Hitting the slopes takes on a whole new meaning as we reveal the most memorable and extraordinary ways to experience Europe’s snow-capped skiing destinations.
Words: Lauren Romano
Spectacular scenery, exhilarating terrain and high-profile winter hangouts: there’s no denying that Europe’s alpine peaks possess a certain allure. With its sprinkling of historic resorts that promise the best of winter sports, scenery and service, it’s little wonder that the region is the snowy stomping ground of choice for both avid adventurists and beginners alike.
But if you think there’s nothing more to alpine destinations than winter sports, think again. Rather than head straight for the ski lifts, why not take to the skies in a helicopter in search of untouched powder, or refuel with a slope-side picnic prepared by an acclaimed chef? Thanks to our network of locals on the ground, Carrier can open up enviable and authentic ways to access the mountains. Here’s how to go off-piste in style…
Fine dining hits heady heights in Courchevel. Famed for its reputation as the St Tropez of snow, Courchevel is a cut above in every aspect – and its gastronomic scene is no exception. The cluster of six picturesque villages has one of the highest concentrations of Michelinstarred restaurants in the world – with six establishments forming a dazzling constellation of 11 stars.
Epicurean skiers will be in their element here, with restaurants overseen by revered names such as Pierre Gagnaire and Yannick Alléno. The surrounding Savoie region meanwhile, is renowned for its stellar produce, particularly its wines, which tend to be of the crisp white variety.
Away from the pristine, white table-clothed dining rooms, there are other ways to treat the taste buds, such as spending the day with a skiing chef from the L’Apogée Courchevel hotel. Swapping his chef ’s whites for salopettes, chef Jean-Luc Lefrançois guides a party of only four over the slopes of the Couloir (the route is tailored according to ability), armed with his specially prepared picnic for the group to enjoy on piste. The gastronomic adventure continues back at the hotel, when Jean-Luc invites guests to toast the day with a glass of champagne at the open kitchen at Koori sushi restaurant while he demonstrates how to prepare a signature dish from the menu.
For some skiers, swooping down the mountainside delivers a sensation akin to flying, but to truly soar, nothing beats taking to the skies in a helicopter. The hovering motion, the constant hum of the propellers, the unmatched views – the thrill of riding in a chopper is exhilarating, especially when the panorama is as enthralling as the Dolomites. And Rosa Alpina, a beautiful, family-owned spa retreat in South Tyrol, offers one of the most unforgettable tours around.
A 10-minute helicopter flight takes in some of the Dolomites’ most impressive peaks, including the lofty Marmolada Glacier, the Three Peaks of Lavaredo and Cinque Torri, before landing at Rifugio Averau for an aperitivo of Italian sparkling wine served with a selection of cold meats and cheeses produced in the surrounding valleys.
The local fuel will help power a morning of skiing, led by an alpine guide, to San Cassiano for lunch at Rifugio Scotoni – a hidden gem of a restaurant known for its barbecues – before following the trail down to the nearby icy waterfalls. The day finishes with a horse carriage ride through the snow back to Rosa Alpina, by which point you will hopefully have worked up an appetite for dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants, such as the elegant three Michelin-starred St Hubertus.
Ploughing your way through snowy terrain on a motorised snowmobile is undoubtedly a high-octane way to experience the slopes, but for traditionalists, dog-sledding provides a more serene – and silent – way to soak up the natural surroundings. Dogs have been pulling sleds for millennia; it is thought the practice originated in remote communities across the Arctic, Siberia and North America in around 2000 BC. Today, machinery might have the advantage in terms of speed – although dogs can still reach an exhilarating 25-30mph – but the adrenalin rush and sense of connection that comes with this traditional means of transport ensures its enduring appeal. As do events such as La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc, a 900km dog sled race through the French and Swiss Alps that takes place every January (the 16th edition runs from 11-22 January 2020), drawing huge crowds.
In a quiet hamlet just outside Megève, where one of the race’s stages takes place, Alpaga is also reviving the time-honoured pursuit. The high-altitude hotel will ensure you spend quality time together with friends and family, either nestled in one of its chalets or suites, which are inspired by local traditional architecture, or, indeed, venturing outdoors. In the company of Alaskan Malamutes, you can experience the alpine setting in the most magical way and learn to guide the dogs with voice commands and movements. Each 30-40 minute journey can also be tailored, with the option of including a tasting of regional cheeses and charcuterie, a snow racket walk, a snow-scoot or luge.
With its jet-set clientele and glamorous heritage, it stands to reason that Europe’s most storied skiing destinations have long been the place to see and be seen. With a generous dusting of high-fashion boutiques, the different regions’ resorts are harbingers of impeccable taste.
Via Serlas in St Moritz is the epitome of style and luxury – the world’s highest shopping promenade, is home to world-renowned brands such as Miu Miu, Gucci, De Grisogono and Cartier, making it the perfect place to browse the latest high jewellery and fashion collections in elevated surroundings.
Shopping here is about taking the time to appreciate craftsmanship and creativity, which is why the town’s iconic Badrutt’s Palace hotel will host its third series of Fashion Nights during the winter season. The programme of exclusive in-store events invites Carrier guests to enjoy a unique VIP shopping evening. Last year, highlights included an artisan demonstration of the shoe-colouring process at Santoni, a women’s day celebration at Ogier and a special launch event to mark the opening of the Breitling boutique – and this year’s line-up promises to be just as memorable.