An Introduction & guide to Courchevel
One third of the world's biggest ski area, Courchevel is a truly universal resort which caters for everyone. On the mountain you'll find a wide variety of pistes to satisfy beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers alike. With free lifts operating on the beginner slopes, a huge range of intermediate slopes and steep north facing expert terrain its a skiers and boarders paradise. And because of its North-facing aspect you'll find some of the best snow conditions in the Three Valleys.
Courchevel's appeal is not only found on the slopes though - spread over five villages, each with very different personalities you can choose between the glitz and the glamour of Courchevel (1850) or the more rustic charm of Le Praz lower down the mountain.
For younger groups the vibrant nightlife in Courchevel Moriond is a popular draw or for those on a budget Courchevel Village hosts some very affordable accommodation options in the middle of the action. Courchevel Le Praz is a real French village with a year round community and La Tania is perfect for families. And with around 12 Michelin stars to its name Courchevel is also a foodies heaven.
Food is a great part of life in the French Alps, and with all those outdoor pursuits to try you can rest assured it is all very hearty! Local specialities are often cheese or cream based (sometimes both…), featuring local meats, potatoes and green salad. Food in the Alps is often accused of being unadventurous but here in Courchevel you'll find more high end, Michelin starred restaurants and chefs than in any other ski resort probably in the whole of France!
Where is Courchevel?
The most convenient airport for the Three Valleys is Chambery, situated 109 kms (1 1/4hrs) away. From here, you have a number of different methods of transport to choose from to get you up to resort. If you can’t get a flight to Chambéry, the next best options are Grenoble (2 hours), Lyon (2 hours) or Geneva (3 hours) - all of these airports are serviced by a number of the major airlines.
Each airport has it pros and cons. Chambery is closest but may close in bad weather and your flight be diverted elsewhere. Geneva has excellent bus/shuttle links to Meribel, Courchevel & Val Thorens, but finding the route in a hire car isn't particularly easy. Lyon St-Exupery has fewer links to resort, especially midweek, but the journey is easier and quicker than from Geneva if you hire a car. Of course Courchevel also has its own Altiport for those arriving by private plane or helicopter..
Also see: Towns & Villages in Courchevel
Sights & Attractions in Courchevel
The Aquamotion centre is a great place to go to unwind after a day on the slopes, or for non skiers and families. It's open in summer and winter and includes a wild river, saunas, surf zone and indoor & outdoor pools.
Things to Do in Courchevel
Courchevel has a lot to offer other than beautifully groomed pistes. Just some of the other amenities include a bowling alley, an ice rink, a cinema (which shows films in English) and an indoor climbing wall. Families and friends can also enjoy the thrill of the Luge sledging run down to Courchevel Village or take a relaxing sleigh ride to view the break taking scenery.
As well as the ski area the resort is also a popular destination during the summer and there is plenty to keep guests entertained. As well as the hiking, climbing and mountain biking on offer, the hamlet has a 9 hole golf course and a driving range with 27 bays (9 of which are covered). Visitors can also get involved in activities such as canyoning, rafting, paragliding and paint-ball, just to name a few. If you prefer to take your holiday at a slower pace, the resort is a popular destination for cookery courses, some of which are run by Michelin starred chefs; or you can enjoy a peaceful hot air balloon ride over the Alps.
Restaurants in Courchevel
After an active day on the mountains, visitors can sample some of the gourmet treats to be had in Courchevel. One of the most popular Savoyard restaurants is La Mangeoire which serves a variety of regional and French dishes accompanied by a great selection of wines. There is also an equally popular Italian restaurant, La Cortona. For straight forward traditional specialities at reasonable prices, Le Refuge is a favourite with locals.
Also see: Where to Eat in Courchevel
Nightlife in Courchevel
Courchevel also has an active night life and there are plenty of bars and nights clubs to discovered, one of the trendiest is Les Caves.
Where to Stay in Courchevel
Courchevel – this is the playground of the mega-rich, and its concentration of Russian oligarchs does little to shake this image. With streets filled with designer boutiques more commonly seen in Paris, the highest concentration of luxury hotels on the globe and a spattering of Michelin stars, its visitors are just as likely to arrive by private jet or helicopter as on four wheels. As such, it's great for a spot of people-watching or celeb spotting with pop stars, footballers and royalty paying regular visits.
On the slopes there is a mixture of terrain: excellent beginner slopes, a family snowpark and wide cruisy pistes. And for off piste fans there's the famous Saulire couloirs to give you some serious thigh burn! In the centre of the Courchevel valley, Courchevel (formerly known as 1850) is well placed to reach each of the other local resorts as well as dropping in to the neighbouring valley of Meribel. The world class Stade run has hosted a number of key events in recent years including the Ladies World Cup Slalom and, if you time it right, you might catch the BMW Polo Masters tournament. Played at an elevation of 2000m, at the Courchevel atliport which you might recognise from the James Bond film 'Tomorrow Never Dies'.
The bar scene is a little limited in Courchevel, giving way to upmarket hotels and restaurants, but if you're searching for evening entertainment there's always the bowling alley, ice skating rink and night skiing.
Courchevel Moriond – The home of the British chalet companies and their seasonnaire staff. A vibrant village with mid-range accommodation, an après ski scene and late night partying. With more and more new hotels and chalets popping up each season Moriond is expanding at huge rate. And with the addition of some swanky hotels by the foot of the piste, the glitz and glamour of Courchevel is slowly spreading down the mountain.
On the slopes, the north facing terrain provides excellent conditions and due to its location on the far end of the Three Valleys it boasts quieter pistes. There are some lovely red runs above Moriond including the ever popular Chapelets. For those that enjoy off piste there's some amazing tree skiing and open faces but if you don't know the area a guide or instructor is recommended. The skiing above Moriond is also a great place to end your day's skiing as it catches the last of the sunlight.
After a day on the snow though you can't be a well earned beer and Moriond has more than its fair share of watering holes with live music most nights. For the liveliest apres ski spot head to the Boulotte on week days and for late night partying the Funky Fox can't be beaten with DJs filling the dance floors 'til the early hours. Also worth noting for self-caterers or those on a budget is the addition of Carrefour in Moriond. Finally a supermarket which serves at valley prices you can shop here for supplies without breaking the budget.
Courchevel Village – Affordable, with quieter accommodation - but for how much longer? The centre of the village received a facelift in summer 2013 and it'll soon be home to a six pool swimming complex, complete with surf pool. Connected directly to 1850 with high speed lifts and a bubble running until 19:30, it's a great affordable option from which to quickly access the rest of the lift system. Above the resort is a wooden rail park for freestylers.
There are a couple of bars in Village but if you're in search of nightlife you can catch the free bus to one of the other villages, with buses running until almost 2am. Not to be missed though in terms of apres ski fun is the 2km luge track (toboggan run). It winds a steep route from Courchevel down to Village and is not for the faint hearted as you gain quite some pace (helmets are advised). Lit up until 19:30, it makes a great way to spend an early evening in resort.
Courchevel Le Praz – With its permanent residents Le Praz feels most like a true Alpine village than its neighbouring villages. With a school, supermarket, butchers and bakers Le Praz contains everything you need. Recent years have seen luxury chalets popping up all over the village and the construction of a brand new sports centre. As this is where many of Courchevel' s ski instructors live you'll also find a vibrant nightlife scene and some excellent restaurants.
Le Praz is connected by two bubble lifts to Courchevel. Due to investments in snow cannons it is possible to ski back to Le Praz all season, and if you ski from the top of Saulire all the way to Le Praz that's a massive, leg trembling 1400m metres of descent. For beginners the red runs back to resort can be a bit tricky and you might prefer to get the gondola back down or catch the free bus. Le Praz has some amazing tree skiing so when there's fresh snow and visibility is low its a great base for off piste.
There is also a varied nightlife scene here, with the cozy and quaint locals favourite Cave des Lys and the L'Escorche which has regular live music for a rowdy night out. If you fancy a game of pool head to seasonnaire hangout The Drop Inn.
La Tania – purpose built for the Albertville Winter Olympics of 1992, La Tania is a modern resort but not without its Alpine charm. It is known for catering to a family market, with many chalet companies operating a creche here. And it's easy to see why. With a variety of runs back into resort to suit people of all levels including the ever popular Folyeres. And due to its location on the far side of Courchevel the other resorts of the Three Valleys are easily accessible from La Tania. Within 15 minutess you can be dropping into the Meribel valley and onwards.
For off piste skiers La Tania boasts a variety of tree runs and off piste faces under the Dou des Lanches lift. And, as of winter 2013-14, the drag lifts out of La Tania are being upgraded to a high speed 6-man chair, making for faster access to other areas.
Despite it's family image though there are also a number of night spots where you can catch regular live music and party 'til the early hours. The Ski Lodge and La Taiga are popular haunts and certainly know how to throw a good party. The Ski Lodge hosts regular ski raffle and shot nights and they go all out with celebrations for key occasions.
Also see: Where to Stay in Courchevel
Hotels in Courchevel
Just some of the exclusive hotels in resort include the Cheval Blanc, Le Saint Joseph, K2 and Les Airelles. These hotels like many others in the area all provide extensive services and include gourmet restaurants with Michelin starred chefs. You don’t have to break the bank though to holiday here, there are plenty of good quality affordable places to stay and dine such as La Loze and Les Flocons.
Luxury Hotels in Courchevel
Courchevel is brimming over with luxurious places to stay, and many of its high end hotels also boast Michelin star restaurants or at the very least exceptionally good chefs.
Apartments in Courchevel
There is a great selection of apartments available in the heart of the resort, from the more affordable to the very expensive, catered or self catered, there's something to suit every budget and taste.
Chalets in Courchevel
As you'd expect in such a high profile resort, some of the chalets on offer are pretty spectacular, coming with their own chauffeurs, chefs and a small army of staff. There are, however, many that suit a smaller budget and are just as comfortable and well equipped.
History & Culture in Courchevel
The resort now known as Courchevel was, prior to its development as a ski resort, a collection of small hamlets and farmers’ fields. If anything, Courchevel was first visited by summer tourists; walkers and naturalists keen to take in the air of the high mountains and discover the Alpine flora and fauna.
Also see: History of Courchevel
Location: Courchevel Region