When it comes to French ski resorts, Courchevel is as chi-chi as it gets, specifically Courchevel 1850 – the highest point in the Alpine resort. Elevated in altitude and stature, Courchevel 1850 is a favourite with celebrities and royals – including the Dubai Royal family, who frequent the resort – and welcomes guests into a charming snowglobe with rustic-chic chalets, fondue bars and chocolate box Gucci, Moncler, Fusalp and Dior stores to match – selling their chicest winter wares, of course.
Gondola lifts are branded with Gucci, and keen skiers can traverse the entire Trois Vallées through the network of ski lifts and pistes – the largest ski area in the world. In December, the resort starts to wake up, with most luxury hotels opening around the 9th. Due to its high altitude, snow falls early, seeing powdery pistes good enough for skiing from early December to April – one of the world’s longest ski seasons. What makes Courchevel 1850 so unique in its space, and different from fellow ultra-lux ski resorts like Gstaad and Zermatt is its big-name hotel brands, luring GCC travellers who want to stay in names like Aman, Cheval Blanc, Six Senses, Les Airelles, Barrière Group, and in nearby Courchevel 1650, Ultima’s luxury private rental chalets. It’s also just as popular with skiers as non-skiers, so it is perfect for those wanting a luxe wintery vibe without feeling compelled to learn to ski – though we highly recommend taking to the stunning slopes, as this is where the buzz is (and some of the best restaurants).
What to do in Courchevel 1850
It goes without saying that Courchevel – and Courchevel 1850 – is a majestic spot for skiing. Part of Le Trois Vallee, the largest ski area in the world, Courchevel itself covers 150km of runs, but also links to nearby Meribel and Val Thornes – and experienced skiers can treat the conjoined 600km of mountain runs as their big open wonderland, zipping from area to area. Snowboarding is just as popular, and for those uncomfortable on a board or skis, there’s snowshoeing and tobogganing to get the thrill of traversing the mountain. Off the pistes, moon biking (zooming around the snow on a motorbike, and sledging are also popular). Courchevel’s immense range of runs, from magic carpet beginners areas (free to use) to green runs and double blacks high in the peaks, the resort suits absolutely all levels and abilities. Passes-wise, there’s something to suit everyone, from one-day mini passes to week and family passes traversing the entire Trois Valee (prices from €35 a day). Off-piste skiing is also available with a guide or ski instructor – so experienced alpinists can enjoy the thrill of fresh, untouched snow.
Courchevel, and Courchevel 1850, is a sought-after holiday destination for both skiers and non-skiers, thanks to its inimitable snowglobe Alpine vibes, panoramic scenery, almost guaranteed show, top restaurants and apres-ski (think Fouqets and Bagatelle) and luxury shops and chalets. That said, life centres around the pistes, and this is where you’ll find the most beauty, enjoy the best buzz and be able to ski in and out of charming crepe stops, bars and picture-perfect Alpine restaurants like Chalet Du Pierres. The best way to do this is to book a ski lesson, which will get you on your skis fast and have you comfortable pootling down the green slopes in no time. For lessons in Courchevel, look nowhere else but ESF Courchevel 1850 (half-day from €326) – the iconic ski school born in 1937 with a 500-strong army of instructors teaching children, teens, adults, and both group and private lessons.
Said charming teachers are seen all across the town and slopes, in their signature red suits, awaiting their clients in the ski rooms of luxury hotels, and whizzing down the slopes each morning saying hi to seemingly everyone. Thanks to the typically French approach to learning, fast, brave and efficient, in just a few hours, you can go from never having skied before to confidently snow ploughing, stopping, turning, and using the gondola and button lifts – meaning you can enjoy the green slopes by yourself for the rest of your trip, even after one lesson. Many families book a tutor for the duration of their stay, not only enjoying the holiday of a lifetime but turning them into accomplished skiers – a priceless skill for life.
Enjoy its many adventures.
Another aspect that sets Courchevel apart from its fellow ski resorts is its immense range of activities – with 50 listed on the official tourism website alone. Those wanting a break from skiing can head to the Olympic ice rink or Aquamoption – an indoor swimming pool and wellness and leisure hib – enjoy a horseback ride or enjoy indoor rock climbing and bowling – not to mention thrills like scenic plane rides, helicopter tours, hot air ballooning, paragliding, skydiving, snow scootering.
Explore Courchevel 1850’s heritage and history
Courchevel 1850 is the perfect chocolate box village and is steeped in history and heritage. There’s La Croisette – the beating heart of the village where Laurent Chaps based his urban planning project in 1946; Le forum, the shopping and leisure centre initially built for the 16th Winter Olympics in 1992 where visitors feel like they’re entering a timewarp and a host of charming churches and historic buildings.
Where to stay in Courchevel 1850
Aman Le Mélézin
Aman Le Mélézin is the definition of quiet luxury – a 31-room boutique hotel perched on the edges of the Bellecôte piste – just a short ski down, or toboggan, to the village itself. Embodying Jap-Alpine vibes (Japanese-Alpine), it evokes the feeling of a French fortress, all rustic wood panelling, soft caramel and cream hues, plush soft furnishing, and, in keeping with Aman’s signature style, Japanese design touches. Many rooms have terraces with hot tubs overlooking the snowy peaks, piste and pine forests, and guests will also find a Subterranean spa with a swimming pool, jacuzzis, sauna and steam, a cosy bar and Aman’s signature restaurant, Nama. New for this season, guests can ride enjoy a snowmobile-drawn sledge or horse-drawn carriage to Les Prés de la Croix, where a traditional Savoyard dinner of cheese fondue or hotpot awaits beside a roaring log fire in a picture postcard mountain chalet; a bespoke five-course menu created by a private chef and activities for children, like games on the chalet’s mezzanine, sledging and tabogganing. Until 7 April, the hotel is also offering a Ski or Spa Escape (for skiers and non-skiers) – a five-night exclusive experience including daily breakfast, daily lunch or dinner and either a ski-lift pass for Les Trois Vallées, or spa benefits including a daily 30-minute yoga session, a 50-minute holistic massage and a 30-minute Iyashi Dôme treatment. December doubles from around AED10,115 a night (€2,575), aman.com
Les Airelles Courchevel
If Aman Le Melezin is quiet, discreet luxury, Les Airelles Courchevel is pure maximalist Savoyard glamour. From the outside, the chalet looks like something from a storybook: there’s the gingerbread exterior, with whimsical turrets dusted in icing sugar snow, twinkling lights and curved balconies, not to mention the army of beaming staff buzzing around in their signature white baker boy-style uniforms. Nestled in amongst snow-covered pine trees on the Jardin Alpine green piste, this luxurious escape is one of the most sought-after in Courchevel 1850 – with 48 rooms, including 50 suites and a palatial 500 sq m private apartment – all decked out like luxurious Savoyard palaces. What makes this hotel so special is its dining programme, with four restaurants trotting traditional fondue to glamorous Italian and the iconic Led Tables Airelles buffet – plus a new collaboration with social media sensation and pastry chef Cedric Grolet for the 2023/2024 season. A spa and underground swimming pool complete the offering.
Cheval Blanc Courchevel
Known for its elegant maisons across France and the world, Cheval Blanc’s Courchevel outpost is all about old-world ALpine luxury – from the roaring fireplaces, cosy rooms with faux fur throws, cashmere blankets and mountain views, stunning spa and Courchevel’s only three-Michelin starred restaurant, Le 1947. Other dining experiences include a ‘Cigar Yurt’, cosy igloos, the slope-side La Terrasse de Cheval Blanc and the sumptuous red Le Grill Alpin – running under the guidance of Chef Yannick Alléno. The hotel is popular with GCC jet-set and wealthy, influential Emiratis, so expect an air of elegance.
Six Senses Residences
For guests looking for the luxuries and convenience of an elite five-star hotel brand but with the privacy and freedom of a chalet, then Six Senses Residences is the perfect place to stay in Courchevel 1850. Conveniently located in the heart of the village, surrounded by all the ski shops, restaurants, – and a handy Carrefour Montagne and local deli selling lobster, truffle and caviar – the accommodation includes 28 Alpine chic apartments (with up to five bedrooms), an iteration of the world-famous, wellness-centric Six Senses Spa and Japenese restaurant Sumosan – the perfect antidote to fondue and raclette.
Where to eat in Courchevel 1850
Courchevel 1850 has an outstanding dining scene, from chi-chi restaurants in chalets and hotels to more authentic, rustic Savoyard-inspired dining rooms in the village itself. Unmissable restaurants include Nama – Aman Le Melezin’s Japanese restaurant with black cod, sushi and fresh spinach and truffle salads – and Le Chalet De Pierre – a quintessential luxe Alpine chalet where the jet set crowd ski in for lavish lunches of wine and fondue overlooking the pristine pistes and mountains. Elsewhere, Les Airelles Courchevel is a dining destination – home to a whole manner of restaurants from elegant Italian and rustic-luxe Savoyard to an illustrious buffet – so you can return time and time again, and Fouqet’s brings Parisian glamour to the slopes at Hôtel Barrière Les Neiges.
For a party atmosphere, head to Bagatelle, high in the slopes, the casual Le Planté de Bâton with its 80s remixes, or ski over to Meribel for Le Folie Douce – the most famous party in the Alps. Plenty of casual, more affordable cafes and bars line the slopes, selling ice-cold beer, crepes, sandwiches and snacks, with sling-back seating perfectly positioned over the panoramas of Les Trois Velees.
How to get to Courchevel 1850
Courchevel 1850 is one of the simplest European ski resorts to get to from the GCC. Guests have plenty of options, from flying directly into Geneva or Lyon’s international airports (under a seven-hour flight), and taking a two-hour private transfer or shared transfer service, or flying directly into Courchevel’s private airstrip. It’s also possible to reach the resort by helicopter.