Our guide to Courchevel

Courchevel is located in the Tarantaise valley, in the Rhone-Alpes region of France. It is part of the famous Three Valleys ski area, which is the largest ski area in the world.

Courchevel in recent years has become associated with being a millionaires’ playground full of fur coats, designer shops and more Michelin stars than you can count. While this might be true for Courchevel 1850 there is still a lot to enjoy in this area of the 3 Valleys for us mere mortals! We will attempt to introduce the different villages of the Courchevel Valley and to give you some personal recommendations.

Let us start with the “odd one out”:

La Tania

When Albertville hosted the winter Olympics some of the events took place around the Three Valleys and they needed to build a base where some of the competitors and journalists could stay. Thanks to this the village of La Tania was born and opened at the end of 1990.

Since then it’s grown from strength to strength and it is a very popular destination. The advantages that La Tania offers is a ‘traffic free’ resort with a new area of lovely chalets. You get great access to the rest of the Three Valleys and lovely tree runs to ski back on at the end of the day. It is the perfect place for families and beginner skiers. It is also a budget-friendly way to stay in the Courchevel Valley. La Tania is small but offers plenty of entertainment. It has a few bars and plenty of restaurants to keep you happy after a long day on the mountain. Our favourite après-ski venue is the Ski Lodge at the bottom of the Folyères piste. They have a cheerful food menu, live music and the owner is a fantastic character. Say hello to Tim for us!

For a nice meal out in La Tania you have Le Farcon, the new Michelin star addition to La Tania’s restaurant scene. If you fancy something different then try La Taiga, the food is plentiful and delicious.

If you find yourself in the Three Valleys at the end of the winter season then make sure to head to La Tania for its famous Charity Day. It is what all seasonnaires wait for and it is a fun day helping a good cause. Beer has never tasted better!

Skiing around La Tania is also fantastic. The runs are very pretty mostly winding down between the trees back to La Tania. It is also very easy to pop over to Meribel from La Tania, it is only 2 lifts away. La Tania also offers plenty of great off piste skiing but please be careful. Never venture off piste without the right equipment and sufficient information about the area and potential dangers.

If you want to find out more about La Tania then check out this brilliant guide – http://www.latania.co.uk – we especially enjoy their Celebrity Watch section.

For private, shared or luxury airport transfers to La Tania please fill in the form on our homepage and you will receive no-obligation quotes from local transfer and taxi companies.

Courchevel 1300 (Le Praz)

Le Praz (also known as Courchevel 1300) is a lovely, traditional French mountain village that has plenty to offer. Le Praz has got a really nice buzz thanks to some great pubs and restaurants. When you arrive in Le Praz the first thing that stands out is of course the Olympic ski jump that is still in use for competitions today. Just next to the ski jump are the Le Praz gondolas. You can buy your lift pass from the bottom of these.

You can either take the Le Praz gondola which goes up to Courchevel 1850 or the Foret gondola which will take you above La Tania.

To ski or snowboard back to Le Praz you can choose between red and black runs so beginners should consider taking the gondola or the free ski bus back to the village. The Jockeys black run goes from La Tania back to Le Praz and if the conditions are good it is a fun piste to do! Avoid it on tired legs though.

After a long day on the slopes I’m sure you will enjoy a beverage in one of Le Praz’s pubs or bars. We recommend the L’Escourchevel (or better known as the Sports bar). They sometimes have live music on and they also show the main sporting events so you don’t have to miss out on your favourite football game. The food is plentiful, mainly burgers and pizzas. You should stick to these, for anything gourmand there are other great choices in Le Praz. Drinks are also rather reasonable here; we would avoid ordering the house wine though based on personal experiences.

For a nice glass of wine and some French-style tapas head to Cave des Lys. It is a small wine bar but the atmosphere is great and the wine is divine!

Our favourite restaurant in Le Praz is hands down the Bistrot du Praz, the quality of the food is amazing and their set menu is usually cracking value. They have an extensive wine list as well; you can find something for any taste (and budget).

For private, shared or luxury airport transfers to Courchevel 1300 Le Praz please fill in the form on our homepage and you will receive quotes from local transfer and taxi companies.

Courchevel 1550 (Courchevel Village)

Maybe the lesser known part of Courchevel is 1550.  It is a mixed bag of traditional-style chalets and bigger (uglier) hotel and apartment buildings. But the overall impression is good, it is a good base for a holiday. It is a quieter village than the others but it also means that accommodation prices can be cheaper. Courchevel 1550 is linked to the other levels by a free bus service and there is also a direct gondola between 1550 and 1850. The sledge run from 1850 finishes right at the gondola station so you can hop back on for another round. It is a real fun afternoon out! You can rent sledges from most ski hire shops.

The ski run coming back to the village is nice and wide, it is a good place for beginners to start. You can take the gondola straight to 1850 and start skiing from a bit higher as well.

For going out there is Le Caterail which has live music every Thursday or the infamous “The Bar”. It is where most seasonnaires hang out and make the most of the cheap drink prices. Our favourite restaurant in 1550 is L’Oeil du Boeuf. Steaks cooked on an open fire with delicious sides – what more can you want? Make sure you book ahead as this is a very popular choice between the hungry folks of Courchevel. It is not cheap but if you like beef then you have to try this. We found the service typically French but the food compensates the lack of smiles from the waitress. The guy who owns it is great, have a chat with him!

For private, shared or luxury airport transfers to Courchevel 1550 please fill in the form on our homepage and you will receive quotes from local transfer and taxi companies.

Courchevel 1650 (Courchevel Moriond)

Courchevel 1650 Courchevel Moriond France
Courchevel 1650 (Courchevel Moriond)

In Courchevel 1650 we are getting closer to the luxury levels, there are some very nice hotels and chalets based here but don’t fret – cheaper options are still available! 1650 is a good place to look for self-catering accommodation, which probably explains why there are 3 supermarkets in this small village. Maeva, Pierre Vancances and many individual owners rent out apartments on a weekly basis.

There is a regular bus service between Courchevel 1650 and 1850 until quite late but there isn’t a direct gondola between the two.

Skiing in Courchevel 1650 is truly excellent; it offers some great pistes for all abilities and also plenty of off piste itineraries. The pistes are nice and wide which beginners will appreciate. If you are here with kids then don’t miss the Indiens piste. You can stop half-way down and visit the wigwam, shoot arrows and even get some fighting spirit in you with the help of some facepaint. The red runs around the Chapelets chairlift are usually really nice to ski, especially first thing in the morning. One piste to avoid at all cost in the 1650 area is the Roc Mugnier, for some reason it is icy and bumpy pretty much throughout the entire season. Our favourite part of Courchevel 1650 is skiing down from the top of the Roc Merlet lift into the Valley that separated 1650 from 1850. If you like hiking and some back country then this is a good starting point.

There are a few bars in Courchevel 1650 that are run by British Tour Operators, like Rocky’s and the Bubble bar. For some French atmosphere we really liked having a couple of drinks in Le Schuss bar, it is also a restaurant offering typical Savoyard dishes. The Funky Fox has a pool table, live music and DJs, plus cheap pizzas. In terms of restaurants you have a great choice, most hotels take dinner bookings, Le Portetta and the Hotel Manali are famous for their haute cuisine. If you want to satisfy your meat and cheese cravings then head to La Table de Marie, Le Montagne or the Petit Savoyard, the latter also serves the best pizzas in the whole of Courchevel.

For private, shared or luxury airport transfers to Courchevel 1650 please fill in the form on our homepage and you will receive quotes from local transfer and taxi companies.

Courchevel 1850 (nowadays just referred to as ‘Courchevel’)

Courchevel 1850 France ski resort
Courchevel 1850

Here we go, welcome to the home of bling, fur coats and luxury hotels! Courchevel 1850 is one of the most expensive resorts in the World but you can still survive here (just about) without re-mortgaging your home.

It’s an interesting trivia fact that the centre of Courchevel 1850 is actually only 1747 metres high. They named it 1850 for marketing purposes to compete with the resort of Val d`Isere, which actually is 1850 metres above sea level! Apart from skiing and 5 star luxury hotels, Courchevel is also famous for its fine dining with 11 Michelin stars awarded (probably more by the time you read this) to 7 of its restaurants. All of these are absolutely fabulous and if you get the opportunity then you should try them. Out of the high-end restaurants the most famous ones are the Chabichou with 2 Michelin stars and Le Bateaux Ivre.

For a cosier affair check out Le Cloche opposite the church or La Fromagerie, both offer Savoyard cuisine with an emphasis on melted cheese. Restaurants in Courchevel 1850 are generally quite expensive so it is worth considering hopping on the free bus and getting better value for your money in one of the other villages. If you are self-catering and on a budget then it is a great idea to rent a raclette set from the local Sherpa supermarket. You get all your cheese, potatoes and charcuterie for a fraction of the price compared to a restaurant and usually you have enough left for raclette grilled sandwiches the next morning.

If you fancy a drink you can go to L’Equipe, this is where most ski instructors hang out based on our experience. Le Refuge is probably the most reasonable bar in Courchevel 1850 and its British run. They sometimes have live music during après-ski and this is where seasonnaires hang out as well. For more of a bar atmosphere you can head to L’Oxygen, they sometimes have a DJ on after 10 pm. Our favourite bar is the Le P’tit Drink at the entrance of 1850 opposite the fire station. This wine bar has some excellent tapas dishes and a fantastic selection of wines by the glass.

If you want to carry on enjoying the night then you can choose from two very expensive night clubs in Courchevel – La Grange and Les Caves. Both are great for spotting celebrities and Russian multimillionaires.

You can of course visit the luxury boutiques in Courchevel – if for nothing else but a bit of window shopping. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, Dior, Fendi, Hermes and many other luxury brands have shops here.

As we’ve mentioned before Courchevel 1850 is extremely popular with Russian skiers and the resort organises special celebrations and fireworks to celebrate Orthodox Christmas and the Russian New Year.

If you fancy owning a holiday apartment in Courchevel 1850 you might want to think about it twice, as Couchevel is the 6th most expensive place on the planet – on average you are looking at paying £25000 per square metre!

Skiing around 1850 is excellent though – it offers a quick access to the rest of the 3 Valleys and also great skiing around the resort itself. Our favourite areas in 1850 are the Creux valley and the Suisses black run. If you are an expert skier you can challenge yourself on the famous Grand Couloir from the top of the Saulire cable car. The entry in to the Couloir is very narrow with huge drops on either side and usually with big moguls making it even more difficult to navigate your way into it. After the entry it opens up into a wide and very steep mogul field. In other words – not our idea of fun.

There is also a fun Family Park under the Verdons cable car which is a great way to have some fun with your kids.

We hope our guide will help you get a better idea about what the different levels of Courchevel have to offer. One thing is sure though, skiing in Courchevel and the 3 Valleys is fantastic!

For private, shared or luxury airport transfers to Courchevel 1850 please fill in the form on our homepage and you will receive quotes from local transfer and taxi companies.

Distance of Transfer from Geneva Airport to Courchevel: 145 km
Transfer Time from Geneva Airport to Courchevel: App. 2 hr 15 mins

Distance of Transfer from Grenoble Airport to Courchevel: 180km
Transfer Time from Grenoble Airport to Courchevel: 2hr 10mins approx

Distance of Transfer from Chambery Airport to Courchevel: 109km
Transfer Time from Chambery Airport to Courchevel: 1hr 30mins approx

Distance of Transfer from Lyon Airport to Courchevel: 185km
Transfer Time from Lyon Airport to Courchevel: 2hrs 10mins approx

Where to find early snow?

Many of us just cannot wait for the winter season to start and why should we? There are plenty of options in Europe where you can get your early snow fix and have a great holiday. Thanks to the time of the year and the reduced number of open runs you can get a great deal on lift pass prices and many chalet and tour operators offer excellent deals for early dates.

Tignes, France

Tignes is a great option in France for some early skiing. Thanks to its glacier it is open during most of the autumn. There has been some early snow already this autumn so people have already had the pleasure of putting some fresh tracks down! You get an impressive 20km terrain to ski on and an altitude difference of 750 metres. There is plenty of fun to be had there! Your best option for getting to Tignes is to fly to Geneva and arrange your airport transfer from there. Have a look at transfer options from Geneva airport to Tignes here.

Val Thorens, France

Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe which makes it the perfect choice for anyone looking for early snow. Most skiing takes place at over 2000 metres so the snow is pretty much guaranteed. Lifts this year will open on the 23rd of November – depending on snow conditions of course this could even be earlier. For early dates your best option is to fly to Geneva or Lyon and get a transfer from there. For private or shared transfers please have a look here.

Cervinia, Italy

If you prefer looking at the Matterhorn from the Italian side then you can stay in Cervinia. Skiing here is usually possible from late October thanks to the high altitude and the glacier. What can be better than a great day on the slopes followed by a satisfying slice of pizza?

You can fly to Turin or Milan and look for transfers here.

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt is not just the home to the Swiss half of the famous Matterhorn but it is also an excellent place for some early glacier skiing. The views are fabulous, the food is great and in general the standard of accommodation is very high in Zermatt. We can highly recommend it!

Consider flying to Zurich or Geneva. The best transfer option is usually to go by train but if there is a group of you then private transfers can work out better. Have a look on our homepage. There are other good resorts in Switzerland for early snow, check out Saas Fee, Gstaad, Laax or St Moritz.

Livigno, Italy

For another option in Italy you can try Livigno, one of the highest resorts in Europe with runs going up to 3000m. If we get some early snow then skiing starts as early as the end of November. Livigno has a special duty-free status, which makes staying here even cheaper and more attractive! The resort itself is charming and traffic-free. There is also a new Spa centre in Livigno so you can relax there after a good day of skiing. You can fly to Zurich or any of the Milan airports and look for airport transfers on our main page.

Åre, Sweden

Fancy trying something a bit different? Well then, why not head to Åre in Sweden this November? It will be a different experience from skiing in the Alps and you can get to know this fantastic country with its lovely people a bit better. Åre offers excellent quality pistes and accommodation options, but the downside is that food and alcohol is in general a bit more expensive than in Alpine resorts.

Your best option is to fly to Stockholm.

Sölden, Austria

Sölden offers year-round skiing thanks to its 2 glaciers. This makes this lovely Austrian resort the perfect early ski destination. It usually re-opens at the end of October on the glaciers and additional areas might be opened depending on the snow conditions. Sölden is also a great choice if you like après-ski .

Fly to Innsbruck and fill out our quick form to receive no obligation quotes from local transfer companies for airport transfers.

Obergurgl, Austria

Obergurgl doesn’t have a glacier to boost its early season chances but it is one of the most snow-sure resorts in the Alps. It is the perfect choice for an early season trip. Obergurgl doesn’t only offer snow-sure peaks but also top quality accommodation where you can relax after a great day of skiing.

To get to Obergurgl fly to Innsbruck and have a look for airport transfers from Innsbruck airport to Obergurgl here.

Why is it so difficult to get to ski resorts?

Essential reading for anyone who has ever said “How Long?!!” on a ski trip.

It is 2012 – flights from one European country to another typically take less than 2 hours and can cost as little as £30 (if you do not need to take any change of clothes). For the millions of us that live in cities, we are used to having buses, trams, tubes and taxis to take us anywhere we want to go at any time of day or night.

So why is it that traditionally the most difficult part of any ski trip is getting from the airport to resort? And why does it always take so long?

Well, at FindTransfers.com we think the answer has something to do with mountains.

Normally, every effort is made to build high capacity airports as close as possible to massive tourist destinations. However, when it comes to ski resorts, this is not possible due to the mountainous terrain. There are a few exceptions, such as Sion Airport in Switzerland, Chambéry Airport in France and Innsbruck Airport in Austria, however we have found that these “Mountain” airports are very susceptible to the weather. If there is any fog, low cloud, snow or high winds (which are all fairly common in the mountains during the winter season) then the runways are closed and flights are diverted away, causing havoc for even the most organised independent traveller.

Mountains not only mean that the airports have to be built a bit further away than we would like, but also that getting from the airport to resort is not always straight forward. Switzerland has an excellent public transport system which allows connections from almost any airport to any ski resort. Other countries do not make it so easy. Where there are some trains towards ski resorts, any public transport options often involve a bus – train – walk – bus – walk type of combination, which would be fine if; a) you weren’t on holiday and; b) you didn’t have all your ski clothes and equipment to carry with you.

Journeys by road are by far the most common way of getting to ski resorts, but even this is not as easy as one might think. Speeds are often restricted to keep everyone safe on the winding roads. There is also the chance of heavy snowfalls which make driving conditions hazardous. And if winding roads covered in snow did not sound dangerous enough, they are also full of tourists with little or no experience of driving in those conditions, making everything both slower, and more dangerous, at the same time.

There are a few regular bus services from airports to ski resorts. But please prepare yourself by re-reading the previous paragraph and imagine how much slower this is in a large coach.

These are a few of the reasons why it often takes up to 3 or 4 hours to get from the airport to your ski resort. So what is the best option?

We would highly recommend that you and your group book your own private airport transfer vehicle that is fully equipped for winter conditions, is comfortable, has an experienced driver and is operated by a reputable company. And where can you find a list of these companies all in one place? www.findtransfers.com

If you find that your budget will not stretch to a private transfer, but you would still like a door-to-door airport transfer without having to carry your bags around, then try our shared transfers page. Not only is sharing your journey with others better for the environment and more economical, it also allows you to meet other people. Having a chat will make the journey go quicker and you might meet a new ski buddy.

Obviously, no matter which transfer option you take, you’re still going to spend a night in the local primary school if an avalanche blocks the valley…

Have a good holiday and make the airport transfer an enjoyable part of it!