Geneva: 3 hrs 30 mins
Grenoble: 3 hrs 30 mins
Train transfer: 1 hr
Ski Val Thorens this coming winter and you could make first tracks without even having to be up before your Val Thorens chalet host! The jumbo gondola above the Portette chair opens up a huge area to Val Thorens ski holiday-goers, with pistes on the front of the mountain and fresh accessible off-piste off the back - as if the Three Valleys weren’t already big enough! Those looking for Val Thorens accommodation with that little bit extra need look no further than the resort’s first 5-star residence offering altitude with elegance. Val Thorens ski resort also finds time to look after its beginner visitors with not one, not two, but 12 new green runs in the free nursery area. And while they were at it, the eco-minded town council also spends the summers making architectural and landscape improvements, planting trees and grass re-seeding pistes. This is exactly why everyone wants to ski Val Thorens now!
High above the small French town of Moutiers lie the three resorts of the largest linked ski area in the world – the Three Valleys. And high above the valleys lies the highest of these resorts (and of all the resorts in Europe for that matter) in a wide open bowl, surrounded by 360 degrees peaks – the purpose-built paradise of Val Thorens. Val Thorens skiing is all about the altitude North-facing slopes, most of which start above 3000m, offer snow-sure skiing at any time of winter, but especially when lower resorts are swimming during early and late season. Intermediates will be in their element demolishing mile after mile of piste across the Val Thorens ski area, beginners are spoilt for choice on the many nursery slopes and the gentle blue and green runs above the village and advanced skiers couldn’t ask for anything more with some of the most challenging terrain of the Three Valleys right on their doorstep. Like most purpose-built resorts, Val Thorens village itself could not exactly be described as quaint, but it is compact and perfectly planned so that no Val Thorens accommodation is too far from the piste. In fact, most are ski in/ski out and only a short walk from the assortment of shops, restaurants and bars where the “frenzied” nightlife all that altitude brings out in Val Thorens ski holiday-makers takes place.
To ski Val Thorens is to ski the crown of the Three Valleys. You can pretty much guarantee that Val Thorens’ skiing will still be sitting pretty atop white snowy pistes all season. Beginner skiers are generously catered for by Val Thorens skiing with a 10 hectare area in the middle of the resort. Once confidence grows, the gentle wide slopes and long linking groomed trails above the village on the Col de la Chambre will make swift and serene your journey towards becoming an intermediate. Val Thorens ski resort is an intermediate skier’s paradise. Pull fat GS turns on Moraine, get up speed on the steeper and naturally rolling pistes down from the top of the Boismint chair or feel the burn going the distance on Blanchot and don’t forget to join the 3000 skiers/hour whisked to the top of the Peclet glacier on the Funitel gondola for some beautiful views and superb runs back down. Advanced skiers can take their pick of the powder fields, cliff drops, steep chutes and extreme off-piste in the couloirs and gulleys of the Val Thorens ski area and over in the fabled Fourth Valley (which really does exist). Take a breather to admire the spectacular view from the highest point in the Three Valleys, the Cime de Caron at 3200m, before hitting the ace black run (or slightly easier red) straight back down to resort. The impressive Val Thorens snowparks cate to everyone who wants to have a go and also include a Jump’Air airbag so you can practice that triple heelside rodeo without worrying about the landing.
The Trois Vallees is arguably one of the largest and most famous linked ski areas in the world. In each of these three resorts it is possible to buy a local area lift pass covering that sole area, these are great for first time beginners or for those that do not want to venture too far. To make the most of the terrain a full area lift pass is available from each resort that covers all three valleys. Due to the great links between resorts and a variety of runs connecting each, anyone fro intermediate ability and above will benefit from the full area lift pass which will allow them to enjoy and explore a world class ski area.
On snow days, you could be forgiven for not wanting to ski Val Thorens, but the clever town council has sorted it all so you need not miss out on a moment’s entertainment. The newly renovated leisure centre in the middle of town is easily accessible from practically all Val Thorens accommodation and offers an indoor sports hall, an Aqua club with 50m pool, a wellness centre with, a gym, basketball, tennis and squash courts, over 30 table tennis tables and even trampolines and the occasional bouncy castle for the little ones. There is also a cinema, bowling alley, ice rink and two shopping centres. Outside there are plenty of winter sports to try from the highest toboggan run in Europe (a whopping 6km in length), to ice climbing, ice driving, snowshoeing and paragliding. On the slopes you could try your hand at telemarking, skidooing or cross country skiing.
Altitude, it seems, brings frenzy and the party at the top of Europe got a little crazier last season with the opening of the new Folie Douce bar up on the hill – the place for après – with live DJs and ski boot dancing on the deck. Val Thorens ski resort also offers a varied choice of over 40 bars, restaurants and clubs. First stop should be the legendary Frog and Roast Beef, the highest pub in Europe, with its live bands and banging happy hour. The Red Fox cranks up the karaoke machine every afternoon or if you prefer sport, be sure to visit The Viking, where you’ll also find free pool and wifi. Après Scandi-style kicks off when the lifts close in Le Tango and if you’re a club connoisseur you won’t want to miss Malaysia, Europe’s highest club, where the urban vibe beats until the early hours. There’s also the Underground for big name DJs or Beach Mountain, which has a more European feel.
Val Thorens skiing offers great value for money and this even extends to mountain restaurants, especially when you compare prices to those across the border in Courchevel. There are plenty of self-service options dotting the pistes but you’ll also find some cosy traditional mountain lodges serving warm hospitality and tasty hearty fare. One such place is the Chalet des 2 Lacs where the open fire is roaring and the tartiflette piping hot, or seek out some quaintness at the small Chalet Les Sonnailes on the Boulevard Cumin. When the sun’s shining, head up to the top of the Doran chair where you’ll find La Ferme, with its lovely sun terrace and fabulous views of the valley below.
Back down amongst the Val Thorens chalets, the cream of the crop for dining options is L’Oxalys restaurant, who have just won a Young Chef of the Year award – expensive but well worth the treat For Savoyard favourites, La Joyeuse Fondue or Le Vieux Chalet deliver delectable regional delicacies (heavy on the cheese, ham and potatoes for those who don’t know) and the wine cellar at Le Blanchot is well-stocked with some of the region’s vineyard’s finest offerings. Le Funitel and Le Scapin serve up simple but sensational pizza and pasta or there’s plenty of Mexican flair in the lively El Gringo restaurant and bar. Try John’s for uncomplicated burgers or the Frog and Roast Beef for some pub grub.