The History of Courchevel Ski Resort
Along with neighbouring ski resort Meribel and Val Thorens, Courchevel makes up the outstanding skiing area known as Tres Vallees, or the Three Valleys. As with most of the top ski resorts Courchevel didn’t just spring up by chance. This barren area of the Alps was at the centre of a debate by visionaries in the shape of the Savoie Council who wanted to give the area a boost following the end of WWll and who, correctly, predicted it to be the perfect spot for a ski resort.
The council entrusted the urbanist and architect Laurent Chappis to scour the area and see how viable their plans actually were. Laurent proceeded to roam the various slopes of the Tres Vallees and paid particular attention the Saint-Bon’s mountain pastures. After making several outings on a set of skis he drew up the best skiing areas of the entire valley and used these in order to create the plans for a new ski resort.
Laurent submitted his proposal for a 6000 bed ski resort on the Tovets Plateau to Savoie Council in April of 1946 and less than a month later his plans were unanimously accepted after submission to the Local Council of Saint-Bon. They gave them the municipal lands of Bellecôte and Les Tovets as well as those lands towards Courchevel, Moriond, La Loze and La Vizelle. Laurent Chappis appointed as town planner and architect was in complete charge of the layout plan for the future resort.
Another important man is brought in at this point; Saint-Bon born Jean Blanc. As well as being born and bred in the area he is also the French skiing champion and was put in charge of the technical side of the ski area and how best to construct the technical equipment. Many studies are carried out for several weeks before the first work begins. Following much debate over the name, the general consensus that Tovets wasn’t particularly marketing friendly, so it was decreed in June 1946 that the resort be named Courchevel.
From these humble origins grew what is today considered to be one of the best resorts in the Alps, if not the world. Construction work on the first hotel began in August 1946 which was called the Council Tres Vallees Hotel but the council bit was dropped in years to come. This hotel became an iconic building in the traditional chalet shape with the 2 sides roof. Due to the proximity no mechanical aids could be used so all the digging out and levelling out was done by hand.
In October 1946 the first two ski lifts were installed. The first one connected the village of Courchevel to the ski resort now sharing its name. The second gave access to the area known as Loze and in its place today are the 2 ski lifts alongside the Emile Allais Stadium. The first lift opened in December 1946 and the second in January 1947 allowing them to open the new resort for business during the 1946/1947 season. In less than a year the dream of the Savoie Council had become a fully functioning reality.
At first it was a well kept secret amongst the jet set of this area of Europe and it grew steadily over the years with more hotels, ski lifts, restaurants and bars opening on a regular basis. As the aviation industry started to grow and become more accessible, Courchevel started to gain its reputation for being one of the best ski resorts in Europe. To this day it is a premier resort, albeit barely recognisable from Laurent Chappis’ original plans, but he must be smiling down with proud at what is basic drawings have evolved into.