Lay of the Land
Courchevel is comprised of five villages, all of which are known at least in part by their altitudes above sea level in meters: Courchevel 1850, 1650 and 1550; Le Praz 1300; and St. Bon 1100. While all have access to the same ski network and are only miles apart, the resort most referred to is 1850. It is the highest up the mountain, so it has the best snow, and it’s where you’ll find the finest hotels, restaurants, chalets and shopping.
Ironically (since it is now known as the St.-Tropez of snow), Courchevel was built in the mid-1940s as a ski community for the average Frenchman. Some of the basic, bunker-like housing remains, but most have been refitted in the Savoyard chalet style with stone roofs, timber façades and carved shutters and terraces decorated by local craftsmen.
In addition to aggressively encouraging new luxury hotels, the villages have instituted programs to make the resort as a whole more hospitable to demanding guests. For instance, all four-star hotels now offer free shuttles that ferry guests around Courchevel 1850, most restaurants let guests charge meals to their hotel rooms and the multilingual ski guides are as adept at giving pointers on where to find the best foie gras as at suggesting which run will have the best morning powder.
Courchevel is especially good for families, as it is a true ski-in-ski-out resort, and you can ski the entire day without ever boarding a bus or repeating a slope.
When to Go
Christmas and February tend to be the busiest times because of the European holidays. Avoid Courchevel during the first two weeks of January and part of March, when the resort is overrun with Russian visitors. In January, the skies are surprisingly blue, but the snow may not be as deep as it will get later. March usually has great snow and sunny days.
Courchevel is equi-distant from the Geneva and Lyons airports (from either it’s a journey of about two hours). Another option is to take the four-hour train from Paris to Moutiers, a town about 30 minutes from Courchevel by taxi. Many also fly privately to Chambéry, Annecy, Grenoble or Courchevel, which has a notoriously short runway (Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond lands there in Tomorrow Never Dies).