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The best skiing in Courchevel

Posted on February 11, 2014 by John Fish

Following my recent visit to Courchevel I thought I would write a quick guide to the best skiing in Courchevel, as seen and experienced by me last month. It's 01st January 2014 in Courchevel 1850. Last night was a night to remember, though I'm sure many people can't. Courchevel likes to celebrate New Year's Eve in style, with the biggest and brightest fireworks displays I’ve ever seen followed by a party on the slopes for thousands of people from all over the world.

While most of the town was dancing and drinking early into the morning, I headed home at 1.30am to pack my kit, wax my skis and prepare myself for the day ahead. While I do like to party, when there has been two feet of snow you will find me tucked up in bed struggling to get to sleep - both nervous and excited about what the next day holds. Sure enough, the next morning I am not disappointed when I am greeted to a whole mountain of fresh powder almost entirely to myself.

The best skiing in Courchevel

Even though it can get busy in Courchevel, it never gets too much. The Three Valleys operate a very impressive lift system consisting of 200 ski lifts that transport 260,000 skiers hourly! Courchevel itself offers 1 cable car, 10 gondolas, 20 chairlifts, 29 draglifts and 3 magic carpets, whisking 70,632 rides up into the mountain per hour - phew! But on this particular morning I was all on my own standing at Verdons lift 20 minutes early. As the minutes slowly ticked by I was joined by some of the more dedicated skiers you can find in the Three Valleys. While we waited, we swapped stories of last night’s festivities and what we were going to do today. Then the lift started and soon enough we were slowly climbing through the cloud and at just under the midway station we broke through the clouds to be met by a blanket of pure white powder and blue skies. Only one more lift, the Saulire cable car, was required to take me to the top and to the best skiing in Courchevel - the Courchevel couloirs.

The Best Skiing in Courchevel - The Courchevel couloirs

If you stand on the right hand side of the cable car on its journey to the top you can actually look out of the window and get a great view of one of Europe’s steepest runs, the Grand Couloir. This is the widest and easiest of the infamous Courchevel couloirs (my favourite ski terrain) and the only one currently marked as a run on the piste map.

Once out of the cable car all you need to do is put your skis on and turn right, rather than left. It has been said that the path from the cable-car station to the top couloirs can be one of the most challenging parts of the decent. In icy conditions, when moguls can reach up to a metre in height along the narrow ridge (itself just over a metre wide.) it can be quite daunting when you have the steep 45 degree rocky drops either side of you.

The entrance to the Grand Couloir is between two bands of rock and is not particularly narrow, but it can be made so by the size of the moguls that form and dictate your route. If it hasn't snowed for a week or two, these moguls can be enormous and the first few turns become a question of survival rather than skiing. But the slope quickly widens and the second half of the run can be glorious.

After a good couple of laps racing the cable car back down through the couloirs my legs start to turn to jelly. I think it’s definitely time for some lunch. With the highest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants outside of Paris, you are utterly spoilt for choice when it comes to fine dining in Courchevel. One of my favourite places for lunch is the Pilatus restaurant. With hearty Savoyarde inspired cuisine, it's the perfect place to warm up and enjoy the view of Courchevel’s very own airport - the altiport. The runway is incredibly short (only 525 metres) and landing here looks highly dangerous. There is some hair-raising entertainment watching the private jets make their final approach, touch-down and heavy braking before reaching the end of the runway.

If this kind of ski day sounds like your idea of fun, then do get in touch with Tom Kenny from www.skivo2.co.uk who runs a great programme called the Couloir Experience Courchevel, where you can be guided down each and every couloir if you wish. 

If the couloirs are not your cup of tea then don’t worry, Courchevel has skiing on offer for everyone. With its plentiful and varied terrain and excellent lift system combined with some of the best restaurants in France, it’s definitely my idea of paradise.

Need a hand planning you ideal luxury Courchevel ski holiday experience? Call the helpful Alpine Luxury Chalets team on +44 (0) 20 7801 1089 and we will be able to organise a luxury ski holiday in Courchevel to remember. If you would like to book one of the luxury chalets in Courchevel please use this link.