Included in welove2ski’s list of Best Luxury Ski Chalets in the World, La Couchire is a stunning five-bedroom chalet, built for us a few years ago by Ingrid, Magali and Cédric Bonnevie. Bedroom 1 is YSE’s biggest bedroom. Bedroom 5 is quite a lot smaller and earns a £50pppw discount. But all the rooms are warm, wooden and welcoming, with very smart en-suite bathrooms. Four rooms have the choice of large twin or vast double beds (please specify which you prefer when you book).
The dining room is lovely, with spectacular views from the table (see photo) and a log fire. The downstairs sitting room is enormous, with a big fireplace and even better views of the pretty hamlet of Le Fornet and the mountainsides leading up to Val d’Isère’s glacier.
This location is La Couchire’s real USP. Much of the best skiing in Val d’Isère starts 75 seconds from its door. 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 is 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.
Le Fornet is at the very end of the Haute Tarentaise valley, where the road becomes piste. Although it is some distance from the village centre, it is not inconvenient for shops, ski schools or nightlife. The free bus waits just outside La Couchire until the early hours, and gets you to the village centre in about five minutes. If you think this sounds too good to be true, just ask Fiona Easdale, the ‘E’ of YSE. Having had three children to get to ski school (and now to the nightlife) and never less than a hundred best friends to catch up with, she doesn’t do inconvenient. And she stays here every winter!
The hugely popular Arolay restaurant and Michelin two-star Atelier d’Edmond restaurants are close by, and on the slopes just above are the excellent Edelweiss, many people’s favourite mountain eatery, and Le Signal, recently named best mountain restaurant in Europe.
Incidentally, when we say that Ingrid, Magali and Cédric built the chalet, we don’t mean they watched the workmen and hung the occasional curtain. Val d’Isère people traditionally build their own houses. Their plan is to live in it as soon as we (you) have paid off their mortgage. Which is why the chalet has gone from eight bedrooms to five this winter: Cédric now lives in his part. You may see him in the front hall from time to time. He’s quite a useful person to know, being the deputy director of the Piste Service, and the man who tells us on the radio every morning where to ski and where not to. Ingrid has always lived in an annexe off that same front hall (she’s an instructress and ex-racer, so also a good contact), while poor Magali still seems to live in the garage, though we never see her. She is a pisteur, and definitely the pisteur we’d most like to be rescued by…