November’s Sports Illustrated declares that France has Europe’s best skiing, triggering an economic (and cultural) boom. Après-ski chic gets a starring role in films from Charade to The Pink Panther, and in the 60’s, Brigitte Bardot sets up her winter HQ in a chalet in the neighboring Trois Vallées resort of Méribel.
In the early 80’s, greed is grand. The famous Byblos hotel, in St.-Tropez, expands in Courchevel with the opening of Byblos des Neiges, now the Palace des Neiges (doubles from $1,091), which was favored by everyone from the Aga Khan to King Juan Carlos of Spain. Farther up on the mountain, the world’s highest-capacity cable car is installed, holding a record-breaking 160 passengers.
Courchevel cashes in again when the slopes of neighboring Albertville host the 1992 Winter Olympics. Le Praz, at 1,300 meters, adds the alias “Courchevel 1300,” and becomes the home for the ski jump competitions. Meanwhile, the rustic Hôtel le Montana (doubles from $188), just outside of Courchevel, is built to house Olympians.
The British invasion brings boldface names, including Elton John, Robbie Williams, and Princess Michael of Kent, and hits its peak when David and Victoria Beckham retreat to Courchevel to repair their marriage after a scandal involving their nanny. The Beckhams rub poles on the slopes with Giorgio Armani, George Clooney, Paul Allen, and LVMH’s Bernard Arnault.
The mountain’s primo stay, Hôtel de Charme les Airelles (doubles from $1,382), will reopen this month after a $51 million renovation with ski valets, a tandem sauna and snow cave, and a 5,900-square-foot premier suite. Nearby, new residential suites, like the $1.4 million–minimum Le Padisha apartments (44-20/74-94-07-06; mgm-constructeur.com), are on the way.