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Poorer man's Courchevel

Courchevel is for the rich and posh only? Wrong! While lots and lots of rich people – and a fair number of celebs – from across the world do head to Courchevel for regular skiing and snowboarding holidays, a growing “in-the-know” crowd can enjoy the fabulous piste action, too. It’s simply a case of being a little cannier about where they stay, and eat.

Great skiing for less money

Of course, there are pricey options, such as the piste-side chalet currently on the market for a cool £33 million. But you can also stay in a good number of cheaper chalets in the lower resorts of Courchevel 1300 and La Tania. These resorts are only a short gondola trip or bus ride away from the higher and more costly resorts of Courchevel 1550, 1650, 1850 – and the wider and vast Three Valleys area.

I know all this because I have just spent one of my best ever snowboarding weeks based at Courchevel 1300 and riding some of the most amazing array of slopes and off-piste areas I have ever come across. The flights (from Glasgow with its excess airport charges), accommodation and full catering cost around £700. This was in February (popular time to ski), in a four-star catered chalet, Chalet Du Praz, courtesy of Crystal Ski, and included the delightfully cheerful and welcoming hosts Toyah and Hattie.

The ski pass was an extra cost but that is the same for everyone who visits the Three Valleys. It would have been possible to spend the same again on lunches! But by shopping around and eating large breakfasts we managed to keep the cost of a filling lunch to less than €10.

The ideal skiing location

And what a superb place to be located. Courchevel itself boasts 150kms of downhill pistes, served by 62 chairlifts. There are 27 green runs, 44 blue runs, 38 red runs and 10 black runs. The feel of the pistes in Courchevel is wide and spacious with an amazing landscape as the backdrop.

Then there is the wider Three Valleys skiing area. Courchevel gives easy access to the entire Three Valleys area including such skiing resort gems as Meribel and Val Thorens. There’s 600kms of pisted slopes to explore in this area.

If this isn’t enough, the snow slopes that aren’t pisted are also open to off-pisters. You’ll want to pay attention to avalanche warnings etc but it seems that very little of the mountainsides in the Courchevel area is off-limits.

As one father and son pair said to me during the trip: “We have been to Courchevel and the Three Valleys for seven years of holidays but we are still to ski all the runs.”

From beginners to advanced

Our group of skiing pals included beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers and snowboarders. We all found the perfect pistes to suit our abilities and a range of lessons and outings that kept every one of us smiling through six days of skiing. If you're travelling with a group of mixed abilities that it is difficult to find a resort more ideal than Courchevel. (In my humble opinion!)

Lowdown of the four Courchevel resorts

Courchevel 1300 - Le Praz: A traditional mountain village with houses and chalets arranged on narrow, winding streets. Le Praz is the cheaper option for accommodation, eating out and drinking.

Courchevel 1550: Still boasting good value for money, 1550 is the more family-oriented level. The sledging run, which starts from 1850, ends at 1550.

Courchevel 1650: This area is a dream come true if you love flattering and scenic green and blue runs. There are lots of apres-ski options.

Courchevel 1850: This is the most expensive level of the ski resort and consequently attracts the richest of skiers. If you don’t have the money, it’s worth an evening wander just to check out the designer shops and exclusive restaurants. This is the Courcheval that is renowned for luxury establishments… but just because you have chosen the cheaper accommodation option lower down the valley it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the pistes and shops here. You might need a small bank loan, though, if you plan to go out for dinner at this level!

When booking the trip I realised that the higher you went, the most costly the accommodation became and this was for a decreasing star-rating. So four-sta catered chalet in La Praz was cheaper than teo-star chalet in 1850. Check it out and you'll find a holiday to suit your budget.

Conclusion: Courchevel for the poorer person

There are cheaper places for a ski holiday in the Three Valleys. But there are few places as pretty and with as many skiing options as Courchevel. I have also stayed in Val Thorens (livelier and for younger people!) and Les Menuries (cheaper but very little to do apres-ski). I liked the look of La Tania, too, and the prices are attractive. But for a balance of scenery, great accommodation, fair prices, fabulous skiing and lovely apres-ski options I'd return to Courchevel 1300 any time.

FionaOutdoors · 2185 days ago
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  •  Stetson: 
     
    Well said. I am off shortly for my 8th holiday in Courchevel and all but 1 of them has been at Le Praz. For cheap drinks try the Drop Inn, for food, beer and a great mixed French/English atmosphere there is the Pizzeria and the lovely Cave de Lys for good priced wine and nibbles. And of course, Les Peupiers Hotel is always good for a vin chaud and a chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances at the end of the day. For good price accommodation, check out Ellis Jackson Holidays and speak to Pete!
     
     2185 days ago 
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FionaOutdoors
Outdoors writer - and loving it!
27.02.2012 (2185 days ago)
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Poorer man's Courchevel