3 Vallees

3 Vallees

Overall Rating

3 Vallees

3 Vallees4/51
3 Vallees4 out of 5 based on 1 reviews
  • Recommend
    100%
  • Would Revisit
    100%
Maison Sport Ski Instructors Lessons Guiding Independent Europe Switzerland, France, Italy, Alps French Austria 2

Interlinked Ski Resorts

Courchevel
Les-Menuires
Meribel
St Martin de Belleville
Val Thorens

3 Vallees Maps & Stats

    3 Valleys Ski Trail Map
  • 3 Vallèes Ski Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,100m - 3,230m (2,130m)
  • Average Snow Fall
    6-10 metres
  • Lifts (166)
    40 Gondolas / cable cars
    60 Chairlifts
  • Opening Dates & Times
    Late November to early May
    8:30am to 4.30pm
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs - 650km*
    *Piste trails - 600km
    *Ski Routes - 50km
    Longest run - 12km
    Advanced - 18%
    Intermediate - 33%
    Beginner - 49%
  • Lift Pass Price
    Day Ticket 23/24
    3 Valleys
    Adult - €60 to 75
    Child - €54 to 60
    Child u/5yr - Free
    Adult >75yr - Free

    Individual resort & Saturday-only lift passes are cheaper
    Epic Pass conditionally valid
    Courchevel Ski Trail Map
  • Courchevel Ski Trail Map
    Meribel Ski Trail Map
  • Meribel Ski Trail Map
    Val Thorens Ski Trail Map
  • Val Thorens Ski Trail Map
    Les Menuires & St Martin de Belleville Ski Trail Map
  • Les Menuires & St Martin Ski Trail Map

3 Vallees - Reviews

3 Vallees - Reviews

Its BIG......... & Damn Good!

27/03/2020

POWDERHOUND EUROPE

Powderhounds Ambassador
Powderhounds Ambassador

POWDERHOUND EUROPE

Powderhounds Ambassador
Powderhounds Ambassador
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Telemarker
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month Visited:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    5

Its BIG......... & Damn Good!

27/03/2020

Many powder hounds rightly view the larger ski resorts of the world with suspicion. Sure, they have become popular & expanded into their current size for good reason. But with that comes a cost & mass of humanity which tend to detract from the pursuit of fresh powder lines. So, it was with more than a little suspicion that we finally visited the world’s largest ski area – Les Trois Vallèes (the 3 Valleys). Over an extended week we would get to see if it was just another ‘industrial’ French Alps ski resort catering to the intermediate on-piste masses or did it have broader appeal including something for the hardcore (or softcore!) powder seeker. Turns out that in mid-January the 3 Vallèes can be everything to everyone. It gets a huge Powderhounds double thumbs up. But with an asterisk* (see second last paragraph).

In short. What an astounding ski area. With assive dimensions & incredible terrain variety, skiing as much of the resort area as possible during our visit proved to be difficult. There were just too many distractions. A bluebird powder day in Meribel sucked me into riding the complex off-piste terrain below the ridge separating Meribel from Val Thorens, Les Menuires & St Martin for the entire day. Barely touched a piste trail all day. A super cold, windy day at Val Thorens tested endurance to the absolute limit. In contrast prior to the arrival of a storm, a relatively balmy January day revealed the ‘dirty little secret’ at Courchevel, and a pleasure it was to discover it too. Other days just meld into one long schuss…….

Adhering to our cardinal rule of not skiing French resorts during French school holidays, we were in Les Trois Vallees during mid to late January. What we found provided us with several revelations - particularly at Courchevel & Meribel.

Skiing at Courchevel revealed that most skiers (the resorts have relatively few snowboarders) are beginners/intermediate with a guide or instructor. The hard core freeriders exist, but not in the numbers expected in a resort with such a fearsome terrain reputation. First tracks on a powder day at Courchevel would be an absolute treat in the Col de la Loze, Suisses, Vizelle & Chamrossa areas. There is ample opportunity for long backcountry descents as well for the more adventurous. The high-end elements of Courchevel were as expected but not overwhelming. Ridiculously over-priced lunches at many of the mountain restaurants plus the Prada style shops & 5-star hotels of 1850 were the most obvious aspects.

The major Meribel revelation was the quality of its off-piste freeride terrain. Central of the 3 Vallees, both sides have so much to offer on a powder day. On the western side of the valley, the ridge separating Meribel from St Martin/Les Menuires/Val Thorens extends for around 15km from the Col de la Chambre to beyond the Roc de Fer above Les Allues. In the morning as the sun hits the ridge, a sensational array of intermediate to extreme off-piste terrain is directly accessible via 5 chairlifts & a gondola, providing limitless freeride descents of between 800 to 1100m vertical. And that is just one side of one valley and doesn’t include the massive off-piste from Mont Vallon. Or back around the other side to Saulire & the Col de la Loze. Don’t get me started ……..!

A revelation about Val Thorens was its modern, efficient lift system’s ability to move vast volumes of humans from the village in the morning & then appear empty for the rest of the day. Its glacial & 'post-glacial' terrain across an expansive high alpine zone has something for everyone & is family friendly in fine weather. Val Thorens is the most snow assured of all the 3 Vallees resorts, but exposed to weather extremes. The ability of the lift system to function in extreme winds was exemplary.

Les Menuires provides stellar beginner & intermediate friendly terrain on the village side, & better prospects for advanced & experts on the fabulous Ponte de la Masse & its adjacent Vallon du Lou. The resort is a revelation about how bad a purpose-built village can look & yet still be incredibly convenient! To be fair, small parts of the Les Menuires villages are quite delightful.

St Martin de Belleville retains a ‘local’ ski hill feel but must be reveling in its brand-new gondola from the centre of town. The village is the polar opposite of neighbouring Les Menuires, exemplifying the incredible diversity within the 3 Vallees ski area.

The question of where to stay in the 3 Valleys is a vexed one. It depends so much on budget, ski ability, expectations & personal preferences. If wishing to explore the entire resort, we recommend staying in the middle valley near Meribel. Many would argue it doesn’t get enough sun & has a few too many ‘drunken Englishmen’ after hours, but for simple efficiency alone, it is the best place from which to see the whole shebang. Something in Meribel Centre would suffice. If cashed up, staying at Courchevel 1850 is one of skiing’s most lux experiences. And if you have never stayed in a high alpine purpose-built resort village, Val Thorens is a cunningly designed sight to behold. For a traditional village experience with lift access & a return ski trail, each valley is well served. Courchevel Le Praz, Meribel Village & St Martin de Belleville are all wonderful remnants of French alpine living. Middle of road resort villages that run a fine line between crass development, affordability & ski-in ski-out convenience include Courchevel La Tania & Les Menuires.

Anyone with loads of money can ski a major international ski resort in style & with little regard to where one stays or eats, so for the sake of the exercise, we managed it on a strict budget for several days just to see how we fared. We stayed off the mountain at the towns of Brides les Bains & Bozel in comfortable, yet affordable self-contained apartments. Meals were either at affordable local restaurants or were easily catered for via local markets & included packed lunches eaten on the mountains at the many picnic tables or in designated lunch-rooms (most come with microwave ovens, sinks etc). Après ski drinks were all happy hour beverages at reasonable prices. We did splurge on a few meals & drinks, but the budget allowed for it. Even did a cheeky La Folie Douce session above Meribel. Transport to the resorts was either by early morning gondola from Brides les Bains to Meribel & hence linking to other resorts, or a quick bus to Courchevel from Bozel. Admittedly skiing the Belleville resorts was painful from Brides les Bains, but absolutely doable. In the end we drove there to be more efficient! It turned out to be one of the cheapest & enjoyable ski weeks we have ever had – that’s saying a bit!

*Prior to visiting the 3 Vallees, it conjured up the worst imagined elements of the modern ski resort world - too big, too busy & too expensive. And whilst elements of this are true, it cannot be said that the size & skier capacity of this incredible region detract from a stellar ski experience. So, we can vouch for Les Trois Vallèes during the off-peak periods when crowd numbers are down. It delivers the goods in so many ways, on so many levels. As to what its like during the peak season, we have our suspicions! If you read any of our info on skiing France, we do have a rule NOT to ski the French Alps during the French school holidays & would suggest that the rule applies here. But we will never find out firsthand at the 3 Vallees, too many other places to ski (we have broken this rule on many occasions & sucked it up to have some wonderful powder days at other French ski areas!). Put the 3 Vallèes on your bucket list. Mandatory visitation is required.

It is impossible to wax lyrical about a gargantuan ski resort like the 3 Vallees in detail. For more specific information about each resort in the 3 Valleys, refer to the individual ski resort overviews & reviews (links here - Courchevel, Les-Menuires, Meribel, St Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens). You can see our thoughts on the pros and cons on the 3 Vallèes overview page and also see our European ski resort ratings regarding how we score it compared to other skiing areas.


See our video here