The story of Courchevel
Until the early 20th century, the economy of the town of Saint-Bon was based on livestock and cheese production. The industrialization of the valley bottoms changed the economic structure and allowed men to have a dual activity: workers and peasants.
First of all, a summer tourism
The development of the railway to Moutiers and the expansion of the spa town of Brides first encouraged summer tourism. As early as 1908, Agathe Curtet opened a café restaurant in Saint-Bon, the “Chalet Curtet”, which quickly became the Hôtel du Lac Bleu. This was the starting point for excursions to the mountain pastures and lakes of the surrounding mountain. Some families, often from the Lyon region, came to spend their summer holidays in the mountains. They rented houses left vacant by transhumance in mountain pastures or boarded “Chalet Curtet”. Among these mountain enthusiasts, there were already some reckless skiers replacing summer visitors during the winter.
The first skiers of Courchevel
Louis Curtet and André Vilna, aware of the potential of the Saint-Bon valley and its snow fields (Pralong, Pralin, Verdon…), decided in 1925 to open the hotel du Lac Bleu throughout the year.
The first winterers were very sporty and thrill-seekers. They came to ski in a group and enjoyed being entertained. Skiers often confirmed, their stories in magazines such as that of the French Alpine Club or in the Illustration have done a lot to attract a wider clientele in the nascent stations of the time.
This craze for skiing created new jobs, especially that of ski instructor. In Saint Bon the first monitors were Austrians hired by Louis Curtet and attached to the Hotel du Lac Bleu. Subsequently, the young people of the country were formed and could replace them. Jean Pachod was the first Saint Bonnais graduate, followed by Régis Chevallier, Eugene Chardon, Jean Sullice and Jean Blanc.
A station that was getting organized
Louis Curtet, mayor of the town from 1928 to 1940, was one of the first to want to develop tourist infrastructures and improve the reception of winter visitors. Very enterprising, he opened the alpine chalets to skiers to approach the best slopes. On the same principle, the Pralin Mugnier alpine chalet was regularly used by the French Alpine Club and a sheepfold was set up by Mr Schitz at the Bellecôte site to accommodate groups of young skiers. Gradually, hotel chalets opened in Praz, Courchevel 1550 or Moriond to accommodate hikers.
The station was quickly rated well despite few facilities and difficult access. Buses and cars dropped off skiers and luggage in front of the town hall and the Blue Lake hotel and the end of the trip was by sleigh. Several lift projects were studied in the late 1930s (cable car, ski lifts) but they did not succeed because of the Second World War.
1946 : The station was born
In the year of 1945, the General Council of Savoie decided to intervene in the tourism development of the Three Valleys. On May 3, 1946, the Municipal Council of Saint-Bon under the presidency of its mayor, Francis-Eugène Mugnier, and unanimously agreed to cede to the Department the communal lands necessary for the construction of a new sports resort. winter (Tovets, Bellecote, Loze, Vizelle). Laurent Chappis, architect-urbanist, was then charged with elaborating the urban plan of this new station. 1946 was the year of the construction of the access road between Courchevel and the Tovets, the first hotels (departmental hotel of the Three Valleys, cottage-hotel of the Loze) and the first ski lifts (lifts of Loze and Tovets ).
Where the name “Courchevel” came from
In the month of June 1946, a reflection on the name of the future station built on the plateau of Tovets is engaged. On the initiative of this project, Mr. Pierre de La Gontrie, president of the General Council of Savoy (from 1945 to 1951) and future mayor of Saint-Bon (from 1959 to 1968), which finds the name of “Tovets” very little commercial. After several discussions, the choice is made: November 30, 1946, the station is called Courchevel. This name comes from the local terroir – “ecortzevé” in the patois of Saint-Bon means “skinned” – and indicates a locality at 1500 m of altitude where the young shepherds were vigilant with the calves tempted by the spring shoot of the strands green and thick grass, fatal to their tongue …