The Three Valleys
The Three Valleys (Les Trois Vallées) is one of the most exciting and extensive ski areas in the world and includes the world famous resorts of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens.
One of the most glamorous resorts in the Alps, Courchevel 1850 offers some of the world’s finest skiing. With instant access to the entire Trois Vallées, it offers enough variety and scope to keep even the most expert skiers happy for their entire stay. The north facing slopes mean you can ski all day, and together with the incredibly efficient lift system, the opportunities are endless from 2,700m altitude down to the traditional village of Le Praz in 1300 and beyond. You can cover a lot of terrain in that time. In fact, it’s possible just to ski this area without ever exploring the other resorts. The piste grooming here is second to none, with endless miles of immaculate corduroy each morning, and with its variety of green, blue, red and black runs, there are slopes for everyone. You can even try out night skiing with the “Verdons by Night” on a Wednesday with floodlit runs, music and refreshments. The runs below the resort are gentle and tree lined – ideal for if the weather turns, and further up you’ll find wide red runs, perfect for huge carving turns, and steep mogul runs and narrow couloirs for the experts. Busy during the peak seasons, Courchevel 1850 can be surprisingly quiet at other times.
Courchevel Moriond 1650
At the far eastern end of the Trois Vallées, Courchevel Moriond 1650 has a friendly village atmosphere and offers more value for money than its glitzier sister at 1850. A resurgence of traditional architecture and pedestrianized areas lend the resort more of a typical Savoyard resort feel, and it remains a firm favorite with the French and discerning British. Eating out here won’t leave you with an eye wateringly large bill at the end, and there are some great restaurants and bars. More importantly, it offers some of the best skiing in the whole Trois Vallées, with some superb tree lined runs, and slopes to suit all abilities. The slopes on this side of the valley are often less populated, and we love the long red Chapelets and Rochers runs, which both have some fun off-piste diversions. The nursery slopes are perfect for beginners, with a number of our preferred ski schools (both New Generation and ESF) based there, whilst more advanced skiers can hire a guide to explore the fabulous off-piste runs in Les Avals. Book in for lunch, soak up the sun and the sublime views from the terrace of the Bel Air and end the day at the Fire and Ice bar of Le Portetta, with its large log fires, fur throws and heated seating.
Courchevel Village (1550 )
With its peaceful setting, Courchevel Village is a popular family option, offering good value for money. The Grangette gondola and Tovets chair whisk skiers straight to Courchevel 1850, where you have 600km of pistes of the Trois Vallées to explore – more than enough to keep all standards of skier content for the duration of their entire stay. The cruisey blue Tovets and Stade slopes immediately above the village are often uncrowded, and being tree lined are reliable on bad weather days, and the little Roys is a green – perfect for absolute beginners. We use ESF at 1550, or lessons can be taken up in 1850. Close by is Wood Park with wooden rails and tables for young boarders. At the end of the day take the long red Dou du Midi down from 1850, or toboggan back one night. Floodlit until 7.30pm, the track drops 300m over a winding 2km track with some quite hairy bends.
Height is everything in Val Thorens, and with it comes one of the most reliable snow sure factors in the Alps. The highest resort in Europe, it is shedding its ugly concrete image and becoming a sophisticated destination with a Savoyard flavor. From here, skiers of all levels have the entire Trois Vallées at the tips of their skis, as well as a fourth valley, La Maurienne, giving you 600km of linked pistes. Surrounded by six glaciers and with panoramic views over 1000 peaks, it’s a spectacular resort and ideally suited to those who like to spend the whole day on the mountain. With its north and north-west facing slopes, the snow conditions remain good for the entire day, whilst the south facing slopes on the Plein Sud side are home to some sunny terraces. Beginners are catered for, with the nursery slopes right next to the village, and intermediates are in snow clover. Experts can hire a guide for the day and explore some of the best off-piste around. The resort’s latest addition is an adrenalin junkie’s dream – at 3230m, a 1km zip wire, Europe’s highest, will see you reaching speeds of 100km/h. Five star hotels and great restaurants are gradually establishing themselves, and the resort offers very good value for money. We like the range of après on offer in Val Thorens, from pop up shows in the piste, live bands on the terraces, to the wildly exotic Folie Douce. Disco here doesn’t get much better.
Enjoying a prime spot right in the heart of the Trois Vallées and full of traditional style chalets, Méribel has a real Savoyard feel. It continues to attract a loyal following year on year and offers good value for money. The resort, with its fast and efficient lift system, is a perfect location from which to explore the 600km of linked pistes of the entire area. Some argue that the 150km immediately accessible from the village can keep even the most ardent skier happy for a week. It has a sheltered position in the valley, with lots of well protected blues and reds back to the village, and some gentle greens for beginners around the altiport. The runs south of Mottaret offer some fabulous intermediate terrain, and the more experienced should head to the Combe Vallon piste or the Face run which was built for the 1992 Olympics. The views from Mont Vallon are terrific, and on a powder day, the off-piste is something else. Méribel is renowned for its nightlife. Head for La Poste if you’re after a quiet and civilized drink, or for a more raucous evening, start off at the Rond Point. The Folie Douce is a firm favorite in Méribel, and always promises an entertaining afternoon of après-ski fun.