Courchevel - A look back at the history of this iconic resort

20th August 2018, by Amy Grealish

Courchevel through the years

Courchevel through the years

Courchevel has been a winter sports destination since the 1930s. It was known as Saint-Bon then and the holiday makers were normally French affluent city workers. Logistics was an issue in the mountains in the 1930s and transport up the mountain was via sledge transfers, and due to World War Two, the first ski lift didn’t get constructed until 1945.

It was post World War Two, when the concept of a ski resort in Courchevel started to materialise, the resort was given the name of Courchevel after a long debate between Pierre de la Gontrie, president of the Savoie Council and the mayor of Saint-Bon / Courchevel, the resort was named after a small hamlet situated at an altitude of about 1550m, which is today called Courchevel Village.

Courchevel’s first hotel – The Trois Vallées Hotel opens its doors on 28 December 1947, construction took just over a year, and without of the use of mechanical machines, a lot of the work was done manually with the use of shovels and pickaxes. Also during this time, there was a lot of other infrastructure development occurring including the construction of roads, the building of power lines, telephone lines and water conveyance, the resort also opened two ski lifts which linked together the ski areas.

The 1950s was a time of expansion of build for Courchevel, mainly due to the appointment of Emile Allais as Courchevel’s ski area director. During his tenure from 1954 and 1964, the following attributes were constructed:

- A cable car
- 3 gondola lifts
- 6 ski lifts
- 51 shops

Courchevel also boasted 8km of roads, 210 buildings which offered an accommodation capacity of 2,843 beds. Courchevel was one of the Alps first resorts to use a grooming machine which provided a mechanical way of grooming the slopes.

During this time, Courchevel also built the first international mountain airport, still in operation now, it is renowned for having one of the shortest runways in the world - measuring only 525 metres in length it is angled at a gradient of 18.5% which helps the incoming craft to slow down.

The architecture in Courchevel has been revolutionary and has lead the way in mountain construction, this is mainly due to the resorts original and founding architects Laurent Chappis, Denys Pradelle and Jean-Marc Legrand who joined forces to found the Atelier d’Architecture de Courchevel, their motto being Courchevel should be a current holiday resort and not a copy of a traditional country village.

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