Courchevel is a gift for snow sports enthusiasts. The series of villages that make up the resort are centred on a few divine north-facing bowls in prime position in the Three Valleys ski area, covered with the best snow imaginable, buttressed by less acute slopes further down and lush forests at the bottom. Itâ€™s the ideal location for anyone looking for somewhere to eat, sleep and ski. Courchevel has it all: slopes for advanced skiers, those of intermediate ability and beginners too.
The only issue is that everyone knows this. Not only is the resort very busy, but expensive as well. Bolstered by years of a booming French economy, chalet prices skyrocketed â€“ even for weekly rentals, prices still peak in the six-figure ballpark. Subsequently, wealthy Russians made it their on-piste destination of choice.
But donâ€™t despair â€“ there are budget options available. They are mostly found in the series of delightfully quaint, ski-specific villages that litter the mountainside. All four of them have different qualities that may appeal to you, depending on your preferred holiday style and skiing ability.
Courchevel (formerly known as 1850)
The villages have recently, and confusingly, been renamed. Courchevel 1850 was so christened because of its altitude, but is now plain â€˜Courchevelâ€™. The eponymous village is the highest, the most glamorous and by far the most expensive… and not only in this resort: probably in all the Alps. With a journey time of half an hour from Geneva International airport, and landing points for private helicopters, the trendiest hotels and most luxurious high-end chalets can be found here.
1850 is closest to the good intermediate slopes and boasts a high-quality champagne nightlife, with great facilities for families too. There is value to be had in 1850 but it does require research and self-catering.
Moriond is further out from the main slopes, but the runs are much quieter because of that. The accommodation on offer is cheaper than youâ€™ll find in glitzy 1850; the chalets and hotels are still smart, though simpler and more pragmatic. Because of emptier slopes, this is the best village for beginners learning to ski. Courchevel Moriond doesnâ€™t have most thrilling selection of bars and restaurants, but if nocturnal factors arenâ€™t important then that will not be an issue.
Courchevel Village (1550)
Closer than Moriond to the primary skiing pistes, Courchevel Village is less expensive than the two higher up the mountain. But that is changing! Thanks to fancy incoming redevelopment projects, those low prices wonâ€™t remain so for much longer. You can find some inexpensive accommodation options at 1550, which may be limited on space but are perfect for sport lovers looking for the purity of a wake-ski-sleep day cycle.
Le Praz (1300)
The lowest village on the mountain, at the bottom of the lift system, has traditionally been the most economical area of the resort. The altitude means snow cover can be patchy, even during the high season, and the ride to the top is quite long, but luckily prices reflect this.
Le Praz is less fashionable but more charming with cobbled streets and plenty of affordable accommodation options. Away from the ostentation of 1850 and Moriond 1650, the unobtrusive, gentle atmosphere here can be a winner for some people.
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid winter sports enthusiasts craft their perfect holiday for over a quarter of a century. When it comes to recommendations for where to ski, Courchevel, La Plagne and Tignes are some of their top rated resorts.
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