When it comes to 5-star and 6-star ski chalets at the very top of the luxury market, few countries can match the property portfolio of France. At the top of the luxury market the sheer opulence is jaw-dropping, with palatial chalets offering a faultless service catering to guests’ every need. Chauffeur driver services at any time of day or night, immaculate linen, impressive haute-cuisine and champagne à volonté come as standard in these properties, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. France offers a massive range of resorts by any measure, but there are a select few which really do stand out to discerning skiers in the luxury ski holiday market.
Meribel sits at a base-altitude of 1400 meters above sea level in the heart of Trois Vallées ski area, neighboring Courchevel and within easy reach of Val Thorens. The town center is constructed exclusively in local wood and stone so it’s a very attractive pretty and traditional resort, and there’s a strict limit on the height of new buildings as well in an effort to maintain the pleasing aesthetic of the town.
Known for its lively nightlife, Meribel offers an impressive range of bars and nightclubs to enjoy. From the more basic après ski venues like Jacks Bar, la Taverne and Scott’s to more upmarket bars like Barometer and sleek cocktail and wine bars such as La Poste, there’s something to suit all tastes.
Arriving in style
Visitors keen to arrive in style can take advantage of the resort’s aircraft landing strip, the Altiport. Meribel’s Altiport sits at the top of the resort and although it’s a long way from resort center and the majority of the chalets and hotels, a road runs down into Meribel allowing private jet owners to access their chalet with a minimum of fuss. It’s also worth noting that a good number of Meribel’s top end 6* properties are located up in this part of town anyway.
The scope of the slopes here is just outstanding and this is of course a big draw, but it’s the selection of top-end luxury chalets which brings the most discerning skiers back year after year. Sitting in the delightful and secluded les Brames enclave, chalet Boreale is a prime example. This stunning property boasts a massage room, wine cellar, swimming pool, games room and home cinema as well as a whole host of further features you’d expect from a chalet of this quality. The resort center is a 3 minute drive away and of course there’s a chauffeur service for ski and town access.
Chalet Chopine features a beautiful alpine-influenced interior and bespoke furniture along with a stunning open fireplace, home cinema and sauna suite with large, bubbling jacuzzi. It sits in the Dou du Pont area of town within a short stroll or drive of the slopes and resort center.
Facilities and amenities
Visitors to Meribel can enjoy a whole host of pursuits and activities both on and off the mountain. Thrill seekers can enjoy skidoo trips, dog sledding and snow shoeing in the forests around the resort, and parapente flights are available from both of the peaks bordering Meribel and Courchevel; the Col de la Loze and the Saulire peaks. In bad weather, visitors to Meribel can turn to the sports center for entertainment with its pool, sauna, jacuzzi and gym facilities. There’s also a climbing wall and an ice rink to skate on with regular ice hockey matches to watch.
Val d’Isère is a resort in France’s famous Espace Killy ski area and, with an altitude of 1800 metres above sea level, is a sound resort choice from early December right through to season’s close in late April. Val d’Isère shares its ski area with neighboring Tignes and whilst this resort has little of Val d’Isére’s character and charm, the skiing there is certainly impressive. Val d’Isère is spread across three main villages; Le Fornet, la Daille and Val d’Isere centre. Easy ski access is available from all three villages.
There can be little doubt that the range of bars and nightclubs in Val d’Isère is one of the biggest factors in the resort’s wide-reaching popularity. From piste-side venues such as la Folie Douce to bars such as Café Face and Le Pub, Val’s après ski scene is certainly vibrant. Later on in the evenings the private bars of the resort’s many luxury hotels are popular among the more discerning clientele, and out in town there’s a wide range of venues to choose from for your evening festivities.
Arriving in style
Visitors at the top end of the budget spectrum looking to arrive into Val d’Isere with a minimum of hassle can use the resort’s helipad, which sits between la Daille and town center. The helipad is well located for easy access to all parts of the resort and from there, it’s only a short drive to your chalet of choice.
A wonderful example of the quality available in this iconic resort is the chalet le Rocher, which is quite simply one of the finest properties in all of the Alps. Le Rocher sits on a private road with spectacular views of the Isère valley. Chandeliers dazzle from the hallways, heated outdoor steps ensure snow-free access, the wellness suite boasts steam room and pool with jet stream. A lift serves all floors and the chalet offers a level of luxury rarely seen. Guests also enjoy the services of a private chef ready to prepare meals to order.
Chalet Mathilda is a fine example of modern luxury, offering a wonderful blend of Savoyard charm with all the mod-cons you could wish for. Fully en-suite with swimming pool and steam room, the Mathilda also offers a spacious and sumptuous living area, stunning valley views and a large fireplace. This chalet’s quality of finish is incredibly impressive and the wow-factor is certainly there!
Facilities and amenities
Val d’Isère is a large resort with a wealth of activities to enjoy. The resort’s Oxygen Centre boasts wellness and sports facilities to rival the best in the Alps, with four separate areas offering fun water-based activities for families with children, as well as tennis and squash courts, climbing walls and team sports areas. Last but in no means least are the relaxation suites where visitors can enjoy a range of pampering luxuries such as steam bath, saunas and Jacuzzis. Aside from this, the resort offers more high-octane activities like ice-driving, ice climbing, dog-sledding, sightseeing aircraft flights and skidooing. With such spectacular scenery within easy reach, snow-shoeing is also a very popular pursuit and you can explore the twenty five or so kilometers of marked trails either on your own or with a guide. The terrain varies from gentle flats to steep inclines but the routes are well marked.
Even today, with the relatively recent construction of luxury chalets in a good number of different resorts, you can’t discuss France’s luxury ski market without focusing on Courchevel. For years it was the forerunning resort for the rich and famous and indeed for many it still is, as this is a resort with a formidable reputation as the ultimate in ski holiday luxury. Courchevel sits across four different villages but the 6-star properties are almost exclusively located in and around the top level, Courchevel 1850.
Courchevel may not have the same quantity of bars and nightclubs to choose from as resorts like Meribel and Val d’Isère, but it certainly has the same quality. Visitors to this resort at the luxury end of the scale can while away an evening in the opulent surroundings of Courchevel’s many 5* and 6* hotel bars, with le Chabichou being a prime example. Out in resort, the selection of haute-cuisine restaurants is very broad indeed and a good number of them are Michelin starred. Champagne flows like water in a select few of the resort’s sleek cocktail bars, but of course this is a large resort and whether you’re looking for a quiet après ski beer or a boozy evening of live music and dancing, you’ll find it all in Courchevel.
Arriving in style
Like Meribel, Courchevel has its own landing strip in the Altiport where the great and the good can charter aircraft and fly directly onto the slopes. From the Altiport you can kick into your skis and be heading off down the slopes in a matter of moments. If you’re more inclined to stop and rest a while, Restaurant le Pilatus is just off the tarmac in a piste-side location, offering Savoyard specialties and an excellent wine menu. With regard to chalet access from here, all of the resort’s chalets and hotels sit below the Altiport so you can either ski or be driven down to your door.
One of the resort’s newest properties is also one of its finest, and finding a list of superlatives to describe it is no mean feat. The Shemshak Lodge is six stars of faultless finery, boasting all the fixtures and fittings expected of a chalet of its quality and more.
The Shemshak Lodge sits piste-side in Courchevel, with soft furnishings selected specifically by a top London interior designer. An entire floor is dedicated to the chalet’s wellness suite which includes large swimming pool with views of the valley, hammam, sauna, jacuzzi, massage suite and gymnasium. Although it’s perfectly walkable to resort center from the Shemshak, the private 4×4 chauffeur service means access is flawlessly easy. The cuisine and service in this property are entirely bespoke, with the staff trained to the very highest standards.
Another example of Courchevel’s top-end properties is the ski in/out chalet le Coquelicot. This stunning property sits on the piste like the Shemshak, with a similarly modern feel. The chalet offers wellness suite with spa, steam room, massage suite and pool, stylishly designed using mosaic and textured ceramics to create a haven of relaxation and tranquility. Elsewhere in the chalet, guests can enjoy state of the art audio visual system and Wi-Fi throughout, along with the attentive services of a private chef, concierge service and butler. Le Coquelicot has partnered with a private jet and helicopter company offering guests a seamless travel service straight into Courchevel’s famous Altiport.
Facilities and amenities
Courchevel’s list of non-ski pursuits and activities is excellent, and from perusing the many luxury jewelry, clothes, handbags and watch shops around town to trying your hand at a variety of extreme sports or spending an afternoon on luxurious pampering, it’s all readily available. White Tracks is an agency with links to all kinds of mountain-related activities, and pursuits such as hot air ballooning, piste-basher driving, ice-diving and scenic helicopter flights can all be easily organised.
With such a strong reputation for the finer things in life, it’s little wonder that one of the very finest and most luxurious spa and wellness centers in Europe is located in Courchevel. Suites de la Potiniere is the last word in Alpine pampering, a haven for calm, tranquility, serenity and relaxation. The list of services here seems to go on forever, and the center is highly regarded for its use of only one hundred percent natural beauty products. Professional masseuses are on hand offering everything from exfoliations, manicures, body wraps and skin nourishing treatments, leaving visitors feeling rested and invigorated for days afterwards! Aside from the treatments on offer, you can also enjoy hot stone, sports, reflexology and Oriental massages using aromatic oils, with osteopathy and yoga treatments also available upon request.
Meribel, Val d’Isere and Courchevel are, along with other luxury French ski resorts such as Chamonix and les Gets, very popular among businesspeople, royals, celebrities, sports stars and the super-rich alike, and the regular clientele list of these illustrious resorts includes some of the most successful people in the world today. Posh and Becks have favored the slopes of Courchevel for a long time, and in recent years this resort in particular has become very popular among Russia’s business elite, typified perhaps by the interest Roman Abramovich has in the resort. In early January each year for example, Russian New Year sees pretty much all of Moscow’s well-heeled skiers coming to Courchevel for a fortnight of revelry and celebration. Small wonder then that the resort is now better known as Courchevelski!