Review of Courchevel

4th April 2008 by Tim Perry 

We went to Courchevel in the first week of February, and by all accounts this is the best week of the year to go in terms of crowds - it is after the extended Russian New Year holidays, but before the French and English half-term holidays. This will explain the fact that for most of the week we were on pretty deserted slopes, with few lift queues to contend with. All of this with plenty of snow led to perfect skiing conditions.

As well as the uncrowded slopes (which I appreciate will not be the case for the majority of the season), my main like for Courchevel was the variety and extent of runs available for our level of skiing (advanced intermediate). Although we bought a Three Valleys lift pass, we actually only ventured away from the Courchevel area for half a day out of our six days skiing. And after spending that time in Meribel on much more crowded slopes, we soon ventured back to our home area. Such is the extent of the area that we were still finding new exciting slopes to try out on day six.

As stated above, the lift queues were admirably short, the only exception being the main gondola at 1650, which had a bit of a backlog at the start of each day, and around lunch time. However, even then, the longest we had to wait to get loaded up was perhaps 3 minutes. Other lifts had virtually no queues at all, and the well-trained lifties were quick to organise efficient filling of chairs whenever the threat of a queue emerged.

We stayed at 1650, and although it is a fairly quiet resort (certainly in comparison to 1850), there is still enough about it to make it ideal for basing yourself in. Our favourite restaurant was L’Eterlou, in the main square. This did get busy, so it is advised to book up. The restaurant does an excellent array of local dishes, with plenty of local speciality meat and cheese dishes on offer. Le Petit Savoyard, very close to L’Eterlou is also recommended, especially its excellent pizzas, cooked in the huge pizza oven.

Le Bubble bar seems to be the main bar for Brits to hang out. It has a very friendly atmosphere, and with a ‘double bubble’ session in the early evening every day, as well as live music and quiz nights, it was our main bar of choice during our week. Rockys, on the main road, was also enjoyable, but the Schuss bar, close to Rockys, is not recommended, mainly due to the extortionate prices for drink there (Over 6 euros for a half-pint can of Guinness!). Although Le Bubble and Rockys were slightly more expensive than bars in Britain, they were not prohibitively over-priced.

For a small place, there were plenty of ski-shops, supermarkets and other speciality food shops in 1650, making it an ideal base for self-catering travellers.

The ski bus service is very efficient, linking all the various levels of Courchevel, which is handy if you want to visit a different area without having to put in all the time and miles of skiing to traverse across the slopes just to reach that area.

We went to 1850 one evening for a meal (L’Anerie - close to the lifts - very nice meal, but a little pricey), and intended to have a few drinks afterwards, but a glance at the price list of the two bars we looked in soon changed our mind, and we headed back to the much more reasonable 1650 bars.

A final mention goes to the Bel Air mountain restaurant, at the top of the gondola from 1650. With a stunning picture windows offering superb views across the valley, it is well worth pushing the boat out at least once during your trip. Superb food, excellent service and the aforementioned views make it a meal to remember. It is justifiably popular though, so make sure you book your table in advance.

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