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Letter from Europe: The Three Valleys, France

Bonjour mes amis,

In Europe, ski season is in full flow. I’ve come to Courchevel in the French Alps to breathe in the fresh mountain air, feast my eyes on the snow covered landscapes, and to explore Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys), the largest linked ski area in the world.

The excitement built as I drove the winding Alpine roads from Geneva, just across the border in Switzerland. The Alps are stunning all year round, but it is in the winter and early spring that the resorts are at their busiest, buzzing with energy and the sound of conversations in a dozen different languages. The locals come here to ski at the weekends, of course, but during the week there’s no counting all the nationalities on the slopes. I immediately felt at home.

It’s the vast scale of The Three Valleys which draws so many winter sports fans here. The ski zone, part of which is within the Vanoise National Park, has an estimated 370 miles of pisted runs, 183 lifts, and well over 2,000 snow cannons. Even an experienced, athletic skier would be hard pushed to ski from one end of the resort to the other in a day, and there is an almost uncountable combination of possible routes.

Courchevel — my home for the week — is nicknamed “the St. Tropez of winter sports” as it attracts a celebrity crowd. Prince William, George Clooney, and Roman Abramovich have all vacationed here in previous years, so as I ride the gondolas each day I’m keeping my eyes peeled for royalty and Hollywood royalty alike. That said, whether I’d actually recognise a famous face beneath a ski helmet and goggles is a moot point! My chances are higher in the late afternoons when everyone is sat out enjoying the resort’s après ski.

When I’ve skied in previous years, I’ve usually been in an all-inclusive ski hotel. This time, I’ve opted for something different: an exclusive apartment from Alpine Lodges. Having tried it now, I’m never going back.

The ski-in, ski-out lodge’s architectural style is certainly inspired by a traditional wooden chalet, but the huge amounts of glass in between the timber both lets in light and gives it a more contemporary feel. The designers have created each interior detail meticulously. The colour scheme is predominantly shades of grey and white (like the mountains themselves), and the prominent use of natural materials further blurs the lines between the lodge and the surrounding landscape.

When I’m exhausted from a long day on the slopes, the lodge is my retreat. It’s my private space, a haven of calm. I can run a steaming hot bath, scrunch my toes into the thick pile of a rug, or pour a drink and enjoy it quietly on the terrace, reflecting on the day’s runs and recuperating at my own pace before I head down to dinner. I set the schedule, and I’m enjoying the privacy and tranquility immensely.

Tonight, I ventured out to Aquamotion, the largest mountain aqua centre in Europe. It is right here in Courchevel. The saunas, hydrobaths, and whirlpools do wonders for tired limbs, but the most magical spot of all is the outdoor lagoon.

It was cold enough to see my breath in the air, but the water around me was deliciously warm. I lay back, half floating, and stared up at the canopy of stars. Each pinprick of light, however many million miles away, seems that much more intense in the clear night sky of the mountains. There really is no way I’d rather end a day.

Au revoir,

Sophie

www.alpine-lodges.fr




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