Courchevel and the Three Valleys boast 600km of pistes, meaning that there is something to suit skiers of all abilities, from beginners to experts.
Now whilst many people might be happy cruising the gentle blue runs above Courchevel 1650, some of the more advanced skiers might be looking for something a little more challenging. Whether it is throwing yourself down one of the steepest runs in the world, or attacking moguls the size of small cars with a full chairlift of spectators, you’re sure to find something to help you get your kicks. Here is a guide to the best black runs in the Courchevel valley, to help you push yourself to the limits.
A personal favourite, the Suisses run goes from the top of the Vizelle gondola above Courchevel 1850. If you follow the marked run then it’s a good entry level black run as it’s wide, not too steep, and the snow tends to be in good condition. Sound a little too dull for you? To step it up a gear, turn right as you get off the Suisses chair, as though you’re heading down M, rather than the usual approach towards Park City. You can then drop off this shoulder to the right to do an off piste mogul run than brings you down to join the Suisses run. This is a good option for any show offs amongst you, as it is steep, technical, and brings you down directly under the Suisses chair lift, so you can be sure of a jeering audience should you stack it!
This is the big one. A frequent fixture on any list of the toughest ski runs in the world, the Grand Couloir is infamous amongst skiers, and sure to earn you a few cool points in the bar at the end of the day. The run is difficult from the outset; upon exiting the Saulire cable car you must pass all the threatening warning signs to reach the start of the run. To get to the couloir, you follow a narrow (think 2 metres wide!) path along a ridge, with a sheer drop on either side. Even the best skiers resort to snowplough here!
The vertigo-inducing view down Grand Couloir
One you have safely travelled the length of the ridge you must battle your vertigo and enter the couloir itself. The couloir is steep, very narrow and can get very mogulled – there really is no room for error, particularly with a gradient of 85% in places. As one of our reps in Courchevel can testify, if you fall at the top, the run is so steep that nothing will stop you until you reach the very bottom – a long way to fall!
After tackling the Grand Couloir (or being tackled by it!) you might feel in need of a confidence booster whilst you lick your wounds. Away from the steep, high pressure runs above 1850, Courchevel also has some more gentle black runs to help you get your confidence back. Jean Blanc is one of these runs. An Xxxkm piste that runs from the top of the Plantrey chairlift down to just above Courchevel Le Praz, Jean Blanc must surely be one of the prettiest black runs in the Three Valleys. It cuts its way between the trees as it snakes down the mountain, making it a good bet for poor visibility.
Compared to some of the other run in the Three Valleys, it is not the hardest black, save for one steep and icy pitch about halfway down. However it is an attractive run that is usually also quite quiet, and if you’re feeling a bit shaken up after the Grand Couloir that could be just what the doctor ordered!
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Words – Katarina Anthony
Courchevel Resort Representative