There’s No Business Like Snow Business
As part of our adventure theme, we sat down with Philippe Capezzone, the owner and developing force behind the Le K2 Altitude and Le K2 Palace in Courchevel–one of themost expensive skiing areas in the world–to discover his vision and learn why he builds and runs his luxury adventure experiences.
So, what’s the attraction of Courchevel, and Le K2 Palace and Le
K2 Altitude, for travellers?
I think it’s a mistake to sell the ski resorts solely only for advanced skiers. Today you
want to target people who don’t know how to ski, but then learn to ski, and find the beauty of skiing, and combine this with gastronomic delights – there are six Michelin two stars in Courchevel. I think there are many clients who want to travel like this. Another important factor is the shopping. If you don’t know how to ski, it doesn’t matter. Outside of skiing, we sell fresh air and nature. We combine skiing, lifestyle and food.
How did you get into the hotel business?
I was a property developer, building many chalets. We have roughly 60 chalets in Courchevel. I developed chalet concepts and had my own construction company. Some 18 years after it was first built, the whole Kilimandjaro Hotel was for sale, and my company bought it. We bought it because we wanted to build chalets, but in the end we decided to be a hotel. Back then we didn’t know the hotel business when we started, but our concept was chalets which are run like hotel bedrooms.
I surrounded myself with fantastic people in the beginning, trusted people, and people from the hotel business. This is where I learned to be a hotelier. I didn’t want to go into hotels to copy, I wanted to develop, decorate, be an architect, and make my own service. When you build something, you need to build your soul. When you start something, you need to make it your signature.
How long did it take you to learn the hotel business?
The hotel business, you never learn totally. You need to improve all the time. I love another of my hobbies. I fly helicopters. I compare it to the hotel business. After 10 years of being a pilot, I still learn new things everyday. You have to be humble and be open to new things, you need to learn new things, you need to learn forever. The day you don’t learn new things, you’re finished. If something is too easy, I don’t want to go into it.
I met one of my clients who is one of the UK’s top richest. He wanted to buy a chalet, but at 55 he was not sure if he could continue to ski. He asked me if I had anything, so I told him that in few months I would let him know. Then I sold him two chalets at Courchevel. There, even when he is 80 years old, he can still ski, because Courchevel has that flat easy going area up to advanced. Plenty of space to move and ski to everyone’s skills.
You specialize in chalets, how did that come about?
I never liked big buildings. Chalets have a human size. And the materials play around rocks and wood – you have to adjust to nature. A chalet has roots for a family. Before
becoming a ski chalet, people used to live here, a family. People have a chalet, with the animals, they farm, it’s a way of life. I didn’t feel it was interesting to build big buildings like apartments. Family and nature are important as they give you quality of life.
How did you end up with Tibet as your main theme for K2?
My first hotel was K1 – Kilimandjaro, from Africa. The name was already there. So, for the second hotel, I thought, which name is not too far from that? K2 is a mountain in Tibet. If you build an apartment on a mountain, you don’t want it to look like it’s in New York. Tibet is on a high summit, in a mountain area, so K2 and Tibet seemed perfect for the second hotel at Courchevel. We then started to develop the concept of Tibet, did the research, hired a designer – a French designer. The décor is more of my wife’s concern, the designer and the team.
When you build something, you need to feel the energy of the area. When I bought the K2, it was a forest. I knew this place was a good place. I feel the energy; I feel I’m at the right place. People told me that the area is on the side of the mountain, so you don’t have the sun the whole day. But I don’t care; it’s the view that counts. You will be outdoors anyway. You have the energy that was the blessing. The view is the most important thing. I saw the mountain turn orange, and felt “WOW!” In the morning you see the sun. I feel it’s the right place to develop a project.