It’s rare to find a hotel that caters to kids, unless you’re in Disney World. Many fancy hotels ban kids altogether. But at L’Apogée everyone gets VIP treatment, especially the kids. This ski-in/ski-out hotel in the posh French ski resort of Courchevel 1850 has a special children’s program called Mini VIP 1850 for kids ages four to 10. The Mini VIP room looks as if it was designed by Dr. Seuss, with its snowflake patterned carpets and big wooden forts and nooks to crawl into where they can scribble on the ceiling. Kids can choose from activities that range from chocolate making to science experiments. One workshop teaches kids the scents of the Savoie region by playing a perfume guessing game. There’s even a circus school for kids who want to learn to juggle or dress like a clown. Mini VIPs receive a passport that they can fill with stamps as they check off activities.
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The Ultimate Kid's Club
I remember hating vacations as a teenager. I was too old to be amused by cartoons and kiddie games and too old to legally enjoy the bar or nightlife. The people behind L’Apogée in Courchevel, France must have had a similar experience. They’ve created the ultimate teen hangout called Free Style 1850 at the hotel. The funky design was inspired by a pinball machine and makes you feel as if you’re in an-old school Nintendo game. Rather than deck the room out with PlayStation and other computer games, L’Apogée has come up with smart forms of entertainment. There are the requisite ping pong and foosball tables. But then there also cool workshops that let’s kids channel their inner-science geek and make chewing gum, create snow, or even build a super bouncy ball. To feel more like adults, teens get their own currency that they can use to buy mocktails at the bar.
The highlight though is the media room. During the day teens can borrow a GoPro to film their turns on the mountain. Later they can download their footage at Free Style 1850 and the staff will help them cut the scenes into a movie that they can take home as a souvenir. Hopefully this teen club comes with a bouncer, because it won’t be long before adults are trying to sneak in on some of the action.
If Jay Gatsby had a ski chalet it would be L’Apogée in the French ski resort town of Courchevel 1850. L’Apogée has an Art Deco meets the Alps design aesthetic with its gold finishes, fur throws, and black-and-white wool plaid carpeting and sofas. Designer Joseph Dirand is responsible for the public spaces, while India Mahdavi is the mastermind behind the look of the 55 comfortable, yet glamorous rooms and suites. Mahdavi had the furnishings commissioned exclusively for the hotel and was inspired by Tyrolean craft as well as the surrounding mountains. Bedrooms come in maroon or emerald green color palettes with large leather chests at the end of each bed. In the living room, you’ll find snowflake-shaped chairs with white fuzzy seating. Balconies overlook the passing gondola and the grand mountains and most have underfloor heating so you can enjoy the view without getting a chill. Bathrooms are equally as inviting, with Fior di Bosco marble and deep soaking tubs. If you want to really splurge, book the three-bedroom penthouse, which has a private terrace, complete with hot tub.
Skiers looking for a pick-me up espresso or a light bite can ski into Le Bar de L’Apogée. Set off the lobby of L’Apogée hotel, the bar has a lunch menu with the requisite burger and club sandwich and side of fries. But it also has more gourmet-minded specials like a prawn salad or lobster club. Post-ski you’ll return to a buzzy atmosphere with a DJ spinning in the middle of the room and barman Akram Rechidov mixing drinks that will instantly thaw any remaining winter chill. Don't miss the signature 1850 cocktail - a mix of scotch whiskey, vermouth, dry amaretto, and banana cream.
Champagne lovers will geek out over the Champagne Lounge at L’Apogée hotel in Courchevel, France. The guests-only room features 50 different bottles of bubbly from some of the world’s top Champagne houses, including jerobam 2005 Cristal Roederer (only 200 bottles exist worldwide). Guests can book the room for private breakfast appointments or pop in for a decadent lunch of haute-snacks such as truffle-topped hot dogs and foie gras club sandwiches. In the evening, the lounge offers a quieter alternative to the hotel bar. Get cozy by the fire and taste your way through some bubbles. I can’t think of a better way to end my day.
After a few days on the slopes, I’m usually pretty beat up. My muscles are sore from tackling moguls; my skin is dehydrated and ruddy with windburn. The Europeans call their spa time, “wellness,” which sounds much more essential and much less indulgent. So when I ski in Europe, I act like the locals and get my wellness on. Le Spa de L’Apogée in Courchevel, France is a sybarite’s dream. Post-ski you can unwind in the steam room, sauna, or the salt cave, which supposedly gives off “healing” negative ions. Spa treatments feature Sisley and Bamford products. The 60-minute After-Ski Restorative facial instantly moisturizes and calms wind-whipped skin. Massage styles range from Thai to deep tissue. The signature Zen Harmony massage uses aromatherapy to relax tense muscles. For those who’ve been dragged along on ski holiday, skip the slopes and sign up for a multi-day spa journey.
Descending the stairs to Le Comptoir de L’Apogée makes you feel as if you’re walking the red carpet to a culinary awards show. The spotlight is provided by two large circular glass chandeliers that were originally made for the Barcelona Olympics. Don’t feel bad if you stop to ogle the glass-encased legs of aged ham on display at the central bar or the beckoning cheese display (many of the 45 different cheeses are aged on-property and procured from local cheesemakers). Though the restaurant has TK tables, the vibe is still intimate as the space is divided into small rooms. Chef Franck Ferigutti has devised a menu to please every appetite. There are the crowd pleasers, such as the burger and fries, as well as a menu of regional specialties such as pigeon Bressan with black truffles.
For those who want to indulge, there are sections of the menu devoted to caviar as well as truffles. I recommend the eggs en cocotte with scallops and white truffle to start. The mains are served with fanfare, such as a lobster dish that comes covered in an extra-tall smoke-filled glass dome. It would be a sin to leave without a sampling of cheeses and the staff won’t take no dessert for an answers. Petit fours close out the meal and are irresistible no matter how full you are.
I always thought Courchevel was a glitzy ski scene with women in fur coats and ridiculous furry boots, streets lined with Bulgari and Louis Vuitton shops, and bank-breaking restaurants serving truffle-covered dishes paired with bottles of Krug. But there is a wild side to Courchevel that is often overlooked. Courchevel set within Vanoise National Park, which is often called France’s Yosemite. If you get off the ski slopes you can experience the humbling beauty of the park. A snow shoe adventure with Raquette Evasion introduced me to this other side of Courchevel. Raquette Evasion founder Pascal Breyton, went from ski guide to snow shoe tour operator 20 years ago. I always associate snow shoes with the oversized tennis-raquet like things found hanging on the walls of bars in Maine and the activity with something my mom would embrace. But snow shoeing in France, Pascal informed me, was something all together different. The shoes are lined with cleats and grips and are super maneuverable while the pace is enough to challenge even the fittest athletes.
Pascal’s tour range from an easy half-day trek into the park to a full-day adventure up the mountains. We ventured to the gorgeous, turquoise blue lake and along the way spotted fox tracks and glided our way down hills of powder. I was sweating from the effort but the views of the surrounding mountains and forest were well worth the burn.