Courchevel is at one end of the world’s largest lift-linked ski area, the Trois Vallées, which has 600km of pistes and over 170 lifts. Because of the north-facing aspect of many of Courchevel’s local slopes, the snow here is usually some of the best in the whole ski area, and there’s terrain to suit everyone from beginner to expert. Indeed, many visitors never feel the need to leave the Courchevel valley, despite having the rest of the Trois Vallées to explore.
Courchevel is not one resort village but four distinctly separate ones. They were renamed in 2011 but are still commonly known by their old names – Courchevel 1850, Courchevel 1650, Courchevel 1550 and Courchevel 1300. They are linked by lifts, pistes and a road which winds its way up from Courchevel Le Praz (1300), through Courchevel Moriond (1650) to the highest resort which is now simply known as Courchevel (1850), bypassing Courchevel Village (1550) on the way.
Courchevel is made up of four distinct villages
All resort villages are linked by an efficient and frequent free bus service and enjoy pretty woodland settings. From the slopes above there are good views to Mont Blanc and over the valley to Champagny and Bellecôte in the La Plagne ski area.
Starting at the bottom, Courchevel Le Praz (1300) is an old, rustic village at heart. The busy main road is on the periphery and the main landmark is the ski jumping hill, built for the 1992 Olympics and still used today, in summer as well as winter. An ancient gondola and a fast chairlift take you up to different parts of the slopes. There is little in the way of shops, but there are some good restaurants, and the Cave des Lys is an atmospheric, vaulted wine bar that serves tapas-style snacks – great for a quiet drink.
Courchevel Village (1550), set off the main road, is a bit of a quiet backwater, with a mixture of individual chalets and bigger block-like buildings and few facilities. It’s linked by a gondola and fast chairlift to Courchevel (1850), with blue runs back into the village.
Courchevel prides itself on its impeccably groomed pistes
Courchevel Moriond (1650) is on the main road, but the traffic isn’t intrusive and the village center around the main lift base (a gondola reached by an escalator) has been attractively developed, lined with good shops, restaurants, and bars. Opposite the lift, another much longer three-stage covered escalator serves a big area of recently built chalets lower down the hill. A huge watersports center (Aquamotion) opened just below here in December 2015.
Courchevel (1850) is by far the biggest resort village, spreading a good way up the hillsides. It’s the prestige place to stay, where the rich Russians and Parisians head to be seen and to flash their cash. It’s also the main lift hub with gondolas from the Centre.
heading up in three different directions, with mainly easy pistes back down. It’s also home to huge numbers of luxury chalets and swanky hotels, plus some pricey shops (but fewer than you’d expect for such an upmarket place). For everyday food shopping the lower resorts are more attractive – especially Moriond (1650), which has a good butcher, boulangerie and a couple of friendly supermarkets.
Courchevel is widely regarded as being a very pricey resort. In truth, it is only this highest village, Courchevel (1850), where prices are almost universally mind-numbingly high – not surprising when you consider it caters for rich Russian oligarchs and has more plush hotels than any city in France other than Paris, including three with the top “Palace” rating, 16 with five-star status and five restaurants with two Michelin stars. The lower resorts are much more modest and affordable.
Activities off the slopes
The Aquamotion center below Moriond (1650) is packed with features such as indoor and outdoor pools, a diving pool, surfing area with a spectacular wave, three-lane water slide, wild water rapids, saunas, steam room, hot tub and climbing wall. There’s also a skating rink and fitness center with gym, sauna and steam room in Courchevel (1850). Some hotel spa facilities are open to the public, though they charge for the privilege. Alternatively, Destination Pamper will visit your accommodation to give you a wide variety of massages and beauty treatments.
The Aquamotion swimming center opened in 2015
Pedestrians can buy a special pass valid for all gondolas and cable cars and some chairlifts – the tourist office has useful free guides to walks in the area. You can also go on sightseeing flights from the airport by plane or helicopter.
Highlights include a Ladies Alpine World Cup giant slalom in December, the International Fireworks Festival in February/March and the 3 Vallées Enduro, which invites teams of three to compete in various on-snow events in April. There’s also the Dynastar X3 mountain triathlon (cycling, running, and skiing) in mid-April.
Nearest airport: Chambéry, 90 minutes (110km); Geneva, 135 minutes (190km).
Nearest station: Moutiers, 30 minutes (25km). Regular buses run from the station.
Courchevel also has its own airport right on the slopes, accessible for small planes and helicopters. You can be flown in from a bigger nearby airport, such as Geneva, with a flight time of around 30 minutes; with Whitetracks Helicopters
For more info on this package please contact Clare Miller at Clare@dmcsportstravel.co.za