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Courchevel, France

Courchevel 1850 – the highest of the five components of this big resort – is the favorite Alpine hangout of the Paris jet set, who fly directly in to the mini-airport in the middle of the slopes. Its top hotels and restaurants are among the best in the Alps, and the most expensive. But don’t be put off: a holiday here doesn’t have to cost a fortune (especially in the lower villages), the atmosphere is not particularly exclusive, and the slopes are excellent. Courchevel is the most extensive and varied sector of the whole Three Valleys, with everything from long gentle greens to steep couloirs. Many visitors never leave the Courchevel sector; but there is good access to the rest of the Three Valleys, too. Le Praz is an overgrown, but still pleasant village, La Tania and 1550 quieter and good for families, 1650 has more of an old village atmosphere than it seems from the drive through, and the posh bits of 1850 are stylishly woody. But overall the resort is no beauty. Well, nothing’s perfect. Courchevel’s long list of merits is enough to attract more and more international visitors, but it remains much more French than Méribel, over the hill, as well as having better snow.

What’s Great

  • Extensive, varied local terrain to suit everyone from beginners to experts – plus the rest of the Three Valleys
  • Great easy runs for near-beginners
  • Lots of slope-side accommodation
  • Impressive, continuously updated lift system, particularly above 1850
  • Excellent slope maintenance, and widespread use of snowmakers
  • Wooded setting is pretty, and useful in bad weather
  • Choice of four very different villages
  • Some great restaurants, and good après-ski by French standards

What’s Not-So-Great

  • Some slopes get unpleasantly busy
  • Rather soulless villages with intrusive traffic in places
  • 1850 has some of the most expensive hotels and bars in the Alps (prices in the other villages are much lower)
  • Little to do away from the slopes (during the day, at least)
  • Losing a little of its very French feel as more and more overseas visitors discover its attractions
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