Overview of Courchevel, France
Written by Jack Lee
Courchevel is the best known of Les Trois Vallées - the biggest ski region on the globe. Courchevel itself is quite big - comprised of four French ski villages, Le Praz 1300 - the charming Savoyard village, the more family-friendly Courchevel 1550 and 1650 (denoting their elevation in meters), and Courchevel 1850 - the highest and most upscale ski resort.
The skiing of Courchevel is vast, located at the most eastern ski resort of the Les Trois Vallées Courchevel’s ski terrain spans from lower elevation Le Praz at 1300 meters where the Olympic Nordic ski jumps are located, and quaint La Tania, to Courchevel 1550, 1650 and 1850 (demarcating their respective altitudes). All the Courchevel slope-side towns are interconnected by lifts - gondolas, chairs and a few cable cars (trams). Courchevel’s highest point is Saulire reached by cable car at 8,982' – from here you can tip your skis toward to neighboring Méribel and Val Thorens - all part of your 3 Valleys lift ticket. Of Les Trois Vallées huge terrain, Courchevel offers some of the most varied skiing, from high alpine at Saulires, with beefy steep couloirs and wide open slopes, to Roc Merlet above-tree ski terrain, to copious prepared (groomed and marked) trail skiing and some earthier glades. 80% of Courchevel’s skiing is between 2738-1800 meters, elevation is key in the Alps for assured snow, however, Courchevel also has over 600 snow cannons to further assure good conditions, after all the resort hosts an annual December World Cup ski race.
While Courchevel doesn’t have as much off-piste terrain or wide open bowl skiing as say neighboring Val Thorens, it has a great vibe, interesting long trails and enticing skiing in the trees and open snowy meadows. The views of Mont Blanc add to the atmosphere for sure. Kids will like Courchevel’s Fun Parks, and the BMW timed race course. Beautiful big chalets dot the slopes for the best ski in lunches and après ski. We loved the sophistication of Chalet de Pierres where waiters wear traditional French berets. Our other favorites lunch chalets include Soucoupe – where meats are grilled on an open fireplace, and La Cave des Creux for its fantastic sun terrace (hats provided for sun shade) and a decadent dessert display.
What’s cool about Courchevel - it’s been a designated ski village since 1946 - purpose built and rather perfect for its walkability and intended alpine charm. If you want alpine sophistication, vibrant nightlife, upscale dining, boutique shopping and top ski hotels - Courchevel 1850 is your ski place. It’s a veritable snow globe of sparkling lights and snow caked chalets in winter, with a whimsical side – pop art appears throughout the alpine enclave and the ski slopes, while higher end shops and chalets are aglitter with chandeliers to amuse the classy ski clientele. Courchevel 1850 is home to the finest 5-star French ski hotels – this is where the rich and famous Europeans ski and stay. For jet setters, Courchevel even has a mid-mountain private airport, Altiport – the highest in Europe at 2006 meters, you could a arrive by plane, suit up, boot up and ski within minutes of landing.
Courchevel is also a ski party town – with frequent festivals from fireworks to ice carvings, ongoing celebrations of snow, art, food, and music. All the best things in life, right?! Wednesday evening Courchevel’s ski slopes are lit for night skiing 6-8 with a DJ playing. The shopping in Courchevel is black diamond – expert level like some of Saulire’s steep couloirs – designer boutiques line the pretty streets. Bring your wallet or your Russian sugar daddy. For lively après ski bars that jam with music - we loved Le Trampelin – named for its locale at the base of the old Nordic jump landing trampoline.
Fun things to do in Courchevel besides skiing the vast terrain include sledding on The Luge - a 2.5-kilometer sled run in the forest. Visit the Forum - part of the Olympic Games in Albertville in 1992, which now offers an ice skate rink, bowling, and a climbing wall or get wet and wild at Aquamotion - the largest water park in Europe.
Interesting fact, Courchevels sister ski resort is Park City Utah – there is even a ski run so named. Courchevel lodging is upscale like its beautiful alpine village and clients, see our review of Courchevel's top ski hotels. Most of the hotels are small, unique and boutique - all conveniently ski in ski out. See our guide to the best chalets and hotels in Courchevel 1850. Also read our review of the best on mountain chalets for alpine lunch on the ski slopes at Courchevel, and Méribel, Saint Martin de Belleville, and Val Thorens. Read more on skiing all of Les Trois Vallees terrain including adjoining Méribel and Val Thorens.