Courchevel

One of the world’s most famous resorts, Courchevel has built a reputation as the ‘St. Moritz of France’ attracting the rich and famous from around the world, most notably Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich who caused a stir by trying to ‘buy’ the resort (he is believed to have ended up with half a dozen properties after a public outcry) and a Hyundai boss who tried to get private use of a few ski runs on the mountain, again causing an uproar.

All the interest of the wealthy is on the original and highest resort of Courchevel 1850, established just after the war and taking the crown of top status from the original French luxury resort Megeve. However Courchevel has four other resort bases beneath 1850, linked together by a bus service. These are Courchevel 1650, Courchevel 1550 (both purpose built), Courchevel 1300 – based on the original village of Le Praz, and the old village of Saint-Bon (at 1100m, though that’s not mentioned!). It’s important to realize when you book that if you are in one of these lower resorts, although each has a selection of shops and cafes, the bulk of resort facilities are up in 1850.

All of Courchevel’s bases except Saint-Bon have direct gondolas access to the vast Three Valleys ski area, the world’s largest, with 600km (375 miles) of linked runs and more than 2000 vertical metres of skiing. You have the option of buying a lift ticket for the local Courchevel Valley, or for the entire Three Valleys, or even, if that’s not enough, a pass which covers 1500km (933 miles) of runs including neighbouring ski areas. Most accommodation has ski-in, ski-out access.

There are eight free beginner lifts operating around Courchevel, and once you have mastered your turns you’ll find that 50% of the ski runs are graded beginner or intermediate, so there’s plenty to progress on to. A further attraction is the creation of the ZEN Beginners Progression Zone at Courchevel 1850 where beginners can progress in an area protected from the general through-flow of experienced skiers and equipped with its own magic carpet lift. The ZEN zone is free to use.

With 10,000 hectares of freeriding terrain and terrain parks across the Three Valleys this is boarding heaven. The local Plantrey snowpark at Courchevel 1850 is one of the world’s leading parks with two dedicated lifts for users and two dedicated staff looking after the park and organizing events all season long. The park contains quarter and half pipes, tables of all sizes, numerous rails – all you would expect and more in fact.

There’s a wide selection of bars across the various resort bases, although most are concentrated in Courchevel 1850 where the atmosphere is one of refined sophistication in several establishments. There are ‘regular’ bars too.

There are more than 60 places to eat in Courchevel and the selection ranges from simple creperies up to the gourmet establishments expected by the jet set clientele. You can enjoy traditional French cuisine at Le Table de Mon Grand-pere or visit one of the two Michelin Guide accredited restaurants run by chefs Michel Rochedy at the Chabichou or Jean-Pierre Jacob at the Bateau Ivre.

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