Courchevel is one of the world's most prestigious ski resorts, home to more luxury chalets and hotels than any other, while a playground for billionaires and Russian oligarchs who flock here for the well-groomed pistes and glitzy après-ski. As part of the world's largest ski area the Trois Vallees, it is an excellent place for beginners and intermediates, while offering a great base for advanced skiers to discover the region's best black runs.
The glamorous ski resort also provides designer boutiques and Michelin-starred restaurants for well-heeled skiers.
But all this shouldn't put you off visiting this beautiful destination. It is perfectly possible to experience the champagne lifestyle with lemonade money - and even in 1850, the most exclusive of Courchevel's four villages. Here's how to have a cheap(ish) ski break in the luxurious resort...
Stay at a two-star hotel
Yes, really! Amid the five-star 'palace' hotels and regular five-star hotels in Courchevel 1850 is a two-star boutique hotel slap-bang in the centre of the resort, just steps from the likes of Prada and Moncler. Ski France's Hotel Olympic has 28 rooms with large windows and contemporary decor that are ideal for couples, families or groups of friends. The lounge-bar is an inviting space for guests to socialise over a game of Monopoly or pool, or relaxing with drinks by the fire. A seven-night stay in a standard room on a bed and breakfast basis costs from £402 per person.
Have lunch in a lovely bistro
With seven Michelin-starred restaurants, Courchevel is a tempting resort for foodies but you don't have to remortgage your home to indulge in its top-notch dining scene. Hotel Le Chabichou is home to one of the Michelin-starred restaurants, Le Chabichou, but also delightful bistro Le Chabotté, which serves up excellent Savoyard dishes at reasonable prices. A younger version of Le Chabichou, the restaurant's menu features fish from the mountain lakes and home-style desserts.
Hurtle down the sled run
Courchevel 1850 offers visitors something unique in France - its very own two-kilometre-long sled run for a thrilling ride. The floodlit toboggan run, which operates from 9am to 7.30pm, features 300 metres of vertical drop. The ride costs nine euros for those without a lift pass (plus extra if you need to rent a sledge) and departs from the edge of the Tovets ski run, arriving in Courchevel 1550. Fun for children and adults, it's an exhilarating non-ski activity everyone can try.
Spend a day in spa heaven
For a few hours of utter bliss in a luxurious setting, visit Aquamotion in Courchevel 1550, where you can experience state-of-the-art spa facilities in a futuristic building. Offering multiple swimming pools inside and out, waterslides and a diving pool, the water park is loaded with activity for all ages. Those who just want to relax should head for the adults-only area for its steaming outdoor lagoons, Finnish sauna complete with an ice-cold plunge pool for a quick dip, saltwater grotto and more. A three-hour pass costs 35 euros per adult in the adults-only Aquawellness area, or 13 euros per child/23 euros per adult in the Aqualudique area.
Take in the scenery on a winter walk
One of the best things to do for free in Courchevel is go on a breathtaking nature walk, allowing you to take in the fresh air and spectacular mountain views. There are 17 kilometres of winter walking paths to enjoy the superb scenery and maps are available from the tourist office. The trails take in the gorgeous pine forests where you might spot the tracks of deer, foxes and hares, or simply bask in the unspoilt winter wonderland while soaking up the peace and tranquillity away from the ski slopes.
Top 10 ski resorts for thrill seekers
Top 10 ski resorts for thrill seekers
Chamonix is known as the 'death sport capital of the world'. On any given day you’ll see ice-climbers, paragliders and extreme skiers defying death in the shadows of Mont Blanc, which looms large over the resort. Chamonix is one of Europe’s tallest resorts so the snow is more consistent and there’s over 170km of piste. There’s also more ski guides here than anywhere else on earth ready to help you down backcountry chutes.
Revelstoke is the world’s epi-centre of backcountry skiing and heli-skiing was pioneered near here in the 1960s. Now there’s five heli-ski companies based in or around the town and 95% of the world’s heli-skiing happens in British Colombia. There is over 12m of dry snow falling each season and when your heli-skiing’s over, Revelstoke is home to the steepest slopes in North America!
Verbier is the home of extreme skiing in the Alps and it's not hard to find backcountry terrain around the resort. Just take a cable car up the mountain and take a short hike and you’re set to take on Europe’s most famous off-piste stomach-churning runs. If you’re interested in improving your skills the resort has the best clinic for expert skiers in Europe.
Canada’s Powder Highway is one of the world’s most under-rated ski areas. This series of roads wraps around nine of Canada’s most extreme ski resorts. 60% of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is designated ‘experts only’. With its extreme ski bowls and chutes Kicking Horse has won every hard-core ski accolade awarded by North American ski magazines.
With a name like La Grave, it’s not surprising the resort is known as ‘Death Mountain’. There’s just one cable car at La Grave and no groomed terrain or ski patrols. Head up to 3,200m where there’s only two marked pistes on the glacier, the rest is entirely up to you to get down. With 2,000m of vertical drop and runs that tilt beyond 50 degrees La Grave is the most extreme backcountry ski mountain in the world.
If you don’t like steep ski runs, don’t even consider Jackson Hole - it's North America’s most extreme ski mountain and has some of the steepest backcountry ski runs in the world. But with plenty of groomed runs still suitable for intermediates, Jackson Hole is one of the best mountains for skiers to hone their skills. You can work towards areas like Corbet's Couloir - where you’ll need to take a six metre drop just to enter this 40 degree-pitched slope.
Niseko is the world’s snowiest ski resort. Each season it receives over 15m of the world’s driest snow and there's often a metre of snow overnight in January or February. If you arrive between late December and mid-February you’re virtually guaranteed waist-deep powder. Unlike many other resorts in Japan, you’re permitted to ski between the trees, offering more deep snow thrills. But be warned, take a tumble and you might not get up (always ride with a buddy). Stay on your feet and you’ll ski the deepest runs of your life.
There is no more historic backcountry in European skiing than Kitzbühel – the site of one of the first alpine ski descents in Europe. Kitzbühel is home to challenging pistes and 200km/sq of treacherous backcountry skiings. The resort plays host to the world’s most famous downhill ski race – the Streif. The best skiers on the planet travel at up to 150 km/h across jumps, bumps and extreme steeps. Kitzbühel is so steep it’s where the Austrian ski team chooses to practice!
Heli-skiing is banned in many European countries but the best place to access the terrain is from the Valais valley in Switzerland. You’ll be picked up from either Zermatt or Verbier and taken to designated landing zones across Italy and Switzerland. The advantage of heli-skiing in Europe over America is that you can ski in more than one country in the same day. You’ll also access long glaciers, huge deep bowls and more tree runs than you will in North America.
Mayrhofen has one of the world’s top snowboard parks. The Burton Park has huge table-top jumps that attract Europe’s biggest names in skiing and snowboarding. Mayrhofen also is home to the world’s steepest groomed slope – Harakiri Piste, named after the Japanese ritual of suicide by Samurai sword. If that’s not enough thrills for you, there’s always Europe’s steepest glacier runs, Hintertux, just 19km away.