Val Thorens resort guide
Val Thorens is the highest resort in Europe, with direct access to the entire Three Valleys. The resort is a mecca for international skiers, with guaranteed snow from November to May, a variety of terrain and ski in/ski out accommodation.
Val Thorens is all about altitude. The highest resort in Europe, with direct access to the entire Trois Vallées (Three Valleys), the resort is a mecca for international skiers. With guaranteed snow cover from November to May, a variety of terrain for all levels, and ski in/ski out accommodation, there’s little wonder it’s popular. Surrounded by six glaciers and with six skiable peaks over 3000m, panoramic vistas over 1000 other peaks across the Alps into Italy and Switzerland, it’s a spectacular resort. And despite years of bad press for its purpose built architecture, recent projects are beginning to change this, especially with the arrival of some design-led five star hotels. Restaurant standards and night life have also dramatically improved, and the resort offers good value for money. Val Thorens is a vibrant, energetic resort and ideally suited to those who want to spend their entire day on the mountain.
Resorts facts and figures
Resort altitude 2300m
Highest point 3230m
Vertical drop 1930m
Ski area Les Trois Vallées (direct access to Courchevel and Méribel)
Pistes 150km (11 green, 27 blue, 279 red, 9 black) in Val Thorens/Orelle alone. 600km across the entire Trois Vallées
Lifts 32 in Val Thorens/Orelle and 172 in the Trois Vallées
Best for beginners and intermediates, while experts can explore the more challenging runs across the Trois Vallées
With its north and north-west facing slopes, the snow conditions remain good for the entire day. The south facing slopes are on the Plein Sud side with sunny terraces for long lunches at La Fruitière/La Folie Douce. However, the resort itself faces south, so the end of the day can be busy coming off the mountain to enjoy the last rays.
The lift systems have received some heavy investment recently, with big gondolas and fast chairs, and drag lifts mostly replaced by magic carpets on the nursery slopes. All the beginner slopes are next to the village and don’t require a ski pass. As you progress there are plenty of gentle and easy blues immediately above the village to improve on. Intermediates are in clover in Val Thorens – you can ski all the way down to Courchevel 1650 in half a morning, or cruise around above Les Menuires. But if you prefer to stay closer to the resort, there’s some of the best terrain around. Full of easy reds and blues (slightly steeper the higher you go), the good snow cover, especially on the Col, gives you perfect conditions.
There is good skiing from the Péclet gondola, with plenty of blues and reds and the Pluviomètre over on Plein Sud shouldn’t be missed. If you’re feeling confident about your skiing, make sure you do the black from the Cîme de Caron – it’s wide and fast especially when freshly groomed. Experts will find that many of the black runs are more hard reds, with some becoming mogulled quite early in the day. Challenging runs can be found off the Cîme de Caron and the Falaise and Variante runs from the Grand Fond gondola. When there’s been good snowfall, we recommend hiring a guide to explore some very good off-piste terrain. On sunny days, the skiing in the wide bowls of Val Thorens is exhilarating. However, the lack of tree cover means that when the weather sets in, lifts and slopes can close, with nowhere but the resort for skiers to go. Some of the pistes can get quite crowded later in the day, so heading over to the “fourth” valley at Orelle is advisable.
Val Thorens has a friendly atmosphere and tends to be full of people who have come to ski, rather than be seen. The investment in high end hotels including three 5* properties, chalets and apartments has seen a rise in the standards of gastronomy, with a number of very good restaurants and bars – Restaurant Val Thorens Jean Sulpice has two Michelin stars, and is definitely worth missing an afternoon on the slopes for. The resort enjoys a sunny position with quite amazing views over the surrounding peaks and is a good place to sit with an aperitif at the end of the day. The centre is compact and pedestrianized, with plenty of shops, and because of its size, there is a good vibe at the end of the day. If you don’t fancy one of the larger venues, the bar at the L’Altapura is an atmospheric place for a drink.
Val Thorensinsider tips
The Cîme de Caron cable car is one of the most spectacular in the Alps, but get there early to avoid the queues.
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