Perhaps the glitziest ski resort there is, Courchevel is not just a ski resort but one of the global destinations for the rich and famous that flock there just “to be seen”. To some, this can be a major draw to the resort, to others it can overshadow something that Courchevel was famous for before the jet-setters discovered it, and that is the world class skiing. Most skiers and snowboarders that have visited a lot of resorts will put the 3 valleys in their top resorts and Courchevel is generally recognised as having the best skiing in the 3 Valleys which could therefore cause some people to argue that Courchevel has the best single ski area in the world….
Courchevel is split into several resorts, Courchevel Le Praz (formerly Courchevel 1300), Courchevel Village (formerly 1550), Courchevel Moriond (formerly 1650) and then the grand-daddy of them all, Courchevel 1850. Each part of the resort has its own ambiance as well as various advantage and disadvantages of staying there.
Courchevel Le Praz:
The original Courchevel, Le Praz is an old and traditional Alpine village at the base of the ski area. The village itself is nothing short of beautiful, the views over the lake with the ski jump from the 1992 Albertville Olympics in the background is one of the most iconic vistas in the Alps. The village has everything a skier needs, several ski hire shops, a ski pass office and a choice of 2 gondolas. One (Le Praz) drops skiers off in the centre of 1850. The second gondola (Le Foret) offers immediate access to Meribel from the summit of the Loze. The village doesn’t have the nightlife that the other areas offer but there are a handful of spots, the liveliest of which being the Escourchevel, known locally as the Sports Bar which shows all the big matches as well as live music several times a week. For restaurants, you are spoilt for choice. The Bistrot du Praz is one of the best local speciality restaurants in the Alps,and there are several creperies and pizzerias for those looking to keep to a budget.
Courchevel Village (1550):
Often seen as the budget alternative to 1850, Village is situated just below it. The Grangettes gondola goes straight into La Croisette and there is the choice of two chairlifts, Dou du Midi and the Tovets. This choice tends to prevent bottlenecking in the morning and provides those looking to explore the vast 3 Valleys with a great jumping off point and offers better value for money than 1850. The village itself has a few restaurants, Fondues and Raclettes at Le Caveau and great steaks cooked on an open fire at L’Oeil du Boeuf. It doesn’t offer a great deal of choice with bars, those looking for a good night out are best off jumping on the bus and heading up to Moriond that offers more choice.
Courchevel Moriond (1650):
Fast becoming the only place in the resort to stay for skiers and boarders looking for a bit of atmosphere and nightlife. A much more “down to earth” experience than 1850, accommodation here generally offers much more value for money thanks to a plethora of centrally located chalet hotels. Smaller sole occupancy chalets are also well represented here too. For après-ski, try the Brit run Bubble Bar or the Funky Fox. For a little more choice, head over the road to Rocky’s. The skiing itself does need some explaining, it doesn’t link very easily to the rest of the 3 Valleys. To do this, skiers do need to take two or three lifts before you can ski down to Meribel. If access to the 3 Valleys is paramount, 1850 or 1550 would be better choices. That said, its relative isolation can be viewed as a positive, the ski area in and around 1650 is very much a “go to” area for skiers looking for untouched off piste or uncrowded and gentle blues. For beginners, the fact the resort is relatively peaceful means the money you spend on tuition goes a little further because you are not spending quite so much time queuing for lifts.
1850 is justifiably famous for 2 things, its incredible skiing and its high end accommodation. The skiing itself in 1850 is incredibly varied for a relatively small area offering something to all levels. The accommodation is mostly hotel based, with some of the very best hotels in the world. Many of which have to be seen to be believed. There are also a handful of ultra high end private chalets to cater for the high net worth individuals that flock here. That said, for those that know where to look, there are some excellent mid-range alternatives that offer skiers with a more modest budget somewhere to stay. Bars and Apres Ski used to be a strong point to 1850 but recently these have been bought up and converted into high end restaurants and cocktail bars. The only real Apres spot is the Ku De TA and the only affordable watering spot is Le Refuge, a real “spit and sawdust” French run bar right in the centre of the resort.