The storm moved back in the day we headed to Courchevel. While it looks distance on a map, dropping off the backside of Val Thorens and getting to Courchevel is actually pretty easy. We followed a cat track that alternated between steeps and flats pretty much directly to the third resort of the trip, cruising by Meribel in a foggy white out that promised more snow to come.
To say that Courchevel is sprawling would be an understatement. The terrain seems to go on forever, with plenty of above-treeline steeps accessible from the lifts. The resort, the furthest east in 3 Vallees, is broken down into smaller villages named for the altitudes in meters on which they are positioned: Courchevel 1300 (Le Praz), Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1650 (Moriond), and Courchevel 1850 (now referred to just as Courchevel). The resort was built beginning in the 1940s, and 1850 was the first village to be built entirely from scratch, as opposed to from an existing mountain hamlet. It is this area that is the mountain's most well-know as it is a winter stomping ground of the rich and famous with its six-star hotel palaces and Michelin-starred restaurants. But don't let the upscale experience of 1850 keep you from visiting the iconic resort if your bank account isn't lined with excess euros. The lower villages offer more reasonably priced lodging, lift tickets are not expensive, and both the groomed red runs as well as the notable couloirs of the Saulire lift have plenty of snow and don't care about your budget. Also, the predominantly north-facing terrain keeps snow conditions good even after storms have ended. In addition to it's prolific terrain, Courchevel is billed as a resort that has the total package for families, so if you're traveling with your crew, you're in luck. There's steep terrain, windy, mellow trails, and a family park, as well as plenty of all-day apres and on snow options for visitors less inclined to strap into snowboards.
p: Patrice Mestari/Courchevel
Our day at Courchevel was tempered by the challenging visibility, but the snow was soft and fast. We cruised from 1850 down to the bottom, lines of kids in red and white jackets and pants snaking behind ski instructors. Due to the socked in weather, we didn't get to experience some of the best zones that this mountain has to offer, areas just out of reach behind the cloud cover, but it was a good sign that the Alps were getting stormy weather after a slow start to the season. Two of the many reasons for a return trip: the Equinox bowl looks incredible with the right conditions and is only a short hike off the Roc Merlet lift. The Grand Couloir, which overlooks Courchevel 1850, which would be insane with fresh snow.
Three days at Les 3 Vallees is definitely not enough to experience this sprawling resort system, but even a quick journey to this part of southeastern France provides more than enough reason to plan a return trip.
Three days to ride Les 3 Vallees is far from enough, but any time spent in this amazing area is well worth it. For more information on Val Thorens, Meribel and Courchevel, as well as the rest of Les 3 Vallees: Les3vallees.com/en