Chang­ing face of the French Alps

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Courchevel 1850 has long been no­to­ri­ous as a des­ti­na­tion that at­tracts a su­per-rich clien­tele with every in­ten­tion of flaunt­ing their wealth. This news­pa­per has called it “a glitzy mini-Moscow” and re­ported ru­mours that Ro­man Abramovich once thought of buy­ing the en­tire town.

But times are chang­ing, and the French re­sort has started to take on a more re­served and fam­ily friendly tone. The high-end lux­ury re­mains: the slope­side restau­rant Le Chalet de Pier­res will still hap­pily charge you €59 (£52) for a truf­fle pizza, and ask­ing for direc­tions in town will be met with “turn left at Prada”. It is still a re­sort for those with heavy pock­ets.

But the vis­i­tors are in­creas­ingly work­ing pro­fes­sion­als, who are likely to feel more at home in the most ex­clu­sive of the four Courchevel vil­lages than they might have pre­vi­ously. Restau­rants are wel­com­ing, chil­dren are preva­lent and Bri­tons in par­tic­u­lar abound. “There are more pro­fes­sion­als, more fam­i­lies and fewer peo­ple buy­ing a prop­erty as a tro­phy as­set,” says Jerome Lagoutte of Sav­ills French Alps. “Peo­ple come up here for the good at­mos­phere.”

The newly opened Six Senses Res­i­dences in Courchevel 1850 is a prime ex­am­ple of this. The de­vel­op­ment com­prises 53 apart­ments, which are sold free­hold, rang­ing from two-bed­room flats at 750 sq ft to five-bed­room pent­houses.

Though prices for the best homes run up to €8.8mil­lion, the cheap­est apart­ments start from €1.5mil­lion, of­fer­ing an en­try-level op­tion in the cen­tre of an ex­or­bi­tantly priced re­sort. Knight Frank is cur­rently mar­ket­ing a five-bed­room chalet for €11.5mil­lion (with plenty more price on ap­pli­ca­tion) while a seven-bed­room chalet is €17.85mil­lion through Pres­tige Prop­erty Group. For those will­ing to pay ex­tra at Six Senses, the apart­ments can be bought fully fur­nished, with art on the walls and wine in the fridge. Cus­tomi­sa­tions are also pos­si­ble – some clients have bought mul­ti­ple apart­ments and knocked them to­gether.

The ser­vices ri­val a five-star ho­tel – with a 24hour concierge, in-house equip­ment shop and ex­ten­sive spa fa­cil­i­ties – but the in­ten­tion is clearly for them to be lived in, not shown off for a fort­night a year. The kitchens are small but smart, fur­nish­ings and fit­tings are high-end but prac­ti­cal, and some of the apart­ments of­fer spe­cific smaller twin rooms for chil­dren. There are still ex­trav­a­gant fea­tures: larger apart­ments fea­ture cin­ema rooms, bal­conies and steam rooms.

“There will al­ways be room for the bling end of lux­ury,” says Bern­hard Bohnen­berger, pres­i­dent of Six Senses. “But our ap­proach is to be very pri­vate and un­der­stated; we don’t talk about who stays with us and fam­i­lies feel very com­fort­able.”

The re­sort sits in the largest ski­able area in the world – Les Trois Val­lées – which boasts 370 miles of ski slopes, of­fer­ing an ar­ray of runs to suit any abil­ity. More than 1,000 ski in­struc­tors op­er­ate in the area, rang­ing from the fa­mil­iar ESF to high-end pri­vate out­fits such as Le Cer­cle, a pri­vate ski school.

Six Senses has his­tor­i­cally been fo­cused on Asia but is in the mid­dle of a sig­nif­i­cant push into new mar­kets, start­ing with Courchevel, its first res­i­den­tial ski de­vel­op­ment in Europe, with fur­ther Alpine re­sorts in progress in Switzer­land and Aus­tria. Bohnen­berger says that a large pro­por­tion of vis­i­tors to its Asian ho­tels, res­i­dences and spas are from the UK and Europe, pro­vid­ing de­mand for op­tions closer to home.

As well as lo­ca­tion, the ser­vices that these clients want has also changed over the past decade, with more de­mand for be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ences and “well­ness” of­fer­ings ar­ranged through a concierge. A num­ber of Six Senses res­i­dents who have al­ready moved in to the Courchevel re­sort head straight from the slopes to the gym or spa, rather than the bars.

It’s all part of the chang­ing face of the area. “Courchevel has al­ways been ‘look at me, look how loud and amaz­ing I am’, but it has be­come a lot more fam­ily ori­en­tated,” says Roddy Aris, head of sales in the French Alps for Knight Frank. And it’s not just hap­pen­ing at 1850; its neigh­bour, Courchevel 1650, is also try­ing to lure in more fam­i­lies. “World-class ski re­sorts such as Courchevel 1650 have re­alised that they have this su­perb win­ter in­fras­truc­ture that can be used to at­tract a much wider au­di­ence,” says An­drew Beale, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Free Spirit Alpine. “Huge in­vest­ment has gone into build­ing the Aquamo­tion cen­tre – Europe’s largest wa­ter park in the moun­tains – and non-ski­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as the new Luge XXL to­bog­gan run.”

Knight Frank’s Aris says that Megève is an­other lux­ury re­sort play­ing the same game. It has his­tor­i­cally been “to­tally un­der­stated and far more dis­creet,” he says, but there are now “mas­sive plans afoot” to spruce it up and of­fer more.

Megève is also much cheaper than Courchevel 1850, with prime prices per sq ft at €1,209 and €1,767 re­spec­tively – al­though the planned re­de­vel­op­ments could change that.

Courchevel’s ski­ing is worl­drenowned

Apart­ments in the Six Senses Res­i­dences start at €1.5m

The com­plex is Six Senses’ first ski de­vel­op­ment in Europe

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