Skiing in Courchevel
Courchevel’s ski area is a well-balanced mix of different terrain and runs with intriguing contours. Courchevel’s well-groomed pistes (150km) are especially good for beginners (59%) and intermediates (33%) and there’s plenty of good off-piste for experts.
Courchevel Ski Area
Courchevel’s ski area is a well-balanced mix of different terrain, clearly defined ski areas for different levels of ability and runs with intriguing contours both above and below the tree-line. The heart of the ski area is Courchevel 1850, which has a range of different gondolas and chairs heading south, east and west out of the resort base known as La Croisette.
Saulire (2,738m), directly above Courchevel, is accessed by the Verdons gondola and then either the emblematic Saulire cable car or the 12-man Vizelle gondola. Between and around these two lift stations lies a playground for stronger intermediates and advanced skiers, giving access to a whole range of couloirs and steep reds and blacks. Off the back of here is also the primary way down into Meribel and the rest of the Three Valleys network.
There are several different ways to get from the centre of the resort to Col de la Loze (2,274m), which is on the right-hand side of the piste map. The Chenus bubble is quite slow so you are better either taking the higher Coqs chair or skiing down through the village to catch the Plantrey chair. This gives access to some excellent reds and a couple of black pistes that are amongst the best in the Three Valleys, all of which drop down 1,000 vertical metres through the trees to La Tania and Le Praz respectively. The Col is also a path which links round to Meribel above which stands the imposing cliffs of Rocher de la Loze (2,526m) where the extreme ski championships are held.
The other side of Courchevel 1850 can be subdivided into two areas. There is the Creux valley, overlooked by the towering Aiguille du Fruit (3,051m) which can be accessed from the top of the Vizelle and Saulire lifts along the lovely Creux red. Alternatively, hang skier’s left and drop down the wonderful black of Suisses. On the opposite side of the valley is the Chanrossa chairlift with a couple of nice steep runs and good off-piste running adjacent to it. It is also an ideal way to drop off the back into the Courchevel 1650 ski area. The 1650 ski area is perfect for intermediates with lots of well-pitched fast reds through the trees. It is generally much quieter than the rest of Courchevel, but can be difficult to get back from if you’re boarding as the returns are flat.
Beginner Skiing in Courchevel
Courchevel’s ski area includes plenty of easy green and blue runs and the resort has worked hard to improve facilities for beginners of all ages and to ensure that the resort’s mostly wealthy clientele can access the mountain restaurants as easily as possible regardless of ability.
Courchevel’s ski area now includes four beginner areas, known as “Evolution Zones,” and another beginners’ area in La Tania. Best for beginners is the area next to the altiport at Pralong, near Courchevel 1850. Beginner-friendly improvements include lifts and rope tows specially designed for beginners, but novices may find it difficult or intimidating to ski back to Courchevel 1850 as the runs home can be a bit daunting with faster ski traffic coming through.
Complete beginners would be better off starting at the Evolution Zone sandwiched between the Biollay and Jardin Alpin ski lifts, which provide the best access to a good network of green runs. The green runs here also link to the main runs leading back to Courchevel 1850 so here too after a good day in the beginner zone beginners have to ski back on busy runs with better skiers, which may affect their confidence.
There’s another good network of nursery slopes above Courchevel 1650, which is accessed by riding the Mickey chairlift. Then, when ready to progress, beginners can ride the Ariondaz lift to the top of the wonderfully long Praline green run. This is one of the best greens in the Alps and links up with the Belvedere green run down to Courchevel 1650. Also in the same sector, the Indiens blue run is very gentle run that winds beautifully through the trees.
Both La Praz and La Tania have Evolution Zones, accessed by the Envolee and Troika lifts, but they are small and snow conditions here are not as good as some other beginner zones.
All lifts to Evolution Zones are free, apart from to the one at the altiport.
Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Courchevel
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Intermediate Skiing in Courchevel
Courchevel’s ski area is great for intermediates with plenty of well-groomed, well-linked pistes including wide open blue and red runs for crusiing and some excellent tree-lined pistes, which aid visibility in bad weather.
Intermediate skiers love Courchevel’s ski area which has an interesting mix of terrain including tree-lined and high-altitude skiing, all of which is extremely well-linked. The resort also has a good snow record and lots of nice mountain restaurants.
The central run of Combe Saulire is marvellous when not busy and well worth skiing first thing in the morning before the crowds have chance to trash the snow up and block your route – think empty motorway and get there early!
Likewise, the red runs off the Creux Noirs and Marmottes chairlifts are spectacular, especially the Creux red run, which takes you all the way down through different cambers and pitches to the base of the Aiguille Du Fruit chair and the link to the Roc Merlet sector. There, the high blue runs accessed by the Pyramide double drag are excellent for improving your turns and are often uncrowded.
The reds of Courchevel 1650, particularly Chapelets, Rochers and Bel Air may be slightly short but are wonderful runs through trees and are blessed by far less crowds. It can often be difficult to get back, particularly for snowboarders, as the Gravelles and Pralong blues are essentially flat for much of the way or you have to take the Aiguille Du Fruit chair and then the Suisses chair if you want to avoid the Altiport blue, which is also flat in places.
On the other side of the valley Dou du Midi is another stellar red, which is very long and perfect for the return home to Courchevel 1550. The Bouc Blanc red off the Cretes chairlift is a great run down towards the reds leading to La Tania, whose rolling humps through the trees almost lead you to believe that you could be a downhill skier.
Early intermediate skiers and boarders will enjoy the fine blue runs from the Loze/Chenus sector back towards Courchevel 1850 and Folyeres is a pretty blue alternative down towards La Tania.
Advanced & Expert Skiing in Courchevel
Courchevel has some excellent black runs including steep mogul runs, a couloir reputed to be among the most difficult black runs in the world and plenty of good off-piste.
The steep slopes in the centre of Courchevel’s ski area are excellent for strong skiers. There is a huge range of couloirs at the top of Courchevel, particularly off Saulire. The Grande Couloir is a wonderful pisted introduction to couloir skiing (though by no means gentle) and you can increase the difficulty by hiring a guide to show you the many other couloirs descents to Courchevel.
Many of the runs off the shoulder of Vizelle have an excellent pitch, particularly the black of Combe Pylones and the M black, which is rarely visited. The first 150 metres of Suisses often has some of the steepest and biggest bumps you will see anywhere. The Chanrossa black off the Chanrossa chairlift is similarly testing.
If the snow cover is good, however, two of the best black runs, perhaps in the whole of the Three Valleys, are from the top of Col de la Loze to Le Praz. Both Jockeys and Jean Blanc black runs wind tightly down through the trees. Jean Blanc was the old World Cup downhill piste when the World Cup tour went to Courchevel.
Both Jockeys and Jean Blanc usually develop moguls in certain sections and Jockeys in particular features fantastic natural rollers. If you start at the top of the Dou Des Lanches black run from Col de La Loze on the border of Meribel and link up with Jockeys at the base of the Praz Juget lift and the top of the La Tania gondola you can ski nearly 1,000m of vertical black down to La Praz.
Off Piste Skiing in Courchevel
Courchevel has some excellent off-piste skiing including steep couloirs and powder bowls. You will need to be quick off the mark as the local powder hounds track out the best of it within hours of a decent dump, but the local mountain guides can find fresh powder long after the last snowfall.
There is plenty of off-piste skiing in Courchevel and the Saulire couloirs and bowl are an absolute must in good conditions. There’s also good off-piste terrain under the Dou des Lanches chair beneath Col de la Loze. Extreme skiers can also hike up to the championship area higher up.
There are some wide steep slopes either side of the Chanrossa chairlift, but take care here and in the area between Vizelle and Suisses, as the slopes here are avalanche-prone. Some of the best slopes can be reached by skiing from the Chanrossa chair towards the Aguille du Fruit. You can rejoin the Chanrossa black run, which is hard work when covered with moguls, from virtually any point. The off-piste here is a lot more accessible than anything off the Roc Merlet piste on the other side, but there too you can find some testing off-piste.
The nearby Vallee Des Avals is quite wild and variable including some seriously flat sections and others that are 40 degrees steep and prone to avalanche. There are two good refuges there, both equipped with radio, and if you have ski touring equipment (and a guide) you can skin all the way up past the Chalet Biol 1823 to the top of the Petit Mont Blanc (2,677m) for a fantastic day’s touring.
Go to Courchevel 1650 early after fresh snow and there are lots of nice routes down through the trees and under the lifts. There is also some excellent off-piste skiing from the top of the Creux Noirs chair (2,705m), particularly if you are prepared for a short walk which brings you to a large, secluded bowl.
Looking right from Saulire to La Croix des Verdons, there’s a whole flank of couloirs and cliffs that can all be skied. Starting with the steep gun barrel directly underneath the cable car, there are two other routes before you come to the Grande Couloir. These are accessed along a narrow ridge, where you can also drop off down another couloir into Meribel, and which does not involve any walking. If you can resist the temptation to point your skis downhill, there are several more couloirs that get a lot less traffic further along to the right.
All of the couloirs are steep with varying widths at the top through the rocks and then open out into the wide flank of steep off-piste leading down to the piste of Combe Saulire. Stay high and continue working your way across the flank, however, and you can tuck in behind a large rocky outcrop to reach a huge bowl of powder, directly above the Lac Bleu chair and visible on the piste map.
When skiing off-piste you should be properly equipped with an avalanche beacon and probes and hire a qualified mountain guide to lead you to the best snow conditions in safety. A good guide will likely help you improve your technique off-piste, unlike your best mates whose powder turns are probably no better than yours and who will not be as helpful to you in an emergency.
Boarding & Freestyle in Courchevel
Courchevel has plenty to offer boarders and the new school generation of freestyle skiers including three terrain parks, the best of which is the Plantrey Snow Park which includes a half-pipe for intermediates riders and above.
Boarders are well served in Courchevel with three freeride areas for boarders and freestylers, the best of which is the Plantrey Snow Park next to the Dou de Midi piste in the Loze sector. This is the only terrain park with a half-pipe, but it’s only open to riders of intermediate level or above. The other two terrain parks above Courchevel 1850 are open to all abilities and include a good mix of jumps.
All the way down the Combe Saulire there are natural pipes, rollers and things to play with, particularly just before the start of the Saulire gondola. Underneath Vizelle is fun, too. Runs to avoid are the Gravelles, Pralong and Indiens blues, which have large flat sections. At the other end of the scale, the blacks of Suisses and Chanrossa often have moguls as does the Marmottes red.
The piste map highlights the more difficult drag lifts, but other than these the draglifts present few problems for most riders.