Choosing the right resort for your next ski holiday can be challenging at best. You need to take into account all members of your party, their skill and experience level on the slopes and the sort of holiday you’re envisioning. If you’ve inherited the role of party leader and the prospect is bringing you out in sweats then fret not. We’re here to help! We’ve put together a series of blogs covering resorts across the French Alps, to help you pick the best resort for you and your party and then help you plan what to do and where to go when you get there. Earlier this week we posted our Méribel Resort Guide and today we’re just dropping over the hill with our Courchevel Resort Guide.
Skiing or Snowboarding in Courchevel
Courchevel is often written off as a playground for the rich and famous. Full of Russian Oligarchs, extortionately priced drinks, and ridiculous fur attire. Au contraire my friends. That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Admittedly you could probably buy a humble dwelling for less than you can buy a bottle of bubbles at some of the pricier establishments in 1850. And yes, a few animals may have died to clothe some ends of the Courchevel scene, but with several different villages, all with their unique charm it really is a resort which offers something for all areas of the market. You’ve just got to know where to look. And with 600kms of pisted runs to explore, a super efficient and speedy lift system and some of the best snow making and grooming facilities. it’s easy to see what makes Courchevel one of the world’s premier ski resorts.
Courchevel is perfect for….. Beginners and intermediates
Courchevel caters well for beginner skiers, with 11 free lifts, including some in each of the villages, allowing beginners to have a go without shelling out for a pricey pass they won’t fully utilise. That said, the best spot for beginners is in 1850, in the Jardin Alpine area. It’s closed off, meaning more advanced skiers won’t be hooning past. And it’s got a magic carpet so there’s no fighting with a drag on week one.
It’s for intermediate terrain however that Courchevel really comes into its own. With a whole host of wide cruisey blues and gentle rolling reds in Courchevel and the wider 3 Valleys intermediates will never tire of accessible terrain to explore.
Where to stay in Courchevel
Courchevel 1850 (Courchevel)
The highest of all the Courchevel resorts, 1850 is admittedly the most swanky of the villages, and the least in touch with the average Joe. With Prada stores and fancy boutiques lining the streets, it has become an incredible place for people-watching in recent years. Fur-clad Russians with handbag dogs make a frequent appearance and 10,000€ bottles of bubbly are not uncommon. Sadly, this has meant that some of the lure of the town has dwindled in recent years with bars closing down to make way for over priced boutiques. That said, there are still some reasonable accommodation providers in town, you just need to know where to look. And there is a lot to be said for its location and it’s proximity to Méribel and the rest of the 3 Valleys.
Courchevel 1650 (Moriond)
Courchevel 1650 is just an 8 minute bus ride from 1850, is fast becoming the most popular of the Courchevel villages, and it’s easy to see why. With a pretty and bustling village centre and plenty of lively bars and restaurants to choose from with, on the whole, more reasonable prices, it’s become THE place to stay within the resort for younger holiday goers for sure. And it’s not just the young that flock here. With a range of different accommodation options from swanky hotels to catered chalets and self-catered apartments it has something to entice all budgets and types of traveller. Skiing-wise, 1650 is kind of out on a limb, the furthest of all the Courchevel villages from the wider 3 Valleys. But as a result, it also means it enjoys some of the quietest pistes. A definite bonus as February half term.
Courchevel 1550 (Courchevel Village)
1550 or Village as it’s since been renamed is the quietest of all the villages. It caters well for the budget traveller with some of the cheapest apartments in resort. However an increasing number of expensive chalets have been popping up in recent years too. It’s pros? The location for one. With a short chair or bubble ride to 1850 the rest of the 3 Valleys is right on your doorstep. And although it isn’t the liveliest of the resorts it’s just a short bus ride to either 1650 or Le Praz.
Courchevel Le Praz
The lowest of the villages at 1300m, Courchevel is the most “real” village of them all, fully functioning all year round. With cobbled streets and traditional buildings it’s also one of the most charming to stay in. There are a couple of lively bars open late and some great restaurants to choose from. It’s only real limitation is its altitude, which can prove tricky around Easter when the snow can start to melt, preventing skiing back to resort. But with the excellent free bus service in resort linking all the villages this needn’t make it a game changer.
Where to eat in Courchevel
With 11 Michelin Stars to its name, Courchevel has a well-earned reputation for culinary excellence. It certainly does fine dining well and it needn’t break the bank. With the Azimut in Le Praz offering a menu for around 30€ and some well-priced lunch menus at the Farçon in La Tania you can test out Michelin starred food at a fraction of the cost you’d spend were they in the UK.
If you’re on a budget then the snack bar underneath the Hotel Courchneige on the Bellecote piste is always a popular option with a meal and drink for around 10€. Likewise, Chez La Goulois in the main street of 1650, the sandwicherie in 1550 and the Chrome Bar in La Tania all offer meals for 10€ or less.
If you fancy a sit down meal, which doesn’t come in a box however then the Boulotte in 1650 offers great lunches which will keep you fueled all day. Their tandoori chicken and falafel wraps are firm favourites! Or for mountain-side dining, you can’t beat the Bouc Blanc at the top of the La Tania bubble.
Then, of course, there are options for even dining to contend with….. Aside from the Michelin starred options listed above, the Petit Savoyard in 1650 does (in my humble opinion) the best fondues if you’re after a cheese feast. Try the Cepe one and you won’t be disappointed. They also offer huge and juicy steaks and wood-fired pizzas. Other great options include the Bistro or Peupliers in Le Praz or the Chabotte in 1850.
Pick of the pistes
With so many to choose from it’s hard to nail down a choice few but I’ll do my best…..
For beginners you can’t beat the beginner area under Jardin Alpin. For intermediates it has to be any number of the long rolling blues in 1650 away from the crowds, Biollay above 1850 or the picturesque Folyeres down to Le Praz. The red run Chapelets over in 1650 is a gentle red to ease you in. With neighbouring red Bel Air also up there on our pick of the pistes. As well as a sneaky red run between Anemones and Loze called Jantzen. It’s often groomed but no one ever skis it and is lovely for pounding out shorts. As for blacks, Combe de Pylon and Suisse are strong contenders when freshly groomed. Word to the wise – check the grooming report in the morning and head for piste du jour. And if it’s a white out and you can’t see much up top lap Murettes or Jean Blanc down to Le Praz and stay in the trees.
Secret powder stashes
There are plenty of places to play around the piste markers in Courchevel. But if you want to ski some serious lines then the famous Saulire Couloirs are awesome, the La Tania trees and the Creux Noir bowl. For all of which you’d need avalanche safety equipment, know how to use it and be with someone who knows the area. Ideally an instructor or guide.
Learning to ski in Courchevel
And if you’re planning on learning to ski in Courchevel, developing technique or just want to find the best snow then check out our Ski School in Courchevel 1650 or our Courchevel 1850 Ski School or read our handy blog with hints and tips.
The altitudes of the Courchevel villages are slightly misleading. Perhaps that’s why they’ve been renamed? 1850 became 1850 to compete with its rival Val d’Isere. In actual fact, it sits slightly under 1800m.
After the lifts close
Although not as well renowned for it’s après scene as perhaps Méribel or St Anton, there’s still plenty to keep you entertained whether you’re in need of nice wine, table dancing or both.
If you’re looking for lively apres then why not start at the Folie Douce over in neighbouring Méribel before spending the early evening listening to live music in the Boulotte in 1650. Other live music options include Kudeta in 1850 and the Ski Lodge in La Tania. Or if you fancy something a little more chilled the Fire and Ice Bar in 1650 is great for a more chic watering hole, complete with furs to keep you warm. If you’re still going after dinner then the pizzeria in La Praz and the Funky Fox in 1650 are both great options which will see you dancing till the small hours.
And if you’re looking for non-drinking activities then try the luge track from 1850 to 1550 for some hair-raising fun!
Scores on the doors Miss Ford?
We give it…
Beginners *** 3.5/5
Intermediates ***** 5/5
Advanced *** 3/5
Apres scene ** 2.5/5
Families *** 3.5/5
Dining ***** 5/5