© Alexis Cornu
Courchevel has always had a reputation as the home of swanky chalets mega-rich clientele – but there's a lot here that will suit a wide range of skiers, in an attractive setting within the huge Three Valleys ski area.
Don't let stories of 400€ bottles of champagne put you off. Sure, Courchevel has for years been a magnet for the uber wealthy. But it's an excellent resort boasting superb local slopes – and well positioned within the 3Valleys ski area. The villages all have ambience and buzz about them, and for families the proximity of good nursery slopes is major plus.
Courchevel is made up of four separate villages: Courchevel 1850, Courchevel Moriond (1650), Courchevel Village (1550) and Courchevel Le Praz (1300).
The villages are linked by lifts, ski pistes and also by the winding road from Moutiers. The biggest and most prestigious is 1850, while Le Praz and1550 are more affordable options. Between 1550 and 1650 there's a huge watersports centre, Aquamotion, of which the resort is rightly proud.
Courchevel's local slopes are second-to-none for beginners and wobbly early intermediates. These long, smooth runs are surrounded by plenty of trees, making them good in poor weather too.
With 600km of pistes in total, mileage hungry and advanced skiers will never complain of too little terrain or of lack of challenge.
At busier periods, it's easy to avoid the crowds: the tree-lined runs above La Tania or the slopes directly above Courchevel Moriond are two examples of areas that stays relatively quiet.
In the three higher resorts, there are nurseries with snow gardens that accept children from 18 months and upwards. In 1550 there’s the Maison des Enfants, in 1650 there’s Les P'tits Pralins de Moriond and in 1850 the Villages des Enfants.
The Aquamotion centre will certainly keep children entertained. There is also a 2km adventure luge track, which runs through the forest to Courchevel Village, while at the Indian Camp, children can play at being American Indians.
Situated between Courchevel 1650 and 1550, Aquamotion aquatic centre is a spectacular building with sloping grass-covered roof, designed to blend in with the mountain scenery.
One part, the “Aqualudique”, is huge indoor and outdoor swimming pool with children’s pool, 45m slide and rapids.
There’s also an adults-only spa, with jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms, salt pool, and beauty treatments. Amongst other activities, the resort also offers piste-basher driving, hang-gliding and ice karting.
Courchevel is certainly a hothouse for major chefs, with three restaurants boasting two Michelin stars.
There are also more affordable, down-to-earth places, such as La Cendree, an Italian restaurant entering its fourth decade and Le Cafe de la Poste with its wood-fired pizzas along with Savoy specialities.
On the mountain, try Le Pilatus near 1850, or La Soucoupe, with a huge fireplace that will have you toasty and warm.
Apres ski and nightlife
On the slopes, the wildest and most flamoboyant après ski happens in neighbouring Méribel valley, with DJs at the Folie Douce.
You can ski back from there, but keep an eye on your watch or it's an expensive taxi ride home. At the top of the Verdons gondola, the Verdons restaurant often has live bands on the terrace.
In the village, try the Moroccan-style Grange for late night dancing, or Le Stanley's bar in the Kilimandjaro Hotel for sophisticated cocktails around the fire.
Courchevel is well known for its wide range of catered chalets, from a variety of independent companies and tour operators.
There is also an extensive choice of hotels, such as the homely 3-star Hotel Les Ducs de Savoie, the very smart 4-star Portetta and the convenient slope-side 3-star Hotel Les Ancolies.
You are also spoiled for choice with self-catered residences, such as the 4-star Les Chalets du Forum, situated at the foot of the pistes in 1850.
From Moutiers station
- By bus: around 45 - 55 minutes; Adult 12€, Youth (U26) 9.50€ (www.altibus.com)
- By taxi: around 45 minutes; about 110€ for an 8-seater taxi.