Classy Courchevel - posh and beckoning!
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COURCHEVEL posh? Course it is, almost rejoicing in a reputation of being the most expensive ski resort in France, which is certainly saying something.
It's been like this for decades - but that doesn't mean it won't welcome you with open, perma-tanned arms and encourage you to share in its many delights, whether you turn up in designer gear worth a fortune or a borderline-grunge, moth-eaten Barbour jacket.
Courchevel 1850 has always had that certain something, including more Michelin-starred restaurants than London, but the real delights of this poshest of all the posh French resorts are the ones that you don't need a Posh and Becks bank account to enjoy, so why not go along for the ride?
The glorious skiing is the reason for being there with travel experts Flexiski and you don't need to be stinking rich or annoyingly young to enjoy some of the countless miles of wonderful pistes.
It is fun, though, to find out that all the clichés turn out to be true and certain shops don't put price tags on things because their customers don't need to ask – if they want what they see, they just buy it, often in euros changed from roubles.
You don't need to go star-chasing to eat well, either, as Flexiski also showed us just a couple of minutes away from the lifts at their chalet-style Hotel Saint Louis, with it's attentive young staff and multi-course menus following pre-dinner canapés and champagne in front of a roaring log fire.
It's also handy if you're not too far away at lunchtime, for you can ski down the quite wonderful 'motorway' Bellecôte run and just walk across the road for a gourmet burger or plat du jour in the sun on the hotel's La Terrasse, before popping back on the snow for the afternoon.
That way, you get to show off by skiing to the lifts past fur-clad glitterati sipping cocktails as they sit on huge leather chesterfields on piste-side decking, having been delivered there by their 5* hotel's monogrammed, mirror-black Rolls Royce or monstrous, matt black Hummer, perhaps brought from the Altiport airstrip, like a tilted ski jump surrounded by rolling snow dunes, which was featured in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.
Courchevel 1850 is one of the rarefied places where skiing can be put aside by some visitors in favour of working the social scene, but that takes nothing away from the fact that it's at the heart of the biggest ski area in the world. The highest of four Savoyarde villages, 'Courch' has amazing skiing and it's very different from its siblings lower down, with its direct links to Méribel and on to Val Thorens and the other resorts of the Trois Vallées.
You don't have to be a seasoned expert, fearless young go-getter or an avid black-run collector to share it from end to end, either, because there are runs to suit all abilities and reassure the most nervous or fragile that skiing and boarding are the greatest recreations on earth whatever your age and fitness level.
Flexiski tailor breaks to suit each individual traveller, organising flights, transfers and accommodation in great resorts for weeks, weekends and odd days in between; and their teams offer skiing and boarding to match. I was guided for mile upon mile on an exploration of runs around Courchevel 1850 and super-friendly Courchevel 1650, with occasional stops for coffee or a vin chaud at superb vantage-points, before swooping down to Méribel for a late lunch – skiing mainly on manicured greens and blues with a surface like soft, velvet corduroy.
There's no need to worry about any lack of snow, as cover stays good thanks to constant hard work, for the piste-bashers aren't so much bashing every night as massaging, helped by the network of snow-guns to make the slopes better groomed than Gok Wan.
Lunch over and then a gentle journey back to the Saint Louis for a hot soak and some cold fizz before dinner. The hotel can sleep up to 85 people and if you do have the wherewithal, you too can sample the even-higher life in its separate top-floor apartment, Le Chapteau, where up to 17 guests can relax in luxury and have their own chef prepare dinner. Must remember to buy the Lottery tickets!
Flexiski have been organising corporate ski trips for high-profile clients (unlike me!) for 20 years to top resorts like St Anton, St Moritz, Val d'Isère, Courmayeur and Madonna di Campiglio, and pride themselves on being flexible, so travelling to and from Manchester, or any other airport for that matter, is no problem: tel 020 8939 0864; www.flexiski.com
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