Ski Holidays in the Three Valleys
Ski holidays in the Three Valleys (or Trois Vallees if we're speaking French) are understandably hugely popular with all standards of skiers and snowboarders. This mecca of European skiing is a worldwide destination for anyone who loves skiing holidays and with 14 separate ski resorts, over 350 ski chalets, a huge selection of excellent quality hotels and some of the highest skiing in Europe it's not hard to understand why.
The Three Valleys holds the title of the World's largest linked ski area meaning you can get everywhere by lifts or on your skis – no buses required! With over 600kms of slopes and over 200 lifts, ski holidays in The Three Valleys also offer some of the best quality skiing, as well as the largest interlinked ski area, in the world.
The Three Valleys ski area is made up of, you've guessed it, three separate valleys that roughly run parallel to each other. Furthest east is the Saint Bon Valley (with the Courchevel ski resorts). In the middle lies the Allues Valley (with the Meribel and Mottaret ski resorts) and to the west the Belleville Valley (with the ski resorts: Val Thorens, St Martin de Belleville, Reberty and Les Menuires)
Latterly connected is the fourth Maurienne Valley which encompasses the resort of Orelle. This valley and resort can be found to the South West of Val Thorens. All of the resorts and their ski areas have been linked with a lift infrastructure since 1971 creating one enormous ski area approximately 20kms long (north to south) and 10kms wide (east to west). There are over 600kms of pisted runs offering 18.5 square kilometres of prepared terrain (using over 70 'piste-basher' grooming machines).
Individual ski resorts of the Courchevel valley
Courchevel Le Praz (1300): Pretty, traditional, quiet village with one or two good quality restaurants
La Tania: Purpose built village resort with lots of chalets and some apartments. Good nursery slopes
Courchevel Village (1550): Undergoing a renaissance in recent years. No longer the ‘poor cousin’ to the other Courchevel resorts
Courchevel Moriond (1650): Utilitarian resort but one with good value catered chalets and the excellent piste-side located, Hotel Portetta
Courchevel 1850: World class ski resort with luxury 'super chalets' and hotels - price tags to match
Individual ski resorts of the Meribel valley
Meribel Les Allues: Very traditional village with underdeveloped charm. Quiet at night but with good value chalets
Meribel Village: Small and pretty resort with lovely low key village atmosphere. Good après ski bar and easy link to ski area
Meribel: Large but still attractive resort with après ski scene, nightlife, shops, restaurants and bars. Large choice of hotels and chalets
Mottaret: Purpose built, high, ski in ski out style resort with hotels, apartments and some good value chalets
Val Thorens Valley
Individual ski resorts of the Val Thorens Valley
St Martin de Belleville: Charming, traditional resort with modern lift access to main ski area. Excellent local restaurants
Les Menuires - Bettex: Rather uninspiring collection of cheap chalets at the bottom of the valley
Les Menuires: Practical resort layout but brutalist 1960's architecture at its worst. Cheap self-atering apartments and a Club Med resort
Reberty: Attached to Les Menuires but situated higher and built with a much more sympathetic chalet style architecture.
Val Thorens: The highest ski resort in Europe. Ski in ski out, lively and a great collection of luxury hotels and cheap apartment style chalets
Ski holidays in the Three Valleys - how to get thereGetting to the Three Valleys from the UK is easy enough. The closest airport is Chambery which is about 90 minutes away. Geneva, Lyon and Grenoble all have transfer times of 2.5 – 3.0 hours. If you’re lucky enough to hire a private plane or helicopter, you can fly into Courchevel or Meribel altiports.
The Three Valleys are also within easy driving distance of Calais so those who don’t like to fly or travel light can get there within 9 hours. Read more on driving to the Alps.
Ski holidays in the Three Valleys by trainMoutiers train station is within 30 - 40 minutes’ drive of all the ski resorts within the Three Valleys. Both Eurostar (day and night trains) as well as French TGV trains from Paris stop at Moutiers station which means that ski holidays by train to the Three Valleys are very do-able.
Activities in the Three Valleys for non-skiersFor non-skiers the Three Valleys area offers plenty of activities to do away from the slopes. From classic ski resort activities such as tobogganing and horse drawn sleighs to more extreme options such as hot air ballooning, snow mobile rides and helicopter tours of the area. You definitely won’t be bored!
Courchevel Village (1550) has a genuinely exciting toboggan run - best navigated when totally sober.
The Aquamotion Centre in Courchevel Moriond (1650) is one of the best waterparks in the Alps. With 11 pools, water slides, wild rivers and a wave surf zone (all heated to 32 degrees) as well as a wellness area with sauna and steam room the whole family will be entertained.
The Olympic Park in Meribel is a sports and relaxation complex which includes a swimming pool, an ice rink, a spa and a fitness area.
Ski schools - The Three ValleysThe resorts within the Three Valleys are some of the most developed ski resorts in the Alps. The larger resorts in the area all have excellent infrastructure and facilities which includes a fantastic collection of ski schools.
The ESF (Ecole Ski Français) is the ubiquitous state run ski school. With the growth of independent ski schools the ESF has had to up its game which it has done admirably in the Three Valleys area. Its ski instructors and childcare are just as good as with the smaller independent ski schools but being French you must expect French children in the classes and sometimes French used as the first language in the lessons. Some clients like this international flavour but others do not.
Of the independent ski schools aimed squarely at the British market new Generation, Magic Ski School, BASS and Parallel Lines are the best.
When to go to the Three ValleysThe Three Valleys offers high altitude, snow sure skiing in each of the valleys so there is rarely an issue as when to travel. There is always access to the highest skiing in the Courchevel valley to the east and the Val Thorens valley to the west. The middle Meribel valley also has access to its own high mountain, Mont Vallon, which has fantastic north facing slopes that start from a height of 2,952 metres.
Although height of the ski slopes has a lot of influence on the depth and quality of the snow cover (particularly important at either the beginning or end of the winter season) slope aspect also has a major role to play. This is why the north facing slopes of the Courchevel valley allow perfectly good early and late season skiing, even down to the lower lying resorts of La Tania (1,350m) and Courchevel Le Praz (1,300m), whereas the west facing slopes leading down to Meribel (1,400m) are unreliable, especially at the end of the season when the full force of the sun can turn the home piste returning from Courchevel into a slush pit.
Another myth, created for the most part by the way the piste map has been drawn, is that St Martin de Belleville is a very low resort and should be avoided in December or April. In fact the resort height for St Martin, at 1,400 metres, is exactly the same as for Meribel. There is no reason therefore to write off a stay here in either early or late season especially as the new high speed gondola lift from the village centre allows you to easily download from the mid station.
If you are skiing in the Three Valleys in either early December or late April then it pays to stay at one of the more snow-sure resorts in the area. If budget will allow then Courchevel 1850 works fine. Mottaret in the Meribel valley and either Les Menuires, Reberty or Val Thorens in the western most valley are the choice picks to guarantee the best snow conditions.
Whichever resort you choose a ski holiday in the Three Valleys will never disappoint. The ski area is simply too large and too varied for even the best skier to get bored. In fact clients return year after year to explore new parts of this huge ski domain.