It may be the last month of the year, but in Courchevel, December is when the ski lifts are preparing to open and the Christmas holidays are on the horizon.
We can expect sports competitions, opening parties, and there will obviously also be lots of festive celebrations including a visit from a certain Papa Noël. As you are no doubt aware, most things in December revolve around the last two weeks of the month, schools break up and travellers from near and far descend on the valley. There are a plethora of events coming up, from parades to special Christmas menus and New Year's blowouts.
Read on for a look at what we like to do in resort throughout December.
What are the weather & snow conditions like in Courchevel in December?
Whilst there will be snow up the mountains, a white Christmas is never a guarantee in the village. However, it's definitely cold with temperatures averaging from -6°C to 1°C, with around 10-11 days of snowfall. Make sure thermals are on your Christmas list.
What's on in Courchevel in December?
Christmas in Courchevel
With so many families visiting the resort for the festive season, there is a real child-like excitement as the big day draws ever closer, and usually there's an opportunity to spot the main man himself meeting and greeting people around the resort. When the streets lights are turned on, it's hard to ignore that Christmas is nearly here.
To prepare you for your French Christmas, here are a few festive facts that make the French Santa Claus a little different:
- Rather than a red hat, Père Noël wears a red cloak with a hood trimmed in white fur - a small difference easily unnoticed.
- Children do not wake up to presents under the tree on Christmas morning, because traditionally le Père Noël brings toys to good little boys and girls after evening Mass on Christmas Eve.
- Children do not leave milk and cookies for Papa Noël, but at the very least they'll leave him a glass of Calvados or wine.
- Children do not hang stockings, but rather leave their shoes and slippers out and if they have been good Père Noël will fill them with treats.
- Children in France behave around the holidays out of fear of Le Père Fouettard, who follows Père Noël to discipline naughty children.
Whilst Courchevel is full of great après-ski spots, the mother of all that is après ski, La Folie Douce. Their signature après-ski parties, complete with champagne spraying, live DJs and performers, will draw the crowds to their terraces this winter.
School holidays Skiing
Christmas and New Year is a popular time for families so the slopes are noticeably busier as soon as the holidays begin. Fortunately, the Three Valleys ski area is so vast, that even in high season you can find quiet slopes and minimal lift queues. Here are our insider's top tips for the school holidays:
- It will be almost impossible to book private lessons over this period, group lessons are the best option. Make sure to get your ski and snowboard lessons booked well in advance to avoid disappointment.
- If you're not in ski school, be an early bird. Arrive at the lifts before they open so that you get up and away before the ski school classes set out around 09:15.
- Ski over lunchtime and take a picnic. The slopes are calmer between 12:00 and 14:00 while the French take a leisurely lunch break.
- Pre-book your lunch and avoid the queues. Some restaurants offer a Click & Collect service. It's the best way to avoid the queues and make the most of your time in the mountains.
- Seek out the peripheral areas. Courchevel Moriond is often a quieter area to ski as the main resort of Courchevel can often dominate, so head over to enjoy the long red Chapelets run, the most western point of the Three Valleys. Jumping on the Pyramides drag lift will take you to the top of some exceptional long blue pistes.
- Get off-piste. Competent off-piste skiers can book a local mountain guide and explore the vast off-piste areas in the valley or even go touring to find complete solitude in the backcountry.
Things to Do
December is a very family-friendly month on the events calendar. On the opening day, there is usually live music, entertainment, freebies for children and child-friendly activities in Courchevel 1850. The finale of the day will be the Christmas tree lighting event. If you're staying in any of the other villages, you can easily catch the regular free ski bus back to your accommodation if the lifts have closed.
Meeting Papa Noël
Father Christmas traditionally visits the resorts in the following order: Le Praz, Courchevel Village, then Courchevel Moriond. There's usually a party where children can meet Papa Noël and free gifts are given out.
Don't miss the torchlit descent down the Saulire piste on Christmas Eve.
Aquamotion, a €63 million centre is situated between Courchevel Village and Moriond. There’s a whole host of activities available with a leisure pool area including rapids, slides, indoor and outdoor heated pools, a 25m training pool and a wellness centre with spa and treatments. Great for those days off skiing!
Bars & Clubs
If, like a lot of people, you like to follow several hours of exercise with several hours of drinking, especially during the festive season, you can hit up any of a number of local après-ski sessions where you'll find bars offering great music, delicious food and happy hours. For late-night entertainment, the clubs hold special nights on most days of the week.
If you're a ski group with partying in mind, then Courchevel is a great place to go. La Folie Douce Meribel-Courchevel opens to wow crowds with their incredible live cabaret shows which include dancing on the tables and champagne showers! The very popular bar Pub Le Ski Lodge in La Tania, known for its crazy après and cheap prices, opens its doors in late November with an official opening party usually mid-December. Expect cheap shots, crowd surfing and live music.
New Year's Eve
Always a big night, the resort is full of revellers. The restaurants will be busy, so it would be best to make a reservation to ensure you can get a table, and many of the bars and clubs are ticket-only, so if there's somewhere you plan to see the New Year in, make sure you've planned ahead.