Courchevel is perhaps the most famous ski resort in Les 3 Vallées. This resort has a celebrity status and perhaps has some of the most luxury shopping options. Chanel and Hermes, two well known French fashion boutiques have branches here. The area comprises of 3 distinct villages, Courchevel-Moriond, Courchevel-Village and finally Courchevel 1850 being the focal centre as it is where the main action can be found.
Like many of the resorts in the 3 Vallées, Courchevel is accessible via shuttles from Moutiers. There are also some scheduled buses from Geneva or Chambery. Being the one of the more well known resorts, Courchevel does have more options for skiers intending to visit.
CHAIRLIFTS & GONDOLAS
The main gondola in Courchevel 1850 is the Verdons cable car system that connects to the Vizelle cable car and the Saulire gondola in the mid mountain. The Saulire gondola brings skiers to the summit at 2,700m above sea level for skiers to reach over to Meribel and access the other sections of the 3 Vallées. Two other cable car departs out of the Jardin Alpin leads to a beginner area from the base of Courchevel 1850.
Courchevel-Moriond on the other side has its own cable car called the Ariondaz, and a connector cable car Grangettes links Courchevel-Village with Courchevel 1850.
Some of the major chairlifts are Suisses and Marmottes which links to the top of Vizelle cable car. The Creux Noirs chairlift reaches to the highest lift-accessible point in Courchevel at 2,705m, while the Chanrossa chairlift opens up some fantastic terrain for advanced skiers. From what you can gather up till this point is that the lift infrastucture here is as good as any of the other 3 Vallées resort.
COST & VALUE
Passes for Courchevel starts at EUR51 (~$58)for the high season, though there are slightly cheaper options starting at EUR43 for morning (lasting until 12:30) or afternoon skiing (after 12:30). This is slightly more expensive to Meribel or Val Thorens. And in this instance I would just pay for the 3 Vallées pass as I do find the terrain in Meribel and Val Thorens to be more exciting.
There is a reason for Courchevel’s fame. This resort caters to beginners as well as more advanced skiers. From the special magnestick equipped chairlifts to the green marked run accessible by a cable car system, Courchevel has plenty to offer families with learning children. Jardin Alpin with its dedicated cable car right in the middle of the village is a great place to start.
For longer green runs, there is the Loze Est trail that starts from the top of the Chenus cable car or the Coqs chairlift. There are also long green runs for beginners over on the Courchevel-Moriond and La Tania side of the resort.
Being able to ski down to the base from a summit is probably one of the best things for beginners too. In Courchevel, beginners can try the easy blue-marked Creux/Lac Creux trail from the top of Vizelle back to the base via Altiport and enjoy the view along the way. In this respect, it does seem to be a comprehensive resort for beginners.
Skiers in the intermediate level would probably not enjoy this resort as much as there are less challenging ski trails. Some of the better ones might be the trails leading down from the top of Chanrossa. The red-marked Jean Pachod trail is a powder run to take note of after a snowfall. Otherwise the Combe Saulire from the top of Saulire should entertain with its vast wide terrain and opportunities to veer off into more difficult trails.
From the ski map, there are more red intermediate trails on La Tania and Courchevel-Moriond which I did not get to try. Though from what I have tried, the red trails in Meribel and Val Thorens are longer and slightly more fun. The intermediate runs in Courchevel is more suited for cruising and relaxed skiing.
Some of the steep trails in Courchevel are located from the top of Chanrossa which is one of the quiet peaks in the resort. And the other steep section to take note of would be the couloirs around Saulire.
Furthermore, there are steep sections of the mountain from the top of Suisses. Many off-piste opportunity also lie in the upper half of the mountain from the Verdons base. All these terrain would provide a lot of opportunities for thrill-seekers.
Courchevel provides plenty of fun areas for skiers and snowboarders alike. The largest park is the Family Park zone accessible from Verdons. There is also an adventure park around the Altiport section. Otherwise most of the terrain parks are found in Courchevel-Moriond which I did not have a chance to visit. However for those advanced park riders, they would probably enjoy the terrain park at Meribel more than here.
Ski lodges serving food can be found in the top of Saulire and Chenus, though the largest ski lodge on the mountain should be the one at the top of Verdons. This lodge also functions as the station for the Saulire gondola. There is even a large patio and deck outside which would be great during sunny days.
There are also ski lodges spread out in-between the trails with one along the Verdons trail that can be spotted from the Verdons cable car. There are also several around the Altiport area and a few more by the route from the top of Signal to the bottom of Courchevel-Moriond.
FOOD & BEVERAGES
Being a resort catering to the rich and famous, there are numerous sit-down restaurants in the ski lodges which means a more refined atmosphere and higher prices. Expect EUR20 pastas here to EUR40 steaks for lunch. This is after all Europe, where the food is a part of the skiing experience.
That is not to say there aren’t budget options. There are small eateries selling snacks like French fries, crepes and churros but they are not cheap either. If one does intend to come here for the dining experience do prepare to pay for it.
Like the restaurants, there are numerous 5-star hotels in Courchevel 1850. They range from the Palace des Neiges to the Grandes Alpes close to the gondolas. Many of them are ski-in/ski-out properties, and there is also mid-range options like the Mercure Courchevel.
More economical lodging options would be available in the Courchevel-Moriond side or further away in La Tania. Otherwise families could rent from the numerous chalets located around the ski resort. With Courchevel 1850 being the focal point and the closest to major gondolas, it is probably where most skiers want to stay at.
With Courchevel 1850 as the base for most of the chairlifts, it is perhaps the busiest spot for aprés in the resort. There are numerous restaurants with patios in the village and hotel bars to hang out in.
Skiers could also perhaps indulge themselves in some shopping along the way since there are many boutiques in the resort. And at the same time the kids can indulge in a carousel ride or take a horse-drawn carriage to see the village. In short, there is more to than just skiing in Courchevel and plenty more to do after the sun sets. In fact there is even night skiing in Verdons on Wednesdays for an additional EUR8 in fees.
As it was cloudy when I visited, the views from the top are not necessarily the best though the views from the top of Saulire is expected to be amazing and on par with the views from the summits around Meribel. There is also another notable viewpoint in Col de la Loze which is accessed from the Dou des Lanches chairlift on the La Tania side.
Nice views can also be expected during cloudy weathers from the top of Verdons which should still be clear as it is located in the middle of the mountain.
The 3 Vallées while essentially a huge linked ski resort shows a different face for each individual ski village. And I am not sure if I am the target market for Courchevel. For sure, the village in Courchevel 1850 is the prettiest compared to Meribel and Val Thorens. There is the shopping, the lifestyle and entertainment beyond the slopes with art galleries, horse drawn carriage rides, carousel ride and fine dining all coming together.
While the village is a great place to visit, the cost does make it less appealing. Though it does make sense for families who wants a plush and comfortable ski trip with activities for everyone!