An unconventionally short, uphill landing strip requires an additional certificate in a pilot’s upbringing. Only top guns are allowed to land amidst the apogee of the Alps, almost two kilometres above the surface of the sea. A daring manoeuvre and a bronze coated Pilatus 12C halts to a stop on the Altiport platform at exactly 14:40. Not a minute later than anticipated. As the door is extended, a two men cockpit crew exit calmly, offering her a helping hand on the towering steps. There’s no cold wind, spring sun perches from above. Dark sunglasses hide her face, short, artisan-made wool coat with racoon fur garnishes the shoulders. Knee-high boots in beguiling anticipation of a blizzard. Whilst this Swiss-made turboprop can serve anything resembling of an airfield, Saint Roch has dispatched a shuttle for the final leg of this foray. Not just a driver, a benevolent service with champagne. Welcome to 1850. Where else but here to close the ski season in the first week of April.
Early morning and my awakening had long passed as I made a way out of the headquarters in Rolle, a locality on the coast of Lac Léman. This was Switzerland and radars skim the highway for no apparent reason, unless your speed is above 110 km/h. Then hell breaks loose. So don’t even try. After Geneva, border crossing, France. Two more hours to destination and at last, I touch the throttle firmly. It happens and I remember as if it were now, at one of those Autoroute toll booths, after I take a cardboard piece of paper from a teller machine. Each of those four well-fed rubbers push tarmac away simultaneously on the verge of grip, clangs I hear from a differential, horizon approaches with unprecedented quickness. Speedometer passes a 200km/h mark in what feels as an instant. “Easy boy”, we don’t want to upset the Gendarmerie. This is a new, revised model, one of the first units to leave Japanese manufacture and the first one to arrive to Europe. I like being first. But not the first one to lose it on an icy corner. ‘’You are responsible for the car’’, were the words of Frederic Mardon and these are after all the Alps and wherever shadow throws its darkness, I’m silky careful, enough to tell a cigarette brand if I am to drive over its filter. Anywhere else and the four exhausts the size of an anti-tank gun would prove too intense, almost vulgar. But not here, in this uber extravagant ski resort. This, Meine Damen und Herren is Courchevel. A place where eighteen 5-star hotels reside, two of them Palaces, where luxury brands define a shopping experience, where service is incredibly chic and of course, where ski grounds are one of the best in the world. Now the silver bullet needs to be polished for the rendezvous at the airport 14:40 sharp.
Saint Roch – Interior Design
She gazes at the navette and then at the GT-R. ‘’That’s my drive thank you’’, and I almost am too slow to open the door. It’s a mere two kilometres to the centre of the resort while we whisk past all the newfangled chalets, impressive if you consider no attempt to demonstrate the cars vicious ability of acceleration was made. It’s an affable pleasure to park next to a pleiad of hypercars at the front of Saint Roch hotel, but then again an only temporary one as they are all on their way to an underground garage. Momentarily an almost invisible yet cordial service cocoons around us, the very General Manager Valerie Mansis personally welcomes her new guests and the doors to The Roch, a four-level apartment on 500 square meters are open. This is hedonism pure, styled in alpine vogue. The fireplace equipped living room alone is a hefty hundred square meters, the master bedroom and three more suites available for guests are decorated with designer furniture and objects to meet the eye. In fact, they say paper withstands anything, however precise the description of this property may be, it’s something to admire first hand. Of course, the apartment chalet is for her, I’m alone testimony of events taking place in the first week of April.
Saint Roch Restaurant
Saint Roch features an exquisite in house restaurant, but she is off to L’Aventure, a place to have supper first and dance on the tables later. Not too late mind you, as the ski lessons with ESF instructor Sylvie Murat start at 9:30 in the morning.
Things couldn’t get any better. The inventor of carving skis, Elan, delivers its newest gear, called Delight, to the ski room. These are the lightest women skis on the planet. In addition, stark spring sun can be awfully unkind to the skin and good protection for a day on the slopes is a must. Should this involve the extract of koishimaru silk, you’ve guessed it, skin becomes soft and young as a result. Sensai Silky Bronze put out Cellular protective series with up to 50 SPF, while its newest addition is a practical stick for the face. Use, don’t abuse. The benefit of having your private ski instructor becomes evident by simply following her as she always knows which trails are deserted, covered with the best snow at any given time of the day, plus she will watch your moves and try correcting your technique. Silvie is no different. Except she is fun to talk to as well and incredibly friendly. She inquires about the skis and girls swap them so she can have a go. Most of all, she wants to review the WaveLight technology which promises easier flexing and more grab in turns. Passing the Altiport on a ski slope brings back memories from the day before, better still, draws attention to the bewitchingly gorgeous, almost iconic, restaurant Cap Horn. Interior also serves as Courchevels Yacht Club address, but at this time of the year, its terrace is the ZIP code to follow. Sardines from a can is what our funky waiter proposes for a starter and we are not disappointed by the delicatessen as much quotidian it may sound. The final bill is a bit pricey but everything in this town is.
Toshiro Kuroda – Sushi Samurai
Plans for the evening include visiting Toshiro Kuroda, a sushi samurai who prepared dishes at a Japanese emperor’s inauguration. But before that, relaxing time after skiing involves hammam and pool time in the Saint Roch ground floor with floating glass balls above your head. If you have a favourite Spa brand, it is not far in this town. The Goji Spa from La Prairie is hosted at hotel K2, a few corners down the road and visiting other establishments is something you shouldn’t miss out. Why? Because they all signed the finest architects and designers, yet to distinguish themselves from each other, hotels splendour different styles. And to see is to believe. An 80-minute Caviar lift facial will do miracles after a full day of skiing, but an official description maybe tops my understanding of this posh treatment. ”Pure luxury that instantly firms skin, giving it a more perfect tone and texture. Caviar pearls instantly lift and infused the face and eye to transform even the dullest complexions into radiant, luminous skin”. When your cup of tea is empty and you are prepared to leave, one of the most fun parts of Courchevel is revealed. The hotel concierge will have their driver take you anywhere in the resort. The same goes for showing your hotels card at any place, they will call your guesthouse and a shuttle will be dispatched for you. And the shuttles vary in forms of BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class, Audi A8 and Q7, Porsche Cayennes, up to business styled VW vans. Basically, you don’t need your car and this is an unmitigated start of understanding Courchevel. Imagine shopping and you leave the store with hands in your pockets. The bags are delivered to your suite separately.
The sushi experience is divine. Philippe Smekens, director of Les Grand Alpes which hosts restaurant Bizan sits with us at the table. It’s not his first time to admire the art of his sushi chef Mr. Kuroda, but he doesn’t fail to still be amazed by what his number one man accomplishes with his bare hands, better yet holding a knife. Be it Sashimi Usuzukuri or Wagyu beef, the achievement is to tote all the fresh ingredients here, in the middle of Alps Savoyardes. You are welcome to resolve the remaining after dinner thoughts at the neighbouring Bellini’s Bar where cocktails rhyme with art under his patronage Mr. Alan Duquesnes. It’s the final night and she feels privileged to do as she pleases. After all, tomorrow, the plane follows her call, she is the one that runs things, things don’t ruin her. And for those of you who wonder who she might be. A quintessential visitor, no doubt she will report about the 48 hours spent here. And so will I, but from a totally different angle.
- Rooms: Starting form €590 in low season to €1560 in high season
- Website: www.lesaintroch.com
- Address: Piste de bellecote, 73121, France
- Phone: +33 4 79 08 02 66