Photo: Courchevel from the top (c) Patrick Pachod
Courchevel is located in the southern French Alps. It is around two hours from Geneva in Switzerland and Lyon in France. Chambery is the closest mid-sized French town at around an hour’s drive up the mountain. The closest French airports are Chambery and Lyon.
Courchevel is part of the larger Three Valleys Ski Area, made up of eight different resorts. In the valley furthest west is Saint Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires, Val Thorens and Orelle, in the middle valley is Meribel, and in the third valley is Brides Les Bains, La Tania and Courchevel.
Courchevel is arguably the most glamorous resort in France and is a hang-out for the uber wealthy which can hit the wallet of the seasonal worker quite hard.
The TGV (high-speed) train goes to Moûtiers from any major city in France and, from Moûtiers, it is possible to take the bus to Courchevel (around 10€ one way and 23km). This is probably the simplest and cheapest way to get to the villages. www.mobisavoie.fr is a company that runs the bus transfers from Moûtiers to Courchevel.
However, it is also possible to take the bus from the airports at Lyon (205km), Chambéry (100km) (both using www.altibus.com), Grenoble (129km) (www.bensbus.co.uk) and Geneva (143km) (www.alpski-bus.com).
Courchevel is one of the most upmarket resort towns in the Alps. Courchevel has retained more of its French chic feel than its neighbour Meribel, which has a large British influence, partly because of all the rich Parisians flying in by private jet. There is also a large Russian presence at the resort each winter.
Couchevel has an altiport (an aerodrome for small planes and helicopters) 500 meters long which is the only one in Europe to be snow cleared the entire winter.
This allows small planes to land quickly and link easily with nearby airports. Combined with the heliport, 7000 trips are made each winter. Do not be surprised to see private helicopters landing at the Altiport Courchevel!
In addition to the larger town of Courchevel Le Praz (formerly 1300), there are four small villages in Courchevel: Courchevel Village (formerly 1550), Courchevel Moriond (formerly 1650), Courchevel (formerly 1850) and Courchevel Saint Bon. There are plenty of shops to entertain those with money. Nonetheless, the town is still enjoyable for those with mountain jobs and on a season worker’s budget. Courchevel 1850 is the trendiest of the villages.
Courchevel is constantly buzzing with activity. There are over 200 events and festivals each season and it can get pretty manic. Particular highlights include: the International Festival of Fireworks - organized each winter; and, in 2014, the giant slalom and slalom downhill ski races as part of the international downhill world cup circuit - attracting the biggest names in downhill skiing. Courchevel is simply one of the coolest resort towns in the world.
Photo: Looking down the slope at Courchevel (c) Patrick Pachod
Courchevel is the biggest of the Three Valleys ski areas with 150km of on-piste runs and 60 lifts and working a season at Courchevel opens up a truly monstrous amount of terrain which contains more than enough terrain to last several seasons.
Courchevel has quite a lot of groomed runs with some nice steeper cruisers for advanced riders. Lower down, there are some nice tree runs while higher up there is plenty to tackle off-piste, including some nice chutes and couloirs.
The Three Valleys is the world’s largest linked ski area. It is made up of eight resorts which are all interconnected. It is possible to get a pass to ski at all eight resorts and it would be crazy to do otherwise.
The lift infrastructure is very modern and moves the large crowds reasonably well, although there are still often huge crowds at the resort.
Mountain stats: Courchevel
Mountain stats: The Three Valleys
Creux Noirs is an excellent off-piste run in Courchevel. At the top of the lift you follow the ridge to left until you reach an impassable rock. You can choose to drop into the Courchevel or Meribel side, with the Courchevel side being a bit safer. If you descend on the Meribel side you must be careful not to ski within the Plan de Tueda natural reserve which is protected and prohibited from entry.
The season starts at the start of December and runs through to the end of April. Summer season is the start of July until the end of August.
Courchevel, like other French resorts, is not known for massive snowfall. Snowfall for the last few years has average 5 - 7 metres. The quality is reasonably well retained due to north-facing slopes and good terrain at the higher altitudes. Lower down can get patchy.
There are several terrain parks in Courchevel including: the Family park on the Verdons run (Courchevel), the Wood Park on the Tovets run (Courchevel Village), as well as the Fun Park on the Ariondaz run and the Snake Park on the Marquis run (both at Courchevel Moriond). The Family park has moguls, big air, rails, tables and boarder cross.
The Plantrey terrain park has been replaced by a training stadium for competitions.
All down the Combe Saulire there are great natural pipes and kickers, especially underneath Vizelle.
Dark Park is a night contest in the Family Park at the Verdons run at 7pm. At the end of the season, Courchevel runs La Fête à Blanche to celebrate the end of the season, which includes many activities such as music and egg hunts.
You should apply at least two months before the season starts.
Speaking French will be an advantage, however, given that English is widely spoken all through Les Trois Vallées, English speakers are often hired in high tourist volume shops such as rental shops.
Pole-Emploi.fr is a French Government jobs website where jobs are sometimes posted for Courchevel.
www.cnpc.fr is a resource for sports shops and often contains job listings.
If you would like to find work as a lift operator or in other parts of mountain operations, the company that runs Courchevel's mountain operations is S3V
If you are from outside the EU, you will need to get a French working visa. See Work a Winter Season in France for information on visas. If you have your work permit you may turn up in town to look for a job.
Instructors will need to get a French Ski Instruction qualification should you wish to instruct. See Work a Winter Season in France for information on transferring your foreign certificate.
You can expect around 1800 - 1900 Euros per month in pay if your accommodation is included, and less if so. Courchevel is a very expensive resort, so seasonal workers have a hard time saving anything extra once living costs are accounted for.
There are many tour operators in Courchevel. These operators offer full package ski deals for holiday-makers, including buses, accommodation, assistance getting around town and guiding around the mountain. Held in London in late October, the Metro Ski Show is a good place to find work for the season with a tour operator. Otherwise, July or August is the time to start applying with these companies. Many of the British companies will only hire UK nationals.
Incoming buses are serviced by minibuses which take guests individually to hotels. These are free within the resort. If working for a tour operator, the main shop will be at Carrefour Market in Moutiers. The supermarket has special aisles set aside for tour operators. If you're guiding a group of guests, the Ski Lodge (La Tania) and Chenus are good bets.
Tour operators in The Three Valleys area include:
The ‘Carte Avantages Saisonniers’ is a discount card given to seasonal workers in Courchevel. It gives you 10% - 20% off a number of stores and service providers in the resort area.
The Three Valleys offers a reciprocal deal with Val d'Isère/Tignes, otherwise known as the Espace Killy which is another huge area of terrain to explore.
Tour operators will usually include ski pass and accommodation as part of the employment package.
Photo: Party at Courchevel (c) Patrick Pachod
Courchevel is generally the most expensive town in Les Trois Vallées for rent. For private accommodations in The Three Valleys, Val Thorens is the cheapest, followed by Mottaret (Meribel's town).
Courchevel (1850) is the most expensive village in Courchevel and is the central point for the ski area. There are a number of luxurious accommodations here as well as high-end shops, restaurants and bars.
Courchevel Village and Courchevel Moriond have a smaller, cosier lifestyle, but they are not as cool as Le Praz or Courchevel (1850). Moriond has more of a French look to it and a few nice, small bars, while Courchevel village is even quieter and connects to 1850 by lift.
Courchevel Le Praz (1300) gives ample opportunity to meet locals; however, it is quieter as most of the nightlife is centered in Courchevel (1850). It has a very traditional mountain village feel but snow can get patchy this low down.
Wherever you live, you are not far from access to the lift system in Courchevel.
Many employers offer staff housing in Courchevel. If you are not put into staff housing, the C.C.A.S. manages 330 properties which are reserved for seasonal workers in Courchevel. These properties are:
Employers make annual reservations for the properties and facilitate contracts for seasonal workers once employment is offered. Priority is given to companies residing in the Courchevel town areas and enrolled with the Office of Tourism. These properties are decent without being extravagant.
If you are looking for your own place, a good place to look is the town hall www.mairie-courchevel.com.
There are free buses connecting all the towns of Courchevel Le Praz, Courchevel Village (1550), Courchevel Moriond (1650), Courchevel (1850) and Courchevel Saint Bon. Taking the bus is the preferable means of getting around. To take a taxi from Courchevel to Mottaret, for example, is about 80 Euros.
Prends la Luge in Courchevel has good boarding and skate gear. There is a good, but expensive, supermarket in the Forum Centre at Courchevel (1850). A more reasonably priced supermarket can be found in Courchevel Village. Chabichou is a 2 star Michelin restaurant if you are willing to splurge one evening!
C.A.F. (Caisse d'allocations familiales)
For French citizens or residents, or those with particular visas (such as those with student visas who have lived in France longer than eight months), it is possible to get rental assistance through the Caisse d’Allocations Familiales (CAF) depending on the amount of your rent, the type of resident and the amount you earn.
A permanent office of the CAF is found at Building Les Cimes - 45 Rue du Général de Gaulle in Moûtiers. You can visit without appointment each Thursday and Friday from 0900 to 1200.
The night clubs in town are Les Caves and Le Coyote. Popular après ski spots are L’équipe and le Kudeta. Courchevel Moriond is a little quieter - Rocky's bar is a sports bar in Moriond. In Courchevel Village, La Taverne is the French local. In Courchevel Le Praz, Darbeilo is popular and very French. Courchevel (1850) has La Mangeoire.
Après ski is generally a little livelier at Moriond (1650) while 1850 has a classier atmosphere.
There is an Olympic ice-skating rink at the Forum. A game of hockey in sneakers takes place periodically at the rink. The Forum also has a bowling alley and you can get a decent buffet there.
Each year the hot air balloons lift off from the Courchevel Altiport and provide the opportunity to see Mont Blanc from above!
The Red Ski team visit Courchevel in January and show off their awesome tricks. The Free Ride classic in March is an extreme downhill race which is also well worth a look.
La Plagne ski resort is nearby from where you can take a view of Courchevel. Chamonix, one of France’s most famous resorts, is two hours away and makes for an excellent weekend away from Courchevel. Chamonix is home to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe.
The Courchevel Movie Challenge is a new feature to the events calendar. Direct your own snowboarding or skiing movie, by yourself or with friends. The movies need to be handed in by early April at the latest, then they will be submitted to the public to vote on the internet. There will be an evening show showing the best movies, which will include a red carpet, at which prizes will be awarded. Sign up at the Service des Sports.
At the start of the La Croisette à Courchevel, a luge trail more than 2km long provides an exhilarating way to get back into Courchevel! It's free after 5pm.
Shopping (or browsing if you are a poor seasonal worker) is another great activity at Courchevel given the large number of high-end shops.