates in Franglais, and off he marched without managing to once look at us. I don’t blame him.
Our lunch spot was the ‘Ski lodge’ in La Tania. We were quick to realise that lower down you are in Courchevel the more affordable it becomes. They had everything to keep even the hardest of skiers happy, from burger and chips and spaghetti bolognaise, to a kangaroo steak. Although the owner has some kind of tourettes and would regularly bark orders at no one in particular including his bleary-eyed, hungover staff.
The chalet staffs’ night off allowed us to sample the local cuisine. Our friends were in charge of finding us a restaurant which didn’t require taking out a mortgage. The restaurant of choice was ‘La Cendree’. An authentic Italian cuisine with only 3 out of 5 stars on the price-o-meter. We hurried through the door out of the snow and the obliging maitre’d took our coats and led us to our table complete with taxidermy moose on the wall. Nervously we thumbed through the wine menu with the cheapest bottle of wine coming in at 75 Euros. My boyfriend and I looked at each other, reading each other’s mind.
I skipped a starter and ordered the Calamari and king prawns. ‘And some tap water please’ I add on to the end of my order. The waiter pauses and I blush. ‘Sorry Madame we don’t serve tap water here….’ Of course they don’t! They must wash the dishes with Cristal. By the time our food arrives I’m absolutely starving and my plate is presented to me. Two pieces of squid and one king prawn. A total bargain at 45 Euros I’m sure you will agree. Needless to say the bill for 14 of us came in at a bazillion Euros.
Leaving with empty stomachs and empty wallets we wondered if we would have better luck finding some decent nightlife. The nightlife in 1850 is made up of two clubs, Les Caves and La Grange, and very little else. The crowd loitering around outside Les Caves were dripping in diamonds and fur, and the security men were terrifying. The cars parked outside were Hummers and Porsches. We knew we were never going to get in, even in our best Converse shoes there was no way.
After a week of skiing, drinking and eating afternoon tea and a 5 course meals all nights bar one, I was struggling into my jeans trying not to burst the button. We were all sad to be leaving after a fantastic week which seemed over too quickly. With my wallet and waistline both suffering we arrived back in the UK and back to reality. We fought our way through the Trunki’s and the adorable 4 year olds climbing all over the carousel and found our bags. Outside there was no Hummer waiting for us.
‘Oh how the other half live’ I sighed as we waited for the bus.
Ski Total offer excellent rates for group ski holidays that will help to make the cost of your ski holiday more affordable. Check the group ski section of the website for more information or contact our reservations team on 01483 791933.