A guide to Courchevel
Courchevel is a world class ski resort and part of the famous Three Valleys ski domain, where you have access to 600km of pistes. It's a place where luxury really does mean luxury. Everything about Courchevel is high-end, from the perfectly groomed pistes and state-of-the-art lifts, to the seven Michelin starred restaurants, exclusive hotels and chalets, and stylish boutiques.
Prior to its development as a ski resort, Courchevel was a collection of small hamlets and sheep farmers. In 1942 the French Commission of Tourism expressed an interest in creating a ‘super ski resort.’ They wanted to create an enormous cohesive ski area at high altitude, and chose Courchevel for this project. Construction of Courchevel altiport began in 1961 and the ski area was linked to Val Thorens and Meribel in 1973. The combination of this specially developed resort, with it's big ski area at high altitude and private airport meant that the resort became popular early on with the Parisien set. This led to the addition of more luxury hotels and chalets, which in turn has attracted a new wave of the rich and famous.
The ski area is popular for good reason. It offers wonderfully wide and gentle pistes that are immaculately groomed. Many of them run through the pretty forests and the north facing aspect means the snow quality is excellent. Courchevel's appeal is not only found on the slopes though - the resort is now 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 provide some very affordable accommodation options. La Tania is purpose-built (sympathetically so), traffic-free and perfect for families.
Skiing in Courchevel
One third of the world's biggest ski area (the Three Valleys), Courchevel is a truly universal resort which caters to everyone. On the mountain, you'll find a wide variety of pistes to satisfy beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers alike. Courchevel has in the region of 52 ski lifts giving access to ski terrain ranging from 1350m to 2738m altitude and 150km of pistes (see the piste maps). The ski area can be split into three main ski areas that are inter-linked. La Tania has some lovely tree-lined runs above the resort and has easy access to Meribel and the Three Valleys. Courchevel (1850) has the best access to long, cruisy blues and reds, and some decent blacks. Courchevel Moriond has a nice selection of intermediate pistes and catches the last of the sun at the end of the day. The modern ski lift system makes it easy for the more advanced to explore the whole Three Valleys ski area.
Also see: Ski Areas in Courchevel
Things to Do in Courchevel
Courchevel has a lot more to offer other than beautifully groomed pistes. 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. Just some of the other amenities in resort 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 breathtaking scenery.
Courchevel 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 resort 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.
Also see: Sports & Activities in Courchevel
Where to Stay in Courchevel
The resort is comprised of five main villages (linked by lifts and a free shuttle bus), each with their own character.
Courchevel (1850m) is the most expensive part and this is where you will find the luxury hotels and exclusive slope-side chalets. As such, it's great for a spot of people-watching or celeb spotting with pop stars, footballers and royalty paying regular visits. It is situated in the middle of the ski area so access to the slopes is fantastic. It's also the largest village and has the widest selection of shops and restaurants. The nightlife is a little limited in Courchevel, with most of the bars being found in the upmarket hotels, and there are a couple of swanky clubs for the night owls.
Courchevel Moriond (1650m) is a vibrant village with mid-range accommodation, an après ski scene and late night partying. It's situated on the far left of the Three Valleys so it will take you a bit longer to ski over to the Meribel & Val Thorens ski areas. Moriond is developing more and more with each season, as new hotels and chalets pop up at the foot of the pistes.The glitz and glamour of Courchevel is slowly spreading down the mountain.
Courchevel Village (1550m) is a more affordable option with some mid-range accommodation. It's much quieter than the other villages and the accommodation is mainly apartments and chalets. Connected directly to 1850 with high speed lifts and a bubble running until 19:30, you can enjoy all that Courchevel has to offer without having to pay the premium price.
Courchevel Le Praz (1350m) has plenty of permanent residents and feels the most like a true Alpine village when compared to its neighbouring villages. Recent years have seen luxury chalets popping up 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.
La Tania was purpose built for the Albertville Winter Olympics of 1992. It is known for catering to a family market, and the chalet companies here offer childcare packages. With a variety of runs back into resort to suit people of all levels including the ever popular Folyeres, it's a great base for a mixed ability group. And due to its location on the far side of Courchevel the other resorts of the Three Valleys are easily accessible from La Tania.
Also see: Where to Stay in Courchevel
Restaurants in Courchevel
The restaurant scene in Courchevel is second to none for a ski resort. Not only do you have an excellent choice of places to eat, but the quality is superb. The Michelin starred restaurants are mainly found in Courchevel itself, with the three-starred restaurant Le 1947 being the stand-out option. Le Praz and La Tania each have a single starred Michelin restaurant. Other tastes are of course catered for, Savoyard restaurants (fondue!) are plentiful, as are Italian and burger places. There are several Asian restaurants of repute - the Koori, Le Tigrr and Le Grand Cafe are all based in Courchevel. There is a wonderful selection of mountain restaurants to choose from for lunch stops, try the traditional La Cave des Creux, or Le Cap Horn for something more modern and lively.
Also see: Where to Eat in Courchevel
Nightlife in Courchevel
Nightlife in Courchevel 1850m has become fairly exclusive with most of the bars being upmarket and found within the luxury hotels. Courchevel Moriond (1650m) has become the unofficial hub of Courchevel after dark. You'll find a wide array of bars to suit every taste with après bands, rustic French bars and DJs filling the dance floor til the early hours. Le Praz and La Tania have their own selection of nightlife that should easily see you through your holiday. And if you want to explore the nightlife in one of the other resorts, there is a free shuttle bus service that runs between the villages until 2am during the winter season.
Also see: Nightlife in Courchevel
Travelling to 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. Of course Courchevel also has its own Altiport for those arriving by private plane or helicopter...
Also see: How to Get to Courchevel