For those of us who have been spoiled by the unparalleled reliability of ski terrain in the American Rockies, schlepping to the French Alps might seem like a gratuitous expenditure of time and money. But what you can’t do in, say, Montana is tack a few days in Paris onto your ski vacation, which is why we always suggest the moneyed ski resort of Courchevel, a collection of five interconnected villages in Les Trois Vallees, the world’s largest ski resort. This is hardly one of those charming Savoyard wooden towns but rather the kind of place where you’ll see sable on sable, and it has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants anywhere in Europe outside of Paris. The key is to start and end this trip with a night or two in Paris.
It’s the low season, and the dollar is strong against the euro, which means you’ll score better-than-usual rates at the George V or the recently reopened Ritz, not to mention prime dinner reservations at Septime and L’Arpege. From there, getting to Courchevel is fairly straightforward—and better yet, there’s no plane involved. Trains depart from Paris’s Gare de Lyon about seven times daily during ski season (December through April) for Moutiers, about a 30-minute drive from Courchevel. The train ride is just over four hours (have your hotel arrange for a driver to pick you up at the station). Four full days is probably all your quads can handle here, as Les Trois Vallees gets an average of 150 inches of snowfall annually and has nearly 400 miles of ski runs. So even during the first two weeks of January, when the resort is at its busiest, you’ll never wait for a chair.
Cheval Blanc – Hands down, one of the most exclusive properties in town. The service here, with a staff-to-guest ratio of nearly four-to-one, is unrivaled.
Les Airelles – A glamorous Tyrolean-inspired Gasthaus, it wins for property with the best food. There’s Pierre Gagnaire’s two-Michelin-star restaurant and the over-the-top lunch and dessert buffets at La Table du Jardin Alpin, where the caviar, foie gras, and char-cuterie seem to stretch as far as the pistes themselves.
Aman Le Melezin – This is the only Aman property in France, and it nails the brand’s signature spare-but-plush vibe. The resort’s Le Melezin Suite is the room to book.
Barriere Les Neiges – The just-opened hotel was designed with a super-elegant coziness in mind. Fur, cash-mere, and velvet pop up in all 42 rooms. The hotel also has the town’s largest spa, with an enormous heated lap pool and the latest in Alpine antiaging treatments.