Les 3 Vallées Skiing Guide
Snow sure, high-altitude, with an efficient lift system and 600 km of well-groomed pistes, the 3 Vallées has a huge amount to offer even the most demanding skiers and snowboarders.
With 180 lifts, 600 km of skiing on 330 marked pistes, Les 3 Vallées in the northern French Alps is the world’s largest connected ski area.
This is snow-sure, high altitude terrain. 85% of the runs are above 1800 m and Les 3 Vallées is home to Val Thorens, Europe’s highest ski resort, its highest lift reaching 3200 m in altitude. 2000 snow canons fill in the gaps when nature falls short, so you can book your ski holiday safe in the knowledge that there will be snow even in the lower resorts.
The modern lift infrastructure quickly and efficiently connects you to the various resort sectors, and it’s quite feasible to ski a different resort every day of the week.
Centrally located, Méribel is an ideal base for exploring the whole of the 3 Valleys and with easy access to Courchevel and Val Thorens, plus the smaller resorts of La Tania, Saint Martin de Belleville and Les Menuires.
Les 3 Vallées has a good mix of beginner to advanced skiing. Beginners have 43 green runs and 129 blue runs, plus the new ‘Easy Rider’ which signposting makes life even easier if you’re new to the sport. Look out for the pink sign which indicates that the piste is nice and wide with a gradual incline, just what you need as a first-timer finding your feet.
Intermediates have endless possibilities to explore the entire domain. Plan your day around the 129 blue runs and 125 red runs which take you from 3200 metres down to 1300 metres, a whopping 1900 m vertical drop! 4 snowparks with kickers and rails for every level offer plenty of scope for freestylers. Head to Moon Park for a variety of entry level boxes and kickers. For a bigger challenge, DC Park has the most scope for big air style. Budding freeriders should head to Courchevel for inter-piste fun and in low vis conditions, make a beeline for La Tania and Les Menuires where the tree runs will keep you riding.
Advanced skiers and boarders have some epic terrain to explore. Head over to Courchevel and take on the Grand Couloir, a super-steep thigh burner. Or take a guide and strike out beyond the safety of the pistes. Les 3 Vallées off-piste highlights include the Couloir Croix des Verdons and the Creux Noirs.
All 8 resorts of the 3 Valleys are accessible with a single lift pass. Unsurprisingly being the world’s largest ski area it’s pretty pricey, but you could ski all week here and not do the same run twice.
The Courchevel ski resort in the French Alps is a collection of five Alpine villages — Courchevel 1850, Courchevel 1650, Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1300, and Courchevel St Bon 1100. All five resorts are linked by an efficient bus service. It’s an area of remarkable scenic beauty where you can enjoy some spectacular views, including that of Mont Blanc. The Saulire cable car takes you up the resort’s high point at 2700 m, where you can access 150 km of pistes and some epic off-piste descents. Courchevel has a reputation for being a very pricey resort, but in truth, only Courchevel 1850 has astronomically high prices. The other four resort villages are way more affordable.
Skiing in La Tania in the 3 Valleys | © topflight.ie
Sandwiched between Courchevel and Méribel, La Tania makes a great base from which to ski the 3 Valleys. You’ll find excellent high-speed pistes, great freeride terrain with loads of natural hits, and amazing tree runs that make La Tania by far the best place to ski in bad weather. Plus, with easy access to Méribel’s snowparks and Val Thorens’ steep couloirs, there’s no shortage of skiing and boarding whatever style you’re into. With 150 km of pistes, La Tania is a decent sized resort in its own right, but its low altitude means the snow isn’t always as good as higher resorts. That said, La Tania stands out as being the cheapest way to enjoy the 3 Valleys with easy access to both Courcheval and Meribel.
Early bird skiing in Méribel in the 3 Valleys | © Hotel Le Tremplin
Located in the heart of Les 3 Vallées, Méribel is the most central of all resorts. It’s one of the few resorts that truly caters for all types of snow sport enthusiasts. It’s beautiful, has a huge ski area and is well serviced with state of the art lifts, hotels, restaurants and après. The quick and easy access to four other fabulous resorts in the 3 Vallées area means skiers and boarders can enjoy a massive total 600 km of pisted runs. There’s also extensive off-piste skiing available in Meribel itself, including a great powder bowl by the Mont Vallon bubble. However, some of the more challenging off piste can be found in some of the neighbouring resorts.
Spa town Brides-les-Bains was part of the 1992 Olympic village and is linked to the 3 Valleys skiing by the Olympe gondola. Start your week with an Olympe breakfast on offer every Monday morning. Brides-les-Bains is a great value resort in comparison with its more famous neighbours and there’s plenty of affordable accommodation making it popular with bigger groups and families. Nestled in the trees at 600 m altitude, the resort is still quite quiet, with après-ski mainly focused on a few hotel bars.
Purpose built Les Menuires village is at an altitude of 1850 m and has all the advantages of a ski from your door resort. Les Menuires’ main attraction is the quality of the skiing. Access to Les 3 Vallées is a big plus, but the variety of the pistes, the modern and efficient lift system, and the superb snow record means Les Menuires ticks a lot of boxes in its own right. Les Menuires resort itself has 81 pistes totalling 160 km of skiing and is blessed with a sunny west-facing mountainside that stays bright until late afternoon. With 12 green runs, 38 blues, 23 reds and 8 blacks, Les Menuires is particularly well suited to intermediate skiers and boarders.
Saint Martin de Belleville is known for its high quality chalet accommodation, friendly atmosphere and gourmet cuisine. Home to La Bouitte, the first Savoyard restaurant to gain 3 Michelin stars and some great farm-to-table restaurants, the village has gained a reputation as the gastronomic capital of the Les 3 Vallées. Its central location just below Les Menuires at 1450 m provides quick access to Méribel and the rest of the 3 Valleys. To finish the day, you can ski back to the village on some beautifully gentle off-piste terrain from the top of the Olympique Express lift.
Welcome to the highest resort of the Three Valleys. With the village located at an altitude of 2300 m, it’s actually the highest ski resort in Europe. Its lofty altitude means you’re almost guaranteed good snow and there are some spectacular views down the Belleville Valley. With terrain suitable for all levels from beginners to experts, Val Thorens offers you an unforgettable skiing and snowboarding experience in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Val Thorens itself has 68 pistes, peaking at over 3200 m and some outstanding off-piste and ski touring terrain. Some excellent independent ski schools and guides favour Val Thorens as it has good snow from November to the beginning of May.
At the far reaches of the 3 Vallées, Orelle located in the spectacular Maurienne mountain range is the easiest access point to Val Thorens and the 3 Valleys. Les 3 Vallées Express cable car, the longest in Europe, takes you from 900 m up to 2300 m in just 15 minutes. You can then take the Bouchet chairlift up to 3230 m. Orelle shares its ski area with Val Thorens offering 150 km of high altitude skiing. At the top of the 3 Vallées Express lift is an area dedicated to beginners and children, and you can reach Val Thorens via a choice of blue or red runs, which opens up the whole of the 3 Vallées to skiers of all abilities.
Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your ski trip to the 3 Vallées, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this article. Happy holidays!