DISCOVER LA COUCHIRE
Much of the best skiing in Val d’Isère starts 75 seconds from the door of La Couchire. The Fornet cable car might not win any awards for architecture (though the Pompidou Centre did), but it serves the best snow and emptiest slopes in the area. There are pistes for everybody, from long, easy blues to the wicked black Forêt mogulfield, and an infinite off-piste area. Now that even the highest runs have snow cannons, this must be some of the most snow-sure skiing in Europe.
Guests from La Couchire are already in the powder while everyone else is on the bus, and they can even be on the slopes of Solaise in no time, via the up-and-over or the never-busy Laisinant Express, which now links with the Datcha.
The hamlet of Le Fornet itself is gorgeous, the hugely popular Arolay and gastronomic Atelier d’Edmond restaurants are in it, and on the slopes just above are the excellent Edelweiss and Le Signal, recently named best mountain restaurant in Europe.
Le Fornet is at the very end of the Haute Tarentaise valley, where the road becomes piste, and although it is some distance from the village centre as the chough flies, it is not inconvenient for the village shops, ski schools or nightlife. The free bus waits just outside La Couchire until the early hours, and gets you to the centre in about five minutes. If you think this sounds too good to be true, just ask Fiona Easdale, the ‘E’ of YSE. With three children to get to ski school and never less than a hundred best friends to catch up with, she doesn’t do inconvenient. And she stays here every winter!
Included in welove2ski’s list of Best Luxury Ski Chalets in the World, La Couchire is a stunning eight-bedroom chalet, built for us by race coach Cédric Bonnevie and his sisters Ingrid, who would be the best-looking ski instructor in Val d’Isère if it weren’t for Cédric, and Magali – unquestionably the pisteur one would most like to be rescued by. It was a bit of a shock to see these paradigms of pulchritude pouring concrete and planing beams! One day they’ll all live here themselves. For the moment, Ingrid spends most of the winter in the annexe, just next door to the ground-floor sitting room, while the other two move out to let you help pay their mortgage.
The chalet has a superb dining room, next door to a sitting area with a log fire where guests tend to meet for pre-dinner drinks. Downstairs is the main sitting room, with a second log fire and a large flat screen for DVDs when the conversation has dried up, or WiFi if you wish it would…
La Couchire’s best bedrooms are among the biggest in the resort, with stupendous views from the Galise, on the Italian border, to the Grande Motte, above Tignes. Most of the bedrooms offer the choice of large twin or vast double beds (please specify which you prefer when you book). Only Bedrooms 7 and 8 are more typical of Val d’Isère, as profligate with space as an iPod Shuffle. Because they are less des res than the other bedrooms we charge £50pppw less for them. All eight have really smart bathrooms.