Courchevel

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Courchevel is located in SE France, in the heart of the Savoie region (32 miles SE of Albertville, 70 mls SE of Chambery and its airport, 116 miles SE of Lyon and its airport, 90 miles SE of Geneva and its airport). Courchevel is an integral part of the famous Trois Vallees ski-area, comprising 4 villages (Courchevel 1300, 1550, 1650 and 1850) situated at different altitudes along the wide Bozel Valley, all connected by lifts and public transport.

The resort is one of the most popular and fashionable resorts in France because of the huge choice of runs and a sophisticated range of amenities and shops. The 4 centres differ dramatically when it comes to appearance, size and amenities. Courchevel 1300, about 700 yds in length (also known as Le Praz), is the only one that retains any genuine alpine character, with some traditional architecture and a low-key atmosphere. Courchevel 1550, about 800 yds in length, is a purpose-built village with modest local amenities and little charm, although it offers direct access to the extensive ski-lift network. Courchevel 1650, about 1,100 yds in length, is a larger, livelier version of 1550, with a significant commercial hub, abundant accommodation and plentiful restaurants. Courchevel 1850 is nearly 1 ml sq and is the throbbing, sophisticated heart of the resort, with myriad facilities, entertainments and shops; it has mainly aesthetically challenged 1950s architecture, although contemporary development is more sympathetic.

Courchevel is an international favorite with all grades of skier, with enough choice to keep experts occupied and wide slopes for beginners and cautious intermediates. 1850 is the most exclusive of the 4 centers and well equipped to amuse well-heeled non-skiers.

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The accommodation is also wide spread with a grand choice of hotels, augmented by apartments and catered chalets, most with good access to the piste; some with piste-to-porch ability. 1850 has a preponderance of 4-star hotels, many with in-house leisure facilities.

The most popular activities in Courchevel are centred around the winter scene and include alpine, telemark and cross-country skiing, snowboarding (snow park for advanced boarders plus 2 “play zones” for all levels), paraskiing, snowmobiling, tobogganing, ice-skating, walking (with 10½ mls of cleared trails), snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides and ice go-karting; also helicopter/plane tours, hot-air ballooning, paragliding, fitness centre, bowling, video-games arcade and climbing wall.

In the summer Courchevel offers rambling, mountain biking, horse riding, climbing, fishing, golf, tennis and swimming. Many hotels have saunas and swimming pools that are open to the public for a nominal fee. 1850 is the liveliest spot for bars and discos; the other centres are generally quieter, and apres-ski tends to be self-made within the apartments and chalets. Floodlit 1¼-ml-long toboggan run, torchlight descents, themed evenings (including a woodcutter’s camp night), and cinemas.

There is plenty of choice for those placing an emphasis on dining out, which suits all pockets, from the good-value “plat du jour” to chic, expensive gastronomic experiences. Regional dishes, local cheeses and hams are particularly prevalent on menus. A few ethnic options, including Chinese and Tex-Mex. Range of mountain restaurants, including meals and music in mountain huts with return by toboggan.

Public transport is also efficient with a free shuttle service links the different levels together and travels around those areas making most parts within easy reach of transport. It runs frequently until midnight. There are set stops but it will usually pick up or put down anywhere if requested. Regular public buses to Moutiers at the bottom of the valley for rail connections farther afield. Daily coach service to/from Geneva and Lyon airports; must be pre-booked. Taxis. Helicopter transfers from mountain airport (altiport/heliport). Scenic flights with light aircraft.

Skiing day trips can be made to neighboring Trois Vallees resorts such as Meribel and Val-Thorens; guided snowshoe outings; various trips to Chamonix, Val d’Isere, Annecy and Chambery are all popular local excursions.

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