THE FRENCH ALPS What to do when there’s just too much bling?

Launching this season, a new community-focused concept in the luxury ski market looks set to shake up Courchevel’s property market.

THE FRENCH ALPS

What to do when there’s just too much bling?

Launching this season, a new community-focused concept in the luxury ski market looks set to shake up Courchevel’s property market.

Belvedere Courchevel's best kept secret neighborhood

The alpine resort of Courchevel has evolved almost beyond recognition from the sleepy mountain town it was a few decades ago.  Now considered by the global glitterati as one of the chicest spots to spend the winter, Courchevel 1850 is wall-to-wall glamour from December through April. Snow-bunnies watch snow-polo between shopping in designer boutiques, while Michelin-starred chefs concoct private dinners ahead of crystal-popping partying. Dreamy days here are spent gallivanting across the largest skiable region in the world, 600Km of spectacular and varied pistes known as the Three Valleys.

But when does all that bling become too much of a good thing? Demand has reached fever pitch in recent years, with the property market exploding over the past decade.  Million-dollar chalets now sit snuggled alongside one another, and even in Bellecôte, considered to be Courchevel’s chicest neighborhood, the smartest pied-a-terres offer scant privacy for the price-tag. In Courchevel 1850, there is just no more space left to expand.

Next season, a new proposition is set to shake up the market, bringing a new level of privacy and a reconnection to the resort’s natural beauty and authentic roots that many long-time frequenters long for. Le Belvédère Club is located in Belvédère, one of Courchevel’s most traditional, and often forgotten neighbourhoods, an intimate cluster of chalets that hug the forest on the slope down from 1850 to its sister village of 1650.  Conrad and Camilla Clauson, the Norwegian couple behind one of the seasons’ most innovative developments, must have skied over the terrain hundreds of times before it dawned on them that this could be the the solution to their frustrated 7 year search for the perfect family chalet.  “We were seeking a connection with nature, with the mountains, as well as a place where we could access the action and facilities of the resort, but every estate agent told us it was impossible” shares Conrad. “Then one day, I was skiing down Belvédère, and saw this deep forest, the South-West facing slope with direct sun access all day, and the thought came to me, would it be possible to build here? After many discussions with the town hall, they agreed to let us take on the project, but only on the condition that we developed the area, rather than a single chalet.”

 

The Clausons found themselves in a unique position: they weren’t traditional alpine developers, but had first-hand experience in owning and managing multiple homes around the world. They had also rented chalets countless times, so knew exactly what they were looking for from a client perspective. Drawing inspiration from the Aman resort in Thailand, where privately-owned villas benefit from the brand’s exceptional service, the couple settled on a business model that would enable the chalets to become income-generating assets rather than a financial drain that needed to be managed and maintained. “We wanted to combine the quality of lifestyle and service you find in the very best chalets in the world, but in a more normal, natural setting. Where else can you find a 200 square metre chalet with a full service concierge, spa and wellness facilities?”.

World-class services at Le Belvedere Club

The result is an intimate development of 14 chalets, each ranging from 4-6 bedrooms and sharing fabulous, light-filled common spaces that combine living and dining areas with a generous wine-cellar and a full-service spa.  At the heart of it all is a unique approach to offering 5 star services that favours the client rather than the operator.  “We are both the developer, operator and client, so we didn’t want to charge, or pay, the usual mark-ups set by operators”. The solution was to form their own operations management company, Belvedere, in partnership with Courchevel’s chalet management leader Vallat Group, enabling them to offer exceptional services to their property owners at cost price. As a resident of Le Belvedere Cub, you can expect to drink fabulous wines from the Bordeaux Cellar at wholesale price, while also calling upon the services of world-class yoga teachers and Japanese michelin-starred chefs. “There’s a flat-rate annual service fee per chalet of 20,000 EUR to cover the staff and maintenance of the common-areas, and then the range of pay-upon-demand services are charged at cost. The key to it all is spontaneity and flexibility - we want residents to be on the mountain and decide with friends to host a dinner that evening, and in one whatsapp to the concierge, all is arranged’.  When owners aren’t in residence, the properties are managed and rented by the Clausons’ partner and leading Trois Vallées developer the Vallat Group, ensuring that the private homes become income-generating assets.  “When creating Le Belvédère Club, we considered it from both the homeowner’s and renter’s perspective.  The idea is that this is a very family-orientated project where people come back year upon year and we evolve into a community.  As such, there are storage spaces reserved for all owners and returning clients; you can leave your skis and your belongings behind, and the staff will lay them out for you as if you had never left. It makes taking a large family skiing infinitely easier and more pleasurable’.

For the interiors, the Clausons chose to work with Philip Vergeylen, the director of award-winning interior design house Paolo Moschino for Nicholas Haslam.  The result is a large dose of Old-World glamour crafted from natural, locally sourced materials.  “The emphasis was on keeping it bright and natural, with that feeling of coziness you crave with chalets in the mountains”, shares Philip.  Slate-grey stone floors and norwegian blond wooden wall are offset by the highest quality design details, from bronze lamps and the finest linens hand-crafted by artisans in Belgium to furniture sourced from across the globe or custom-made.  “We spent a lot of time looking at perspectives”, explains Vergeylen, “thinking,  where do you sit, what do you see… these properties are designed as dream-homes to be really lived in… homes that capture the original spirit of Courchevel”.  

 

When the Clausons first approached Philip, the remoteness of the location was a concern : “There is nothing, you are in the middle of nature...but when I went to see it, it blew me away.  It’s totally open, secluded, unique.  For me, the location is now one of the biggest draws.” says Philip.  Along with the village of Courchevel 1650, Belvedere is set to benefit from a €170 million infrastructure investment from the municipal government over the coming years, opening up the area through unprecedented facility of access . In summer of 2017, a gondola connecting the villages of 1650 and 1850 will open, running every day until the early hours of the morning. This will ensure those staying in the lower resorts of 1650 and Belvédère can access the restaurants, shops and nightlife of the resort’s more glamourous side like never before, without worrying about how to get home. Paving the way for the area’s evolution was chic boutique hotel Le Portetta, which opened on the slopes down from Belvédère two seasons ago, offering dining from Angela Hartnett, a great bar and a fabulous ski-in ski-out location.  It was the first step to putting Belvédère back on the map. “ In my opinion,” shares Conrad, Belvédère will become the new Bellecote of Courchevel. You will have the same access to both the slopes and action, but without overlooking the masses. We are creating a new concept in the luxury ski market, as well as a new angle for Courchevel.  Its founded on the creation of a community, and the concept offers a side to Courchevel that you just can’t find anymore...harmony, peace and a connection with nature. It’s the total opposite of anything that represents bling.”.  

Le Portetta Spa and restaurant, art and style in Courchevel
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