Work A Ski Season in Courchevel
Discover information on working a ski season in Courchevel and browse winter jobs.Courchevel France
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 Méribel, 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.
Getting to Courchevel
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. 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 Town Layout and Vibe
Courchevel is one of the most upmarket resort towns in the French Alps, but also one of the coolest. Courchevel is constantly buzzing with activity. There are over 200 events and festivals in the resort each season. Courchevel has retained more of its chic French feel than its neighbour Méribel, 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.
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 and most expensive of the villages.
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. Do not be surprised to see private helicopters landing at the Altiport Courchevel, to give you some idea of the clientele. Combined with the heliport, 7000 trips are made each winter.
Terrain at Courchevel
Courchevel is the biggest of the Three Valleys ski areas with 150km of on-piste runs and 60 lifts. 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. Unfortunately, Courchevel does not get great snow every season. However, when there is snow, there are some really good off-piste sections if you know where to look and it is possible to get fresh lines all day.
On a good powder day, locals tend to stay in 1650 where you have all the terrain features you could ask for, including trees, chutes, open fields and cliff drops. There is great off-piste terrain all the way from 1650 to La Tania.
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
- 150km of on-piste runs
- 60 ski lifts
- 60% coverage for artificial snow
- 11 mountain restaurants
Mountain stats: The Three Valleys
- 600km of on-piste runs
- 321 runs
- 48% coverage for artificial snow
- 40,000 hectares (four times the area of Paris!)
- 200 ski lifts
- 52 mountain restaurants
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 Méribel side, with the Courchevel side being a bit safer.
If you descend on the Méribel side you must be careful not to ski within the Plan de Tueda natural reserve which is protected and prohibited from entry.
Snow and Weather
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 averaged five metres or so. Low snow seasons can mean very patchy terrain. While the quality is reasonably well retained due to north-facing slopes and good terrain at the higher altitudes, lower down especially can get patchy.
There are several terrain parks in Courchevel. However, the decent parks in the area are the DC Area 43 at Méribel and the Val T Parks, which are both much better equipped in terms of features.
The Family park and the Wood Park are on the Verdons run (Courchevel). This has has moguls, big air, boxes, tables and boarder cross.
While there is a park on Ariondaz (Courchevel Moriond), the majority of the time it isn’t used as it is generally not maintained.
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.
Getting a Job at Courchevel
www.mairie-courchevel.com is the municipality town hall and is an excellent resource for finding jobs. Many of the local businesses will post jobs here. The email contact is [email protected] and they will help you out with finding work for the season.
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.
For seasonaires, tour operators are a very popular choice for work as you usually don’t need to speak French and the jobs can be organised before arriving in France.
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.
Most of the jobs in resort for seasonaires are for tour operators and they pay between £300-£600 a month. However, these include perks such as ski pass, rentals, and generally accommodation.
Courchevel is a very expensive resort, so seasonal workers have a hard time saving anything extra once living costs are accounted for. In addition, the price for accommodation is going up every season which makes it particularly difficult to find reasonably priced accommodation if it doesn’t come with a job.
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.
Finding a Place to Rent
Seasonal accommodation at Courchevel keeps on getting more expensive. If your job comes with accommodation, it is not a bad idea to accept this, even if it’s not very good, as finding reasonably priced accommodation is hard.
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 (Méribel’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 Moriond (650) is much better now for seasonaires as it is cheaper and has some of the better seasonaire hang-outs an nightlife. Le Praz is another cool town to be based. Courchevel Village is for a cosier lifestule 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) and Moriond (1650). 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:
- At Courchevel 1550 : Champ Masson (Row B) / Les Grandes Combes (Row A)
- At Courchevel 1850 : Les Lugeurs II et III / Antarès / Le Plantret / La Parabole
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).
The best value for groceries is at the two Carrefour supermarkets (1650 and 1850) that are priced cheaper than anywhere else up the mountain. There is another supermarket in Courchevel Village.
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.
Nightlife in Courchevel
For seasonaires, 1650, Le Praz and La Tania are the best places to be for après-ski and nightlife. The après-ski and nightlife is much more lively, it is much cheaper and it is where most poorer seasonaires will party throughout the season.
The bars and clubs at 1850 are much more expensive, much more posh, and the social scene is virtually only French.
The only place worth mentioning at 1850 for après is Ku de Ta (a play on Coup d’état – a coup), which has a chilled vibe and occasionally live music. Les Caves is a club which kicks on late into the night but will hit a seasonaires hip pocket quite hard. L’équipe is another place for après-ski.
At 1650, the Bubble Bar is a great place for après-ski. For later in the night, the Funky Fox hosts live bands and DJs a few nights a week and is the place where seasonaires go after the other bars start to close.
At Le Praz, L’éléphant Bar (previously the pizzeria) provides some good après gigs and some lively band nights.
In La Tania, the Ski Lodge has some excellent band nights throughout the season.
In Courchevel Village, La Taverne is the French local.
Chabichou is a 2 star Michelin restaurant if you are willing to splurge one evening!
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 International Festival of Pyrotechnic Art, dedicated to fireworks, is an awesome festival of colour and sounds.
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.
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.