Wondering where to ski this season – take a look at Courchevel
A name that shines brightly on the steep skyline of the French Alps – one of the best known ski resorts in the Savoie area of France and known for a mix of flamboyance, elegance and glamour. Courchevel is the third biggest resort of the large ski domain commonly known as Les Trois Vallées – a gigantic ski-area that also consists of Val Thorens and Meribel and the smaller villages of La Tania, Les Menuires and St Martin de Belleville. Collectively, Les Trois Vallées can be considered one of the biggest ski areas in the globe, offering almost 200 lifts and more than 600km of snowy slopes.
Taken individually, Courchevel can hardly be called small. Size wise, it spreads over 2500 hectares of mountain and is divided into four distinct villages. Courchevel 1300 is the lowest and has the most famous village, Le Praz. Then, Courchevel 1550 is a bit higher and hosts a number of restaurants, hotels and private ski accommodation. Courchevel 1650 repeats the same trick and then comes the Courchevel 1850, the highest and largest of the entire quartet – hosting a great line of ski accommodation with luxury ski apartments, catered chalets, restaurants and bars that distinguish the resort as a perfect destination after a hard days skiing on the never ending perfecty groomed pistes.
It is pretty self-evident that each village name reflects its altitude, with the only exception being the slightly cheeky Courchevel 1850 which infact lies at just 1747 although to be fair it does offer the highest accommodation in Courchevel.
Set amidst the scenic alpine landscape, the protected boundaries of the Vanoise National Park lie just at hand, and Europe’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc– also known as the roof of the continent with a height of 15,781ft (4810m) height – dominates the skyline.
Why visit Courchevel? Mainly because it offers such a huge range of mountain and a great wealth of pistes and slopes that offer something for all levels of skier and snowboarder. 146 red runs along with 28 black are ideal for those skiers looking for a challenge and adrenaline free riding. The 101 green and blue runs are perfect for beginners and those skiers who prefer a calmer ski holiday. Besides, lots of the pistes are exceptionally wide, providing the perfect location for practices your carving and parallel turns.
For sleighing, Courchevel offers an enjoyable toboggan run with over 300 metres altitude over a one and a half mile twisted route, starting from the edge of the Tourets piste in 1850, and running all the way down to Courchevel 1550. Families can hire sleighs in 1850 and enjoy tobogganing for a terrifyingly quick couple of minutes, with hairpin bends every few seconds and snowcapped trees blinking past on both sides. You will really be amazed by the fantastic scenery flashing by so quickly.
From a skiing perspective, the highest peak in Courchevel lies at 2738m and can be access from the Sauliere lift. After that there red and black runs all the way down past 1850 right to Le Praz 1350 at the bottom of the valley. That’s almost 1500m of vertical descent so get ready for those burning thighs.
Lately Courchevel has gained quite a reputation amoungst wealthy Russian skiers and as a result the pistes can be crowded and price pretty exorbitant. Don’t worry you can still enjoy the magic of the Three Valleys and not break the bank. Generally, the lower the resort the lower the price. So try options like Courchevel Le Praz at 1350 or La Tania ski chalets at 1400m, both offer a good selection of ski apartments and chalets to rent with both catered ski chalets and self catering options available. You will offer find that you receive better service and quality in the lower areas of the Three Valleys. As regards lift passes of course it is the same price throughout the whole Three Valleys ski domain. The lift pass price varies depending on the time of the season with early and late season ski passes being slightly cheaper. The price of a 6 day pass during the the main season is €260 per adult or €208 per child. You can also avail of the family ski pass which cost €208 per person or the new Tribu Pass which is available to groups of 3 or more skier’s and costs €245 per person for the 6 days. One way to save some cash is the take just the local Courchevel ski pass which still offer more than enough pistes for most skiers. The Courchevel only ski pass for 6 days is €218 per adult and €174 per children. These prices are valid for the 2012/13 season.
How to get there?
If your budget permits and you are also brave enough to spend more, Courchevel has its own airport, something that is rarely found in high altitude areas. Cesnas and helicopters, operating from the airport, take off from one of the world’s shortest runways - a small tarmac strip covering 525m and having an ascending gradient of 18.5 degrees, which rapidly decreases the speed of the incoming aircraft on touchdown.
For less bold travelers, there are international airports at Chambery, Lyon and Geneva which are about two hours’ drive from Courchevel. Lots of the accommodation in Courchevel will come with easily arranged ski transfers so getting to the resort is not difficult.