More, more, more. It’s all about largesse in France’s Trois Vallées, the linked ski area whose 600km of pistes and 160 lifts are celebrated as the world’s biggest. At Ecrin Blanc, Courchevel’s new hotel, the same generous proportions are in full effect.

Perched piste-side in Moriond, aka 1650, the second highest of the resort’s six base villages, Ecrin Blanc is now Courchevel’s biggest hotel, with 127 rooms and suites that sleep up to eight. But while it compares very favourably to the glittering addresses of its higher altitude, famously upmarket neighbour Courchevel 1850, it is by no means its most expensive. 

Indeed, little compares to the price-tag trauma encountered at the five-stars that dominate 1850, where, for example, a double room at the elegant, Asian-influenced Aman Le Melezin starts at €1,120 (£978) half board. At the piste-side Barrière Les Neiges the cheapest room starts at €1,390 (£1,213) a night – and that’s room only. Even moving down a star to the charming Hotel de la Loze does not come cheap, averaging €520 (£452) for a double room, including breakfast. 

However, with nightly rates for a double room averaging a rather more down to earth €365 (£318) B&B, the four-star Ecrin Blanc is part of a new wave of accommodation and restaurants that is growing 1650’s attraction for discerning skiers.

Its ski-in/ski-out location, jazzy airy art-filled spaces and relaxed service are the embodiment of higher value at lower altitude – and it has a true wellness USP. Every stay includes entry to Aquamotion, the largest aquatic centre in the French Alps, which is connected to the hotel by a private underground tunnel. Guests have unlimited access to the main arena of pools, a potential saving of €23 (£20) a day for adults and €13 (£11) for children. The giant watery amusement centre is great for families with energy-addled children and teens needing après-ski amusements – there’s even a surf wave. Entry to the adults-only well-being area with more pools, saunas and steam rooms is not included however, and costs a further €14 (£12) per day.

Ecrin Blanc’s interior rivals some of its luxury neighbours

Back in the hotel, Ecrin Blanc’s design-orientated sprawling spaces are dotted with a changing roster of modern-art pieces, and include a free supervised kids club, ski hire and lift pass sales, and a choice of restaurants. 

High-ceilinged, wood-lined Le Grill is sunlit by day and faux-candle lit by night, with seats for up to 240 diners on sheepskin-draped chairs that encourage settling in for the Savoyard/Russian influenced menu. Outside, there’s room for a further 120 people on its sun-trap of a terrace. Here, there’s a lunchtime choice of a burger from the Food Truck perched on the snow, pizza from the wood-flamed oven, or seafood displayed on ice – and twice a week the opportunity to raise a glass of rosé and segue into a party vibe with a live DJ. 

Le Cellier bar is open continuously for snacks and drinks. For Courchevel – ever the necessary caveat – prices in the restaurants are of-this-world reasonable; tartiflette or pizza €19, six Fine de Claire oysters €24, tasty filet de boeuf €45. A small beer costs €6 euros, local craft beer €8.

The new hospitality arrangements on offer at Ecrin Blanc demanded infrastructure and so the hotel is not the only upgrade giving Courchevel Moriond something of a mini refresh. The new Grandes Combes chairlift rises from just beside the terrace, and is free to ride without a lift pass, so a novice could potentially get in some practice loops at no charge. Ascending to blue pistes above Courchevel Village, the lift also gives quicker access from Moriond towards 1850 – although since accessing 1850’s base lifts means walking a few metres upwards from the top and across the road, the best route is to ski down to Village at 1,550m, and catch another lift up to 1850.

There’s a new 1km run too – also called Grandes Combes – leading directly to Ecrin Blanc from the blue Proveres piste next to the toboggan run just below 1850. A right turn on to Grandes Combes leads to the bottom of the chairlift and the ski room – or watch for the sign directing a left turn above the hotel towards the terrace. 

Missing a turn on to Proveres on my first attempt gave a happy result: meandering all the way down to another Courchevel village, Le Praz at 1,300m, I crossed the future finish line for the Alpine Ski World Championships in 2023 and caught the swanky new 10-seater Le Praz gondola back up to 1850. 

Courchevel is part of the world’s largest ski area

Credit:
David ANDRE/David ANDRE

Skiing between 1850, Village and Le Praz is a less obvious choice than heading upwards from 1850, and the pistes were practically empty.

As is usual in the supersized Trois Vallées, navigation at Ecrin Blanc is key. On check-in, guests receive a comprehensive tour of both the hotel and Aquamotion, conducted by one of the guest relations staff whose jumpers read “Smile Maker”; other staff are distinguished by the “I work here” outfit. And work they do – the tone is friendly yet professional, a far cry from the deferential airs I’ve experienced in famous 1850 five-stars like Cheval Blanc and Les Airelles.

Ecrin Blanc and its lift and piste are just the latest steps in Moriond’s rejuvenation. In recent years some really good restaurants have opened, along with good-value, stylish four-star accommodation. I loved the cosy country-house vibe in Portetta, which re-opened in 2008 after a complete refurbishment. There’s the convivial Fire+Ice patio at the base of the pistes, serving up happy hour drink deals, live music and ice shots. And British chef Angela Hartnett, of one-Michelin starred Murano in London, oversees the hotel’s Cucina Angelina restaurant. 

Le Grill seats for up to 240 diners on sheepskin-draped chairs

Portetta’s funky slope-side neighbour, Fahrenheit 7, opened in December 2017, has ski-in/ski-out rooms, newly renovated apartments, the Zinc bar, and a sunny lunch terrace – the Buddha Bowl full of fresh mango, avocado and quinoa was a highlight. New this year, high-spec apartments at Manali Lodge are served by two further stylish restaurants. Moriond may be down-mountain, but it’s certainly not downmarket.

Waking up in my room at the Ecrin Blanc was surprisingly quiet; silent actually. My balcony looked on to the snowy mountainside, and rooms are well equipped with a microwave, Nespresso, tea, two TVs, and a pay-for minibar. En-route to an early morning swim at Aquamotion, I donned my robe and sashayed past a lavish breakfast buffet spread of including flaky croissants and all the ingredients of a Full English. 

Unnerved to find I was the only person in a bathrobe – my “I Sleep Here” uniform – I probed the waitress for possible backlash. “C’est originale,” she declared. “Mais pas de problème, bien sur.”

Ecrin Blanc guests get their steps in on the journeys around the largest hotel in the area, and it’s advisable to extra allow time for negotiating corridors and working out a lift system that when got wrong (and wrong it will be got), adds minutes to a journey. 

I arrived at Aquamotion just in time to fill out the massage questionnaire: “Do you exercise a lot, little, not at all, enough?” After a few days at large on the slopes of the Trois Vallées and the corridors of Ecrin Blanc, I ticked “enough” and happily gave up my body up for benevolent repair.

Essentials

The price for a double room at Ecrin Blanc Courchevel ranges from €250 to €700  B&B per night (£218 to £611) during the winter season, with an average price of €365, including access to Aquamotion. Crystal Ski offers half board packages to the hotel starting at £1,224 per person, including flights and transfers.

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