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Three Valleys - Resorts, Lift Passes and more...

 

Introduction

“Les Trois Vallées”, i. e. “The Three Valleys”, is one of the most celebrated ski regions in the world. Hidden within the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, The Three Valleys boasts some of the best ski resorts around the globe.

As implied by its name, the area used for skiing originally consisted of just 3 valleys: the Saint - Bon, the Allues, and Belleville, but, eventually the skiing area extended into a 4th one, the Maurienne valley.

Skiing

Skiing in Three Valleys

Home to no less than 11 different resorts, The Three Valleys has numerous pistes and runs for all levels of skiing expertise – smooth greens for beginners, challenging blues for those of you who feel ready to move to the next level, dramatic reds that will sharpen your skills, and several tough but rewarding blacks that will fill you with pride as soon as you reach their end. The impeccable accommodation, the stunning views and the renowned local cuisine just fill in the picture.

If you love figures, the following bullets will help you form a mental picture of The Three Valleys:

  • Base elevation: 600 m
  • Top elevation: 3,230 m
  • Minimum skiing altitude: 1,300 metres
  • Maximum skiing altitude: 3,230 metres
  • 600 km of interconnected ski runs (335 different runs in total): - 48 (14%) proper for totally inexperienced beginners - 135 (40%) for relatively inexperienced skiers - 119 (36%) for intermediates - 33 (10%) for rather skilled and experienced skiers
  • Longest run 12 km (Cîme de Caron)
  • 25 accessible summits including 10 above 2,500 metres
  • 321 Alpine ski runs: - 51 green - 132 blue - 106 red - 32 black
  • Lift systems: 183 ski lifts in total capable of transporting 260.000 skiers per hour, including: - 3 cable cars - 37 gondolas - 69 chair lifts - 74 surface lifts
  • Over 2,100 snow making machines with 1/3 of the ski area equipped with artificial snow
  • 120 km for cross - country skiing
  • 76 piste bashers
  • Almost 500 ski patrollers and more than 1,500 ski instructors
  • 85% of the ski area situated above 1,800 metres
  • 73 piste groomers for 1,512 hectares of groomed runs
  • 6 glaciers
  • 000 hectares of nature
  • 000 metres of combined vertical drop
  • 1,200 ski lift staff
  • 000 ESF French Ski School
  • Numerous direct trains each week
  • 2 altiports – Courchevel and Méribel
  • 1 Helipad – in Val Thorens

Transportation

If you have heard that planning a skiing holiday in the Three Valleys is hard, you have surely been misguided. The area is served by no less than 6 different international airports (all of them with direct flights from the UK) which are just a couple of hours away. Transportation from and towards these airports is relatively cheap and comfortable - especially the well known mini buses.

Neighbouring Towns

At the foot of the valley, in the west, lies the city of Albertville, while in the east, Moûtiers dominates the valley and a little further is the lovely town of Aime. The last town of considerable size is Bourg-Saint-Maurice.

Ski Passes – Useful information & Prices

Lift Pass Prices and Info

The information and rates are indicative only and are given in Euros per person, net of all taxes. Please bear in mind that prices could be affected by snow conditions. Ski pass validity is given in consecutive days.

Bear in mind that a ski pass is required for the use of the ski lifts. Persons under the age of 5 years old and older than 75 are entitled to free use or reduced tariffs, but they will be asked to provide proof of their age.

 

Most learners prefer buying local lift passes – that is, passes valid for just one of the Three Valleys – which are a lot cheaper, while most experienced skiers find it worth paying the extra money for a full Three Valleys pass.

List of resorts

The Three Valleys are home to eight internationally renowned ski resorts. Each of the Three Valleys ski resort has its own distinct character and features and that is why there is no chance whatsoever not to find one among them that will suit your preferences and fancies.

 

Let us take a closer look to each one of these resorts separately.

Courchevel

Courchevel

At a Glance

Slopes: 5/5

Accommodation: 5/5

Family Friendly: 5/5

Eating: 4/5

Après: 4/5

Value for money: 5/5

Overall rating: 5/5

 

General Information

Courchevel lies in the far east corner of the Three Valleys and its famed for its impeccable lift system, which is often described as “queue free”, even during the high season. It consists of 4 satellite villages, namely:

  • Courchevel 1300 – also known as Le Praz,
  • Courchevel 1550, named after its altitude, also known as the Courchevel Village,
  • Courchevel 1650 – also known as Moriond
  • and Courchevel 1850 (the actual altitude is just 1,747 m and the reason they “lie” is very funny, you should check it out!), which is the most famous of all and known as the “St. Tropez of winter sports”. Its regal accommodation facilities and stunning views attract mostly VIPs - from members of royal families and Russian Croesuses, to famous Hollywood stars.

Boasting more than 10 Five – stars hotels and 2 Six - stars palaces– the only ski resort in France with hotels of such ranking - Courchevel has also gained a reputation as a paradise for delicates palates, being home to most Michelin starred restaurants than any other ski resort.

Many frequent visitors, though, think the real gem in the area is Le Praz: this charming little village offers some of the most bewitching views of the Bozel Valley while skiing down the slopes.

Taking all that into account, you have probably guessed Courchevel is kind of pricey

Skiing

Courchevel is not considered the best possible destination for beginners. Teaming with trees and facing the fierce north winds, the snow is often much thicker than usual for this altitude and slopes are always in excellent shape, mainly because of the incessant maintenance by the local authorities. There lie some of the most challenging black runs in the world.

Intermediates will also find several runs that will safely help them take their skiing to the next level.

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Courchevel ski resort is set in the heart of the world renowned 3 Valleys ski area, offering superb skiing for all levels. 

 

La Tania

La Tania 3 Valleys

 

At a Glance

Slopes: 4/5

Accommodation: 5/5

Family friendly: 5/5

Eating: 5/5

Après: 4/5

Value for money: 5/5

Overall rating: 5/5

 

General Information

With an altitude of no less than 1400m, La Tania is a picturesque village formed by apartment blocks, bars, restaurants hotels and numerous chalets hidden within the forest.

La Tania boasts the use of the illustrious ski - school “École du ski Français”, the largest ski-school in France. Skiers love using the 12 person Gondola which and the drag lifts that allows you to move from the village to the Courchevel side of the mountain.

Skiing

La Tania offers skiers some of the best tree - skiing runs in the Alps. It is hard to pick a favorite, but if La Tania proves your final choice, don’t miss the Folyeres piste – an excellent early morning option.  There are, also, 3 pistes (a red, a blue and a green one) that wind down through the forest into the village right from the top of the gondola. The last two are also all season skiable due to their artificial snow.

Beginners will also love the free drag lift, valid throughout the whole season.

Méribel

Meribel Resort

 

At a Glance

Slopes: 5/5

Accommodation: 5/5

Family friendly: 4/5

Eating: 5/5

Après: 4/5

Value for money: 5/5

Overall rating: 5/5

 

General Information

Méribel is actually consisted of 3 neighbouring villages – the so called Méribel Centre, Méribel - Mottaret (1750 m altitude) and Méribel Village (1400 m), which are all integrated to the Vanoise National Park.

Founded by someone who sought a perfect new site for winter sports in 1936, it didn’t take much before the ski resort became alive with chalets and hotels all around the neighbouring hamlet.

Skiing

Méribel’s slopes are bathed by the sun’s rays providing excellent light while the snow is nicely preserved at least until 17.00 during the winter. The slopes of the Tougnete side have some challenging groomed reds and blues. Bartevalle is another great spot, while the Roc du Tougne drag lift serves one of the most famous red and black piste in the valley.

Most beginners will love to measure their strength in Méribel, which is often described as having “the easiest nursery slopes” in the area. The Dent du Burgin chairlift allows you to access the blues and red runs between Saulire and Méribel. Most of these slopes face the west and snow depth remains excellent throughout the whole day.

Brides-les-Bains

Brides

 

At a Glance

Slopes: 4/5

Accommodation: 3/5

Family firendly: 4/5

Eating: 2/5

Apres: 2/5

Value for money: 4/5

Overall rating: 3/5

 

General Information

Brides-les-Bains is by far the most popular skiing destination for visitors from Britain, mainly because of the direct connection from London via Eurostar. Generally, the village serves as the main gateway to Méribel.

Still, Brides-les-Bains has what it takes to be your final destination instead of just a way station. Health spas, a casino, several sites of cultural interest and the local springs will add the extra strokes your skiing vacations need. It is an excellent resort for those who wish to explore the Three Valleys on a budget.

The only problem is restaurants: they are few but not all of them serve decent French cuisine dishes.

Skiing

Although not really ideal for beginners, it is great for intermediates and advanced skiers: when snow conditions are good, you will enjoy some wonderful vertical descents and off piste runs. Advanced skiers staying in rides-les-Bains will also have the chance to use the village as a base to access all neighbouring, such as La Plagne and Les Arcs.

Val Thorens

Val Thorens

 

At a Glance

Slopes: 4/5

Accommodation: 4/5

Family friendly: 4/5

Eating: 4/5

Après: 4/5

Value for money: 3/5

Overall rating: 4/5

 

General Information

Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, situated at a staggering 2300 m altitude. Its vast ski area and modern architecture somehow singles it out among the other Three Valleys resorts.

Because of its high altitude, Val Thorens attracts thousands of skiers late in the season, making it the most popular international ski resort in France: almost 8 out of 10 of its visitors are from abroad, especially from Britain.

Val Thorens boasts an excellent combination of lift systems, including magic carpets, draglifts, chairlifts, gondolas, the famous funitels as well as a cable car.

Skiing

Given the high altitude and the “de Péclet” Glacier, there is plenty of snow from mid - November until the end of April, or even early May. Furthermore, many of the slopes face north and north-west, thus being protected from the sun most of the day and offering excellent snow conditions. Pointe du Bouchet (3220 m) and Cime de Caron (3200 m) are the highest skiable peaks, accessible by a cable car capable of carrying 150 skiers.

On the other hand, sun lovers will be happy to know that the resort itself faces south, giving you the chance to enjoy your sunbathing after mastering the slopes. Cascades, 2 Lacs, Moutieres, Pleins Sud, Boismint, Funitel are all open lifts and all corresponding runs are preserved in really good condition and are well pisted.

Les Menuires

Les Menuires

 

At a Glance

Slopes: 5/5

Accommodation: 5/5

Family friendly: 5/5

Eating: 5/5

Après: 4/5

Value for money: 5/5

Overall rating: 5/5

 

General Information

Lying in the heart of the Three Valleys, Les Menuires is considered one of the best skiing destinations for families and loners. Skiing season normally begins in December and usually ends in early April. Les Menuires is also known for the vast array of activities, besides skiing, that it offers its fortunate visitors.

La Croisette, the resort’s centre, is where most of the restaurants, shops, bars and hotels are to be found.

Skiing

Les Menuires is considered the perfect place to explore the Three Valleys without draining your budget. You have easy access to Méribel and Courchevel and an endless skiable area available – great for intermediate skiers and snowboarders.

Les Menuires is probably the best resort for families that love skiing holidays. It is also ideal for skiers who feel the urge to challenge their skills, with more than 30 blue runs, 24 red and 6 black that can only be mastered by slope veterans.

Saint-Martin-de-Belleville

saint-martin

 

At a Glance

Slopes: 5/5

Accommodation: 5/5

Family friendly: 4/5

Eating: 4/5

Après: 2/5

Value for money: 4/5

Overall rating: 4/5

 

General Information

Saint-Martin-de-Belleville is much more than a skiing destination. Home to one of the best restaurants in the French Alps (awarded with 3 Michelin stars), Saint-Martin attracts skiers that find exquisite food equally fascinating with frenetic descents down the Alpine slopes. The village is traditional, serene and pleasant – certainly not suitable for après buffs or party animals. Generally speaking, prices are lower than in most of the more famous Three Valleys resorts.

Saint-Martin-de-Belleville is also one of the most popular destinations for summer holidays in the French Alps, offering visitors an array of different sports and activities.

Skiing

Saint-Martin-de-Belleville has some great runs but it is famous mostly for its off piste skiing.  Offering easy access to the whole area of the Three Valleys, it allows you to enjoy skiing even if snow conditions in St Martin are not as good as you wish them to be. It is great for those who love high altitude skiing while the recently added lift system transporting skiers from the resort has been a great leap forward, avoiding what used to be an annoying bottleneck. Do not fail to ski the Jerusalem piste.

Orelle

orelle

 

At a Glance

Slopes: 3/5

Accommodation: 4/5

Eating: 3/5

Après: 2/5

Value for money: 4/5

Overall rating: 3/5

 

General Information

Finally, Orelle. Orelle is connected by the longest télécabine in the world to the skiing area of Plan Bouchet. Orelle’s terrain can be easily overlooked – which is a pity, as it features some great scenery and is not as tame as many would think.

Skiing

Orelle gives you the chance to easily access the entire Three Valleys, offering endless skiing for just about all levels. Still its furthest corners are reserved only for the most experienced ones. If you are not among them, you can enjoy the blue and red runs – they are ideal for intermediates and challenging for more experienced beginners. The only downside is that all the skiing on this side of the Three Valleys is above the tree - line, so you should always take into account the weather conditions before hitting the slopes.

Tips

A First - Timer?

If you are new to the world of skiing, then the Three Valleys is an ideal destination for you. Your first choices should be

  • La Tania,
  • Les Menuires
  • and Val Thorens.

There you will find wide and easy pistes, nice beginner zones and gentle nursery slopes. English speaking instructors are available for group or individual lessons everywhere.

You will also love the fantastic snow parks that are scattered across the Valleys, designed to keep you entertained on the piste with fun runs, boarder crosses and timed trials. Courchevel’s ‘Dark Park’ is the most popular of all.

An Intermediate maybe?

Then your options are even wider. Most intermediates prefer Méribel; indeed, from there you gain access to the whole skiable area and easily find which runs and pistes better suit your skills and experience.

More than half of The Three Valleys pistes are ranked as blue or red. You will also have the chance for some wonderful off - piste skiing.

Then surely you consider yourself an advanced skier!

That is great, since you have more than 30 different black runs to choose from through the entire Three Valleys region. Grand Couloir is by far the most celebrated, dominating the area between Courchevel and Méribel.

If you trust your skills and have the stamina it requires, you should also try to cover every inch of this vast skiable area in just a week. Just follow the ‘Escapade’ symbol on the piste map to all 14 check points of the Three Valleys.

Still it is the fearsome off - piste possibilities that most advanced skiers find exciting here. If you are among them, then you should acquire an Off - Piste Guide, with all the itineraries, maps, photos and route plans you will need. No matter your experience, trust locals and their advice and always pick an experienced local guide.

Recreation & Après - ski in the Three Valleys

Apres ski three valleys

Après ski is somewhat legendary in the Three Valleys and each of the above mentioned resorts strives to make the whole experience even better – and they succeed. Still there are options for families and relaxation seekers. Let us begin with them.

St-Martin-de-Belleville, Orelle and Les Allues are serene and traditional, with cozy little bars and descent restaurants. On the other hand, Les Menuires, La Tania and Courchevel are a better option for those who seek fun activities beyond the slopes, such as ice skating, swimming, toboggan runs etc.

Party animals should definitely opt for Méribel and Val Thorens: bars seem to outnumber trees over there, and some of them are also designed for visitors from the UK. They are also famed for their legendary piste side après venues: the Rond Point in Meribel and Folie Douce in Val Thorens.

Snowboarders

If you find snowboarding more fascinating than skiing, Courchevel is your destination. That does not mean, of course, that you cannot find equally great terrain elsewhere, but in Courchevel you will get in touch with many more of your kind and get inspired. The snowparks in Méribel and Val Thorens also offer plenty of opportunity for air, as well as half pipes and boarder - cross courses.

How to Avoid Crowds

True enough, the biggest problem you will ever face in the Three Valleys is crowds – especially during high season. But there are ways to alleviate that problem, even if you plan to go there with your family and friends.

  • Set off early on Friday

Do your best to plan your flight or ferry crossing on a weekday or at least early on Friday, because Saturday will prove a living nightmare. Sure, it is kind of difficult if you are searching for package deals, but it is possible if you plan it way ahead. Purchase prepaid motorway tags to avoid delays at toll stations.

  • Rise early in the morning if you want to hit the slopes

If you plan to rent your equipment, be wise and pre - book it in order to be ready from the night before. Try to be at the lift station at least at 9am if you have your lift pass ready. If not, be there at least half an hour earlier.

  • Prefer peripheral resorts during high season

This does not require a lot of explaining. Furthermore, in mid season, skiing is even better there.

  • Make use of the ski school line

Paying customers and their instructors never wait in line. That means that, if you can afford it, hiring an instructor is the easiest way to avoid queues.  Furthermore, by the end of your holiday, your skills will have greatly evolved.

  • Ski during lunchtime.

Again this is nice little tip, for obvious reasons. Between 12.30 pm and 2.00 pm most of the pistes are almost empty.

Final remarks…

Upon hearing the words, mental images of superb skiing surrounded by majestic scenery, breathtaking views and vibrant après-ski nightlife start forming in your mind – and they are absolutely true. Having the chance to ski more than 300 downhill pistes, to explore 120 km of cross country tracks and master your fear with several off - piste descents is such a rare blend that you simply find irresistible to deny. In addition, boasting the best artificial snow making facilities in the world, you can be sure that, irrespective of weather conditions, you will fully enjoy your skiing holidays.

But The Three Valleys is so much more than just the largest ski domain in the world: excellent facilities, impeccable accommodation, brilliant snow conditions dominate every inch of this part of the world, making it an ideal destination for beginners, intermediates and expert skiers alike, as well as an excellent option for family vacations, or even corporal weekends.

With so many ski resorts clustered around this Alpine gem, you can be sure The Three Valley will not fail your expectations and become part of your lifetime deathless memories.

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