Courchevel the magnificent
Courchevel springs into action with the first rays of the new dawn. In the pure blue sky, the morning sun lights up the jagged peaks of the Aiguille du Fruit. The crisp chill in the air makes your cheeks glow as you step out of the chalet, wrapped up and ready to go. The resort is slowly waking up, and the hustle and bustle soon begins amid the snow-capped palaces. Their architecture is inspired by the traditional wooden chalets of these valleys, and in the early morning haze it can feel like you’ve wandered into some alpine fairytale village.
The hardiest souls are already queuing up to catch the first lift. It’s hard to resist a moment of nostalgia when you remember the cheerful colours of the “egg” cable car, replaced just a few years ago. Soaring above the treetops, the lift drops you off at the summit of La Saulire, over 2700 metres above sea level. At the top you’re greeted by an astonishing collection of contemporary artworks, half hidden by the snow: Courchevel is always full of surprises, and every year the mountains are scattered with pop-up exhibitions in unusual locations.
Up here the panorama is magnificent, from Mont Blanc in the north to the Ecrins in the south. Courchevel is the gateway to the Three Valleys, a vast resort with hundreds of miles of slopes which will keep even the most intrepid ski-clad explorers busy for days on end. Down the hill at Le Praz, the famous ski jumps built here for the Albertville Winter Olympics (1992) are a challenge for the very bravest thrill-seekers.
Away from the speed and excitement of the ski runs, the mountains are crisscrossed by countless hiking trails, probing the silent splendour of these great peaks. Amid the towering pines, keep your eyes peeled for the tracks left by marmots, mountain wolves and ibexes. The Vanoise natural park was the first of its kind in France, pioneering the conservation of these majestic species.
As the sun gradually sinks behind the horizon, the second part of the day begins. With rosy cheeks and tired legs, it’s time to head back to the warmth of the chalet for restorative drinks and board games by the log fire… before heading out to sample one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants which are the pride of Courchevel.
In the centre of the old town, the old carousel keeps on spinning and the horse-drawn carriages are still filled with couples holding each other tight against the cold. When the sun goes down Courchevel slips into something more comfortable, as the resort’s legendary nightlife lights up the streets. Dozens of bars and clubs keep things moving until the sun comes up and it’s time to start all over again. An alluring blend of tradition and modernity, Courchevel is seventy years young and her dancing days are far from over.
When to go?
Like most mountain villages, Courchevel really comes into its own in the winter months. As well as a huge ski resort with guaranteed snow, the town’s winter season is packed with various cultural events such as the firework festival in February/March. In January, Courchevel goes Russian to celebrate the Orthodox New Year. The atmosphere is very different in summer, much calmer and less hectic. But there’s no shortage of things to do: hiking, mountain biking, hang gliding, beautiful golf courses…
How to get there?
Courchevel is easily accessible from the A430 motorway. The nearby Moûtiers train station has TGV high-speed connections, as well as direct Thalys and Eurostar services. Shuttle buses run between the station and Courchevel. The nearest international airports are Geneva, Chambéry, Lyon and Grenoble, all less than two hours away. Alternatively, if you really want to arrive in style, Courchevel has one of Europe’s few working altiports: a mountain-top runway accessible to only the most experienced pilots.
Welcome to the circus
A cabaret, acrobats and more await you during a private party: fireworks make for a grande finale.
On horseback in a winter wonderland
Helicopter to a farm lost in the mountains, then spend the day flying over the snow on horseback.
Learn to jab in the mountains
Slip into the ring like Rocky as a coach leads you through exercises in the middle of an icy forest.
Play the musher apprentice
Explore the great white wilderness of Courchevel with our favourite musher.
Ski like an Olympian
Carve up the snow with the help of a former Olympic ski champion, who was raised in the region.
Cruise the slopes by torchlight
Glide down the slopes with your torchlight, weaving down to the bright lights of the resort below.
Our address book
It may say La Saulire on the sign, but to the locals this is simply “Jacques’ place,” Jacques being the owner that everybody here knows by name. Within these wood-panelled walls, furnished with deep, inviting cushions, head chef Benoît Redondo has been cooking up dishes inspired by the legendary black truffle for 14 years and counting.
16, Place du Rocher, 73120 Courchevel
Ferme auberge d’Ariondaz
The heritage of Alpine dairy farming
On a stone set into the wall of this old farmer’s chalet, a date is still just about visible: 1850. Bernard Chardon, restaurateur and farmer, keeps this tradition alive by maintaining his own herd of alpine cows. He uses their milk to produce delicious, traditional mountain cheeses – Tome, Raclette and Vacherin – all just a stone’s throw from the ski slopes.
At the top of the Ariondaz cable car
La Cave des Creux
Between two ski runs
At 2100 metres above sea level, this old alpine farm building has been transformed into a cosy, authentic restaurant. This is the perfect spot to try some local specialities, with an astounding view of Mont Blanc from the sunny terrace, or by the roaring fireside in the evening.
Piste de la Cave des Creux
La Mangeoire is a true Courchevel legend. This artfully-decorated restaurant/piano bar has a cosy lounge where you can sip on cocktails and vintage spirits with a great view of the band. At night the tables are cleared away to make more room for dancing, drawing a fashionable, festive crowd.
Rue Park City, Courchevel 1850
Le White Bar
By the fire
Within the Hotel Cheval Blanc, sink into one of the sofas in front of the White Bar’s roaring fire, the perfect setting to enjoy grand cru wines and top-notch cocktails while listening to some live music. The hotel also boasts a dedicated cigar lounge, as well as the 1947, a three Michelin star restaurant created by chef Yannick Alléno, with just five tables for a truly unique gastronomic adventure.
Hôtel Cheval Blanc, Le Jardin Alpin, Courchevel 1850
In the centre of Courchevel 1850, L’Equipe is the go-to spot for nighthawks looking for a warm welcome and a relaxed atmosphere. Locals and holidaymakers come together over a beer, a glass of wine or a plate of tapas, in a wood-panelled lounge reminiscent of some long-lost speakeasy.
Rue des Verdons, Courchevel 1850
Chapelle Notre Dame de l’Assomption
A little history
Tucked away amid the fir trees lies the little chapel of Notre Dame de l’Assomption. Built in 1953 by celebrated architects Denys Pradelle and Jean Prouvé, it is a fine example of the cultural riches to be found in Courchevel, home to a number of historical monuments. Making ample use of light and perspective, celebrating nature in all its glory, the chapel is a haven of peace amid the hustle and bustle of Courchevel in full swing.
Rue de l’Eglise, Courchevel 1850
A hockey game
« Be brave, be bouk’s ! »
Every other week, Val Vanoise’s local ice hockey team step into the rink to represent Courchevel, Méribel and Pralognan-la-Vanoise. Promoted to the national second division in 2015-2016, the Bouquetins are a great source of local pride, drawing big crowds on game day.
Place du Forum, 73120 Saint-Bon-Tarentaise
After a long day on the slopes, there’s nothing quite like relaxing in the warm waters of a spa. The recently-opened Aquamotion centre offers a huge array of aquatic activities, from the outdoor pool with its lazy river to the indoor slides and sauna facilities. All in a futuristic setting which seems to be hewn into the slopes of the valley.
1297 Route des Eaux Vives, Courchevel 1650