Courchevel has been called a resort of high taste, high fashion, and high profile, a chic spot where multimillion-dollar chalets sit on pristine pine-covered slopes. Skiers and geographers know it as part of Les Trois Vallées, sometimes called the skiing supermarket of France. The resort, with 150 km of ski runs in Courchevel and 604 km of ski runs in the Trois Vallées around it, employs as many workers in winter as in summer, many of whom do nothing more than manicure and maintain the slopes. Courchevel 1850 has excellent resorts and hotels, so it draws the super-rich. Travelers on average budgets should avoid it and head for more reasonably priced resorts, especially Chamonix.
Courchevel consists of four planned ski towns, each designated by its elevation in meters. They are the less fashionable Courchevel 1300 (Le Prez), Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1650, and, crowning them all, Courchevel 1850. Courchevel maintains three ski schools with a staff of 700 instructors, a labyrinth of chairlifts, and more than 200 ski runs, which are excellent in the intermediate and advanced categories. Also in Les Trois Vallées are the less well-known resorts of Méribel, Les Menuires, La Tania and Val Thorens, which you should avoid unless you direly need to save money.
Courchevel 1850 is the most attractive ski mecca in the French Alps. It’s also the focal point of a chair-hoist network crisscrossing the Les Trois Vallées region. At the center of one of the largest ski areas in the world, Courchevel sits at the base of a soaring amphitheater whose deep snowfalls last longer than those at most other resorts because it faces north. Expect reliable snow conditions, perfectly groomed runs, vertical cliffs, and enough wide runs to appease the intermediate skier. The glacier skiing draws experts from around the world.
Snowboarding is indulged and accepted at even the grandest resorts. For safety reasons, the pistes for snowboards are designated areas segregated from conventional ski runs. In Courchevel, the site is Le Snowpark. Peppered with all the moguls and hillocks a snowboarder would expect, it straddles the side of La Piste des Chenus, running parallel to conventional ski runs and accessible by way of la Telecabine des Chenus.
A chic but seasonal resort, Courchevel offers nightlife that roars into the wee hours in midwinter but melts away with the snow. You’ll never have to walk far from the center to sample the fun, because the area around La Croisette (the departure point for most of the lifts) contains lots of restaurants, bars, and clubs that come and go.
Les Caves de Courchevel, Porte de Courchevel, attracts an upscale crowd. A mock Tyrolean facade of weathered wood hides a club evoking a medieval cloister, with stone arches and columns. Also appealing is Piggy’s Pub, rue de la Croisette, where stiff drinks and recorded music contribute to the sensation that you’re far, far away from the French Alps. Rhumerie Le Kalico, Au Forum, is the closest thing in town to a British pub.