Tootlafrance talks to head of the tourist office at Courchevel – one of France’s most famous ski resorts, which is all geared up for another season almost 70 years after it first opened its doors to the world
Adeline Roux (pictured above) has a job that many people would consider ideal: head of the Office de Tourisme in one of the most sought-after winter resorts in Europe. It must be the dream job to spend most of your year planning all the fun for the winter and then having one of the world’s best skiing facilities on your doorstep too?
“In France we say ‘Les cordonniers sont toujours les plus mal chaussés‘ (literally, ‘Cobblers always have the worst shoes’). And it’s true that, with all the activity that my job entails and all the people that I have to meet, I’ve very little time left to ski… But I do ski and when I can, I go skiing!”
Life in Courchevel, Adeline explains, comes in four distinct parts:“The time when it’s at its busiest is in winter,” she says, rather unsurprisingly, “because this resort was really created for skiing. It goes on from the start of December to the end of April… it’s really one of the great ski resorts and there are always loads of people.
“After that, the place closes down. If you’ve only ever come to Courchevel in winter, you couldn’t imagine what it’s like in Spring. I found it really weird the first year that I lived in Courchevel. We can accommodate up to 40,000 people in the ski station, but when the winter season ends, there are only 2,000 people left – and that’s spread out over 5 villages and hamlets. So, all of a sudden, it can feel like there’s virtually nobody left and you find yourself surrounded by nature. All the animals of the area start to reappear; you see deer, foxes… wild boars! It’s really an amazing thing to behold, this change of pace and change of environment.
“In the Spring, it’s really magnificent as we’re right on the edge of the Parc Naturel de la Vanoise and we have a flora that’s very particular to this area and it’s at it’s most beautiful in the month of June.”
The following months of July and August see plenty of summer tourists come to Courchevel to explore the green mountains, go fishing in the seven lakes or partake in some of the various other activities that are available on the summer programme.
“The resort opens in summer, but not completely,” she says. “People who come in the summer are blown away by all the things there are to do here.”One of the unexpected pleasures and advantages of paying a visit to Courchevel in summer is that of shopping. There are lots of shops in the resort that open their doors during these months to clear their stock in preparation for the winter season. It’s a bargain hunter’s dream, where you can pick up a lot of items of clothing at knock-down prices.
At the beginning of September, Courchevel returns to the residents of Courchevel once more. This is another season where the beauty of the regions puts on its best autumn colours and when you see large herds of cows on the move.
“We have more than 500 cows in the valley,” says Adeline, explaining that they serve as a lawnmower, keeping grass down on the higher slopes. The local Tarentaise cattle – a breed noted for their docile nature and ability to roam the upper-most Alpine edges – are native to the Savoie and cut a very photogenic presence with their caramel-coloured hides, long horns and oddly glamorous faces.
For now, Adeline is in full-on winter mode, with Courchevel about to open. One of the resorts first big events will be the Women’s Downhill Skiing World Cup on the weekend of December 13th and 14th. This is the fifth successive year that the competition will be held here and it’s expected to draw a crowd of about between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators, according to Ms Roux.
“Everyone comes back in November to get ready for the season…. It’s really as if the resort was re-opening all over again.”Courchevel does have a reputation as a really posh place to ski, and therefore very expensive. But the truth is that it’s a large resort with what is arguably one of the widest range of skiing experiences you can find anywhere – from fumbling beginner to fearless off-piste daredevil. The range of accommodation types is just as diverse.
“Courchevel is a prestigious destination and it’s true that for someone looking for the top-end experience, there is plenty of accommodation, restaurant experience and shopping that will satisfy that clientele. But it’s not only that – it’s the resort with the widest choice of facility in existence and the clientele that come here are very mixed and very diverse.”
French nationals make up about 35% of the visitors. Amongst the majority foreign visitors, it’s the British who are most numerous, counting for about 20-25% of the total tourist population, followed by the Russian-speaking market (12%), and then a variety of other nationalities, with the Irish in the mix amidst Brazilians, Belgians and Bulgarians and many others.
“It’s a real balcony resort, with the easier slopes located closest to the resort and the further up the mountain you go, the higher the level of skiing. We have forest skiing, off-piste… everything. There are parts where you feel like you’re in Canada and you’re in the (Les Trois Vallées) largest ski area in the world.”
Sounds good to me… I still think that it’s the dream job.
Slideshow of Courchevel Images
Superb Promotional Video from Courchevel tourism that sums up what the resort is all about – guaranteed to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck!