Courchevel is a winter playground for the rich and famous – attracting a steady influx of stars from Beyonce to Beckham. Ironically, the resort was originally planned to create jobs and skiing for the masses, but somewhere along the lines it morphed into the luxury resort of The Alps.
There are 50 five-star hotels in the whole of France and nine of them are in Courchevel. As well as top hotels, the resort now boasts three Michelin-star restaurants. The multi-level resort, complete with heated pavements, is dotted with more than 100 boutiques - you’ll find as many diamond dealers here as ski-hire shops. The tourist board does stress they offer a range of amenities for a wider clientele; it’s not all Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Valentino.
The resort consists of four ski villages: Courchevel 1300 (La Praz), Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1650 and Courchevel 1850. While 1850 has the most high-end hotels and shops, its modern development is decidedly lacking in charm. Fans of the traditional French feel should head to Courchevel 1650.
Courchevel is a good all-round resort. Its ski area offers a good selection of runs for all levels and it is also popular with families, off-pisters and non-skiers. The resort’s 150 kilometres is enough for most, but the avid skier can buy a pass to the vast Three Valleys ski area, opening up 600 kilometres of lift-linked runs. Ski Pass for access to the vast lift-linked ski area in the world (600km).
Courchevel 1850 has the majority of smart hotels, Michelin-star restaurants, designer boutiques and nightlife, but it also has a lot of traffic and English voices. Courchevel’s other villages make up for this: 1650 has a more pleasant centre with a quiet square off the main road and traditional-style buildings; 1550 is quiet and spacious; and away from the road, La Praz (1300) offers a low-key, friendly atmosphere with rustic restaurants.
The modern, reliable lift system in Courchevel means queues are minimal. There are only a few lifts to avoid: the Col de la Loze and the drags on the 1650 side of Chanrossa can be slow. During peak season, the Biollay chair serving the snowpark is very popular with the ski school so queues can build here too.
Be sure to take the cable car up from Courchevel 1850 to the summit of Saulire (2,700m) and savour the views. Advanced skiers can then take the red and black runs all the way back down.
Fans of cross-country skiing will find a total of 60 kilometres of trails. 1300 is the most suitable village, with trails through the woods towards 1550, 1850 and Méribel. Given enough snow, there are also loops around the village.
Non-skiing activities include the two-kilometre evening toboggan runs (until 7:30pm) between Couchevel 1850 and 1550; snow rafting in an inflatable dingy; as well as snowmobiling, dog sledding, snowcat driving, ballooning; contact White Tracks (+33(0)686-123-417).
Taste the local cuisine: regional specialities include raclette, tartiflette and fondue – all of which are delicious and will replace all the energy you’ve expended on the slopes.
La Table du Jardin Alpin, Hotel de Charme Les Airelles le Jardin Alpine, Courchevel 1850 (+33(0)479-003-839). The breakfast buffet doesn't leave anything out: pancakes, waffles, eggs cooked to order, giant fruit baskets, tarts, and hot chocolate made the traditional way (thick and chocolatey).
Chez Kinou, Rue de la Chapelle, Le Praz (+33(0)479-084-290). Open from 8 a.m, this friendly creperie serves sweet and savoury pancakes to eat in or take away.
Courcheneige, Piste de Bellecote, Courchevel 1850 (+33(0)479-080-259). On the Bellecote ski slope, the Courcheneige brasserie offers hearty lunches on its sunny, south-facing terrace at 1900m.
La Cloche, Place du Rocher, Courchevel 1850 (+33(0)479-083-130). Right at the heart of Courchevel 1850, La Cloche is open for lunch and dinner and serves a special high-energy ski menu for the most active on the sunny terrace.
Le Chabichou, Rue des Chenus, Courchevel 1850 (+33(0)479-080-055). This two Michelin-star restaurant offers a fine fusion of Savoie and international dishes created by chef Michel Rochedy. Mouth-watering mains include the Tournedos steak, smoked over larch wood, with jus of spiced wine, oxtail compote, foie gras marrow and creamy potato puree with truffles.
Le Bateau Ivre, Rue des Chenus, Courchevel 1850 (+33(0)479-001-171). Courchevel is one of the few places where you'll find two-Michelin-star restaurants right next to each other. Le Bateau Ivre, next door to Le Chabichou, is on the sixth floor of the Pomme de Pin Hotel. Chef Jean Pierre Jacob prides himself on creating "inventive cuisine rich in flavour".
La Petit Savoard, Rue du Marquis, Courchevel 1650 (+33(0)479-082-744). This is a great place to head for inexpensive local dishes and wood-fired pizzas.
La Normandise, Rue des Rois, Courchevel 1550 (+33(0)479-081-618).Pancake house serving an extensive selection of sweet and savoury pancakes. Open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Be sure to try the hot wine.
Après / Nightlife
Bar le Jump, Place du Forum, Courchevel 1850 (0479-080-900). Part of the Hotel de la Croisette at the bottom fot he slopes and the place to be as the lifts close. Great atmosphere, but, like most of 1850, it's not cheap. Open until 1 a.m.
Les Caves de Courchevel, Immeuble Porte de Courchevel, Rue des Tovets 73120, Courchevel 1850 (+33(0)4-7908-1461). This energetic nightclub, open 11 p.m to 5 a.m, up at 1850 is where the high rollers tend to head. It is known for its Jeroboams (3ltrs) of Dom Perignon or, if you are really thirsty, a Nebuchadnezzar (15ltrs) of Moet.
Geneva International Airport (150km/2hrs) Route de l‘Aéroport 21, 1215 Genève 15, Switzerland. Airlines: British Airways, easyJet, and Swiss Airlines fly from London airports; bmibaby.com and easyJet fly from regional UK airports.
Chambery Airport (110km/1hr) Rue Antoine Montagnole, 73420 Viviers-du-Lac, France. Airlines: SnowJet flies direct between London and Chambery.
Grenoble Airport (130km/1.5hrs) 38590 Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, France. Airlines: easyJet flies direct from London to Grenoble
Lyon International Airport (187km/2hrs) Aeroport Saint Exupery, 69720 Saint-Laurent-de-Mure, France. Airlines: British Airways and easyJet fly direct to Lyon.
By bus: Altibus.com (+33(0)4-7968-3296) runs three or more buses a day from Geneva Airport (4hrs) and Chambery Airport (2hrs), and five buses a day from Lyon Airport (4hrs).
By train: The nearest station is Moutiers Salins, from here it's a one-hour bus ride to Courchevel (€10-14). There are five buses a day Monday to Friday and 15 a day at weekends.
Shared/Private transfers: Available from all airports. Expect to pay around €150 per person, return from Geneva. AlpLine (+33(0)450-743-842); Mountain Drop-offs (+44(0)207-043-4874); resorthoppa (+44(0)134-230-5677).
By car: Hire cars are available from all the airports. Roads are open year-round but driving can be treacherous during snowstorms. From Moutiers follow the narrow roads 915 and 75 to Courchevel - the road ends at Courchevel 1850. The town has many covered car parks.
There is a free ski bus service ‘Navettes' serving all four villages of Courchevel. The journey time is approximately 25 minutes between Le Praz and Courchevel 1850. Buses run frequently during the season, from early morning until late at night, every 10 minutes between Courchevel 1650 and 1850. Alternatively, pick up a walking map from the tourist office and explore the 12 mountain paths.