Insider Guide: Courchevel
Courchevel is at one end of the world‘s largest lift-linked ski area, the Trois Vallées, which has 600km of pistes and 162 lifts. With many north-facing slopes, the snow in the Courchevel valley is usually some of the best in the whole ski area, and there’s terrain to suit everyone from beginner to expert. Courchevel is not one resort village but a collection of distinctly separate ones. The best-known four were renamed in 2011 but are still commonly known by their old names, Courchevel 1850, Courchevel 1650, Courchevel 1550 and Courchevel 1300. They are linked by lifts, pistes and a road which winds its way up from Courchevel Le Praz (1300), through Courchevel Moriond (1650) to the highest resort which is now simply known as Courchevel (1850), bypassing Courchevel Village (1550) on the way. All resort villages are linked by an efficient and frequent free bus service.
Courchevel Le Praz (1300)
Le Praz is an old, rustic village at heart. The main landmark is the ski jumping hill, built for the 1992 Olympics and still used today, in summer as well as winter. An ancient gondola and a fast chairlift take you up to different parts of the slopes. There is little in the way of shops, but there are some good restaurants, and the Cave des Lys is an atmospheric, vaulted wine bar that serves tapas-style snacks, great for a quiet drink.
Courchevel Village (1550)
Set off the main road, this is a bit of a quiet backwater, with a mixture of individual chalets and bigger block-like buildings and few facilities. It’s linked by a gondola and fast chairlift to Courchevel (1850), with blue runs back into the village.
Courchevel Moriond (1650)
Although it’s on the main road, the traffic isn’t intrusive and the village centre around the main lift base (a gondola reached by an escalator) has been attractively developed, lined with good shops, restaurants and bars. Opposite the lift, another much longer three-stage covered escalator serves a big area of recently built chalets lower down the hill. A huge watersports centre (Aquamotion) opened just below here in December 2015.
This is by far the biggest resort village, spreading a good way up the hillsides. It’s the prestige place to stay, where the rich Russians and Parisians head to be seen and to flash their cash. It’s also the main lift hub with gondolas from the centre heading up in three different directions, with mainly easy pistes back down. It’s also home to huge numbers of luxury chalets and swanky hotels, plus some pricey shops (but fewer than you’d expect for such an upmarket place). For everyday food shopping the lower resorts are more attractive, especially Moriond (1650), which has a boulangerie and a couple of friendly supermarkets. The Aquamotion centre below Moriond (1650) is packed with features such as indoor and outdoor pools, a diving pool, surfing area with a spectacular wave, three lane water slide, wild water rapids, saunas, steam room, hot tub and climbing wall. There’s also a skating rink and fitness centre with gym, sauna and steam room in Courchevel 1850. Some hotel spa facilities are open to the public, though they charge for entry. Highlights of the events calendar include a Ladies Alpine World Cup giant slalom in December, the International Fireworks Festival in February/March and the 3 Vallées Enduro, which invites teams of three to compete in various on-snow events in April. There’s also the Dynastar X3 mountain triathlon (cycling, running and skiing) in mid-April.
Where to stay
Hotel La Sivoliere is situated in the heart of the forest, next to the ‘Dou du Midi’ red piste and only a ten minute walk from the centre of Courchevel 1850. This chalet-style hotel has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment and is beautifully decorated in an alpine style with a modern edge. It is a slick and contemporary hotel where service is paramount. Enjoy your well earned après ski beside the roaring fire, have a game of cards in the Dolomites lounge or become absorbed by a book in the tranquil library. The luxurious rooms, suites and apartment are beautifully-furnished and are truly welcoming after a hard day on the mountain. The suites and the apartment of La Sivoliere feature sitting areas, fireplace and a private terrace or balcony. Freshly baked bread, homemade jam and alpine honey make breakfast a tantalising experience, and in the evenings, the 1850 restaurant serves local delicacies from refined starters to delectable desserts. At teatime the chef whips up exquisite hot chocolate, crepes and pastries to enjoy by the fire, or for something a little stronger, warm up with a mulled wine or cocktail in the cosy bar. After a long day’s skiing, why not loosen those tired limbs in the fitness centre by taking a swim in the balneotherapy pool, or relax in the hammam and sauna. The Petit VIP service is a wonderful service for 4 – 12 year olds, offering a personalised welcome, children’s currency, a special supper table and fantastic play area.