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

Car hire vs Private Airport Transfers

When going on holiday it is getting easier to book our flights but then comes the problem – How are we going to get to our destination? Public transport is usually an option but it is not always convenient because of strict schedules and fixed drop off points. So usually it comes down to the decision between hiring a car and booking a transfer. Let’s see what the pros and cons are.

Car Hire

The definite advantage of hiring a car is the flexibility it gives you. You can pick your own route and stop as many times as you like on the way. Also you have a car available for the entire duration of your stay so you can explore the area and pop to the supermarket for essentials.

What you need to remember is that there can be extra costs on top of the price that you see on the car hire company’s website. To start with you will need a big enough car. If you are taking any sports equipment, like skis, golf clubs, etc then you can’t go for the smallest economy option. Also if you need child seats, snow chains or other extras then the hire company will charge extra for these. You might also need to take out extra insurance for the car.

On top of your car hire costs you also need to remember to add on fuel costs, motorway charges, parking fees, etc.

Before hiring a car, you should ask yourself how you like driving around airports. If you need to drop your car off at a major international airport then finding the car rental returns area is not always easy and can lead to panic if you don’t leave yourself enough time.

The other problem is of course that someone has to be the designated driver, for more than one driver you also need to pay extra. So you need someone who is confident enough to drive in a different country and who doesn’t mind missing out on the scenery and a glass of vino at lunch.

Private Transfers

Let us start with the advantages here as well. By booking a private transfer you know the exact cost and you can pay before you get there so it is one less thing to worry about. When you arrive at the airport your driver will be already waiting for you and you can set off on your journey straight away without queuing at the car hire desk and trekking to your rental car with all of your luggage.

Once in the car you can just sit back and relax until you arrive to your destination and you can forget about transfers for the entire duration of your stay. Your transfer company will advise you about the best pick up time for your flights. Their experience means that you don’t have to worry about timings. Most transfer companies have child seats for all ages and usually they don’t charge any extra.

Probably the main advantage of booking a private transfer is the experience of your driver. They have spent many years driving around the area so they know the roads really well and they also know how to deal with different conditions. Starting your holiday with driving in a snow storm and then trying to put snow chains on for the first time is less than ideal. Your driver might also know the best shortcuts to beat the worst of the holiday traffic and make sure you get to the airport on time.

The disadvantage of a transfer is of course the lack of flexibility. Your driver will be on a schedule and it can’t be guaranteed that there is time to stop for a supermarket shop on the way. You also don’t have the flexibility during your stay to hop in the car and go somewhere different. Private transfers also might work out more expensive if you are only going for a few days.

Unless you want to travel around during your holiday it is always worth comparing car hire prices with private transfer prices.

Getting quotes directly from local companies guarantees that you find the best prices and service. Fill in the form on our site and it will get sent to local firms who can then get back to you with their offer.

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!