The Three Valleys Ski Area Overview
Biggest isn’t always best, but that adage doesn’t apply to The Three Valleys.
The world’s largest lift-linked ski area boasts an astounding 600km of pistes for skiers of all abilities and 200 lifts which whisk a mind-boggling 260,000 skiers per hour around this awesome Alpine playground. The snow-capped peaks and gorgeous green forests here host world-famous resorts like Val Thorens, Méribel and Courchevel 1850, as well as lovely satellite villages like Les Menuires, La Tania, Brides Les Bains, Saint Martin de Belleville and Orelle.
The facilities here are fabulous, there’s a wide choice of accommodation to suit all tastes and requirements and it’s easy for solo travellers, couples, families and groups of friends to have a fantastic time.
Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort (at over 2300m) and it’s the beating heart of high-altitude snowsports in The Three Valleys and beyond. This is a car-free resort that’s fab for families with young children, but it also offers outstanding après-ski so it’s popular with the party set too.
Meanwhile, Méribel is a stunning resort, resplendent with charming chalet-style accommodation, gorgeous groomed pistes and chic cafes, bars and restaurants.
In classy Courchevel, there’s quality accommodation and eclectic entertainment to suit a range of tastes and budgets, but the presence of seven Michelin-starred restaurants, two six-star and 11 five-star hotels mean it’s the very dab if you appreciate the finer things in life. The skiing is superb too, with 150km of pistes at altitudes between 1224m to 3248m.
If you’ve been searching for world-class skiing and snowboarding, inspirational scenery, attractive accommodation and authentic Alpine hospitality, you’ll instantly feel at home in The Three Valleys.
Skiing in The Three Valleys
The heritage of skiing in The Three Valleys stretches back to 1925, when a group of British investors asked Arnold Lunn, legendary skier and inventor of the slalom, to investigate the terrain in the Saint-Bon valley with the aim of creating an expansive, high-quality resort to rival those in Austria and Switzerland. Since those early days, the area has consistently expanded and improved, embracing technology along the way to offer visitors exceptional on-piste experiences and introducing innovations like the Three Valleys skipass, which from 1971 fully integrated the resorts into a unified network which was convenient and accessible to all.
The Three Valleys now comprises a mind-blowing 1400 square km of high-quality skiing where resorts which have retained their unique characteristics are linked smoothly by a lift network that runs like clockwork. Here’s the lowdown on skiing in the main resorts:
• If you’re an intermediate based in Méribel, you’ll find a great range of east facing blue and red runs on the Tougnete portion of the Méribel Valley, while for something a little more challenging, the Roc du Tougne drag lift will deposit you at the famous Bartevalle black run, a steep, north facing piste which holds its snow well and presents a stiff challenge at times when natural moguls have developed.
• Looking for even more reds and blues in Méribel? The Dent du Burgin chairlift will take you to some superbly conditioned west facing runs between Saulire and Méribel, one of the best of which is Le Serf, which runs from Saulire right down to the Rond Point des Pistes.
• At super-high Val Thorens, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to red and blue runs. Reds like the long drop down to Orelle in the Maurienne Valley are great to explore and the Genepi blue is a wide sweeping run that’s an excellent confidence builder.
• At Courchevel 1850 there are plenty of expansive nursery slopes and green pistes which are perfect for finding your feet and there are also eight free drag lifts dotted around the resort. There are also some cracking cruisy blues above the resort, such as the Pyramide run from the summit of Roc Merlet, and Park City offers even more brilliant blues and reds.
• Courchevel is also a haven for advanced skiers, who love tackling the vertiginous couloirs that drop down next to the Saulire cable car and are known as The Ugly Sisters. These are off-piste, except for the Grand Couloir, which is steep, narrow, notorious, and not for the faint-hearted. Alternatively, take the Chanrossa lift to reach the Jockeys and Jean Blanc mogul runs.
• At Les Menuires, the south-facing slopes on the Three Valleys side of the resort can suffer from low snow quality in the late season March and April sunshine, but snow making facilities are used to mitigate this. However, the north-facing and east-facing pistes on the other side retain their snow throughout the season and the lifts here reach 2804m at the summit of Pointe de la Masse, where there are on- and off-piste opportunities for expert skiers in the 1000m vertical drop back down the mountain, or alternatively, a more genteel and scenic descent vie the blue Bouquetin run.
• If you want to access real-time information about piste conditions during your trip so that you can plan each daily session to perfection, download the handy Three Valleys app.
Snowboarding in The Three Valleys
Snowboarders in The Three Valleys can carve up the slopes on the vast network of blue, red and black runs and there are many outstanding off-piste areas and several superb snow parks too ̶ here are a few highlights for riders:
• If you’re a freerider in Val Thorens you’ll find challenging terrain at Cime de Caron and La Masse, while the Val Thorens snow park in the plateau sector is an awesome arena for perfecting your jibbing, j-turns and jumps. The snow park is an impressive 70,000 square metres and includes a big air bag, quarter pipe hip jumps and tabletop jumps.
• At Méribel, access the Moon Park from the Plan De L’Homme chairlift and you’ll love the rails, boxes and kickers here for riders of all aptitudes. Alternatively, hop on the Plattiers lift to reach the excellent DC Park, where a superpipe, box and rail combos and cracking obstacles like a shipping container upcycled as a butter box await.
• At Courchevel, the Plantrey snow park has a half-pipe, baby pipe, tables and hips, there are man-made dunes and large kickers at the Verdons Canyons if jumps float your boat, and if you’re an expert rider you can pit your wits against the steep couloirs at the Saulire cable car. It’s always safest to arrange a guided session through the Mountain Guides office if you’re planning off-piste adventures.
Snow Conditions in The Three Valleys
With high-altitude skiing available from every resort, plenty of north-facing runs and ample snowmaking facilities snow conditions in The Three Valleys are usually formidable. Here’s a little more information:
• Slopes at super-high Val Thorens reach an eye-watering 3230m, there’s plentiful north-facing terrain and snowmaking to top up the powder in the unlikely event that the natural cover isn’t sufficient. Official stats for last season show that Val Thorens had 726cm total snowfall, 61 snowfall days, a 35cm biggest snowfall, maximum base depth of 384cm, 186cm average base depth, 412cm maximum summit depth and average summit depth of 233cm.
• Méribel has an impressive average snowfall of 8 metres per year and the most consistent snow quality is found on the runs descending from Mount Vallon, while the snow retention of the shady runs close to the Altiport is also exceptional. In the most recent season, Méribel had a 258cm total snowfall, a total of 27 snowfall days, 30cm largest snowfall, maximum base depth of 120cm, 72cm average base depth, maximum summit depth of 270cm and 167cm average depth.
• At Courchevel, the tree line reaches all the way up to 2300m and the highest lift can take you to 2740m, so snow on the highest slopes is a sure thing and there’s plenty of cover if things get a little stormy. Furthermore, if nature needs some help here, the resorts 700 snow cannons can provide cover for an amazing quarter of its total area. The latest snowfall stats for Courchevel reveal a 559cm total snowfall, a total of 42 snowfall days, a 43cm largest snowfall, an average base depth of 121cm, 204 cm maximum base depth, maximum summit depth of 280cm and 167 cm average summit depth.
Apres Ski in The Three Valleys
The Three Valleys has a hard-earned reputation for terrific hospitality and entertainment, so you’ll find everything here from café snacks to haute cuisine and chilled-out cocktail lounges to busy bars and bouncing clubs. Let’s take a look at après-ski in The Three Valleys:
• Foodies are in their element here with a wide choice of gorgeous mountain restaurants across all Three Valleys resorts. For instance, Le Blanchot at Méribel Altiport is an attractive chalet-style eatery with a super sun terrace where you’ll enjoy traditional French fare and a cheeky glass of refreshing rosé while admiring the view. Straw hats are even supplied to shield you from the sun!
• L’Oxalys in Val Thorens is a bijou restaurant that’s perfect for an intimate indoor lunch on a chilly day or dining al fresco and taking in the panoramic views when the sun is shining. It boasts two Michelin stars and although the food is exquisite the prices are very reasonable given the quality.
• Cave des Creux in Courchevel 1850 is a swish new restaurant on the piste of the same name which has stylish, comfy décor and scenic views. The menu here is slightly pricey but incorporates international and fusion dishes as well as authentic mountain cuisine.
• La Folie Douce at Val Thorens hosts the highest dancefloor in Europe (at a heady 2600m!) and an exciting evening here usually features live DJs, live bands, table-top dancing and lashings of toffee vodka.
• In Méribel, the Rond-Point (AKA ‘the Ronnie’) has become somewhat of an institution over the years and the après-ski set gather here to groove to live acts that play every day between 4pm-7pm.
• For a smooth and suave evening, head to La Mangeoire piano bar for fine wine and live music in an ambient, intimate setting where the understated party continues into the early hours.
Facilities in The Three Valleys
Facilities across The Three Valleys are first-rate and for decades, businesses and local authorities have worked in tandem to ensure that when every visitor leaves, they’re hankering to return as soon as possible.
Ski hire in The Three Valleys
Ski hire outlets are ten a penny in The Three Valleys but rather than trouble yourself with these arrangements, why not request that ski hire is rolled conveniently into your Erna Low package? We have close connections with the best operators here so we can easily source quality equipment that perfectly matches the style and ability level of every group member, at a highly competitive price. If you would like to chat further about ski hire, contact us soon.
Ski passes in The Three Valleys
We can also easily arrange your Three Valleys ski passes and often secure special deals on discounted group or family passes, or occasionally free child passes, so please let us know if you want us to care of this crucial component of your ski trip ̶ letting Erna Low make your ski pass arrangements certainly beats standing in a cold queue when you arrive!
Spa and pool in The Three Valleys
When you need to rest and recuperate in The Three Valleys, you’re spoiled for choice with spa and pool facilities. Many accommodation options boast their own in-house facilities, but there’s also the huge Val Thorens Sports Centre, which has two swimming pools, a funpark for kids, a solarium and jacuzzis, the Deep Nature Spa in Méribel has a lush interior and luxury beauty treatments, and the ice-skating rink in Courchevel has a gym, steam room and sauna.
Shops in The Three Valleys
Ready for some retail therapy? Your shopping experience across The Three Valleys will be varied and vibrant, with everything from interior furnishings from Atelier Martine P in Courchevel to everyday essentials at Sherpa supermarket in Val Thorens and designer labels in Méribel’s chic Le Dressing boutique.
Facilities for Children in The Three Valleys
The Three Valleys ski area has a wide range of on and off-slope activities for kids, so it’s ideal for a family-focused ski holiday.
Ski schools in The Three Valleys
In Val Thorens, New Generation Ski School caters in particular for UK visitors and lessons are in English, while Prosneige Ski School teaches kids aged 3 plus to snowboard and ski, with a fun and encouraging approach. The Ski School operates in Courchevel, Méribel and La Tania and it’s another brilliant British-run establishments, and the excellent ESF also operates across Courchevel.
Children’s entertainment in The Three Valleys
Val Thorens has the longest toboggan run in Europe and a 1km Fun Slope with 50 wacky obstacles, Méribel has an Inuit village in the Altiport section and the magical Moon Wild Piste with its Alpine animal theme, and Courchevel has a Native American Indian-themed kids area at Moriond. Off the slopes, you’ll also find cinemas, ten-pin bowling and go karting at various Three Valleys venues.
Childcare in The Three Valleys
At Val Thorens, ESF Ski School offers childcare for children aged 3 months to 4 years old, Méribel has a nursery for children aged 18 months to three years old and kindergartens for kids aged four to 12 years old, and MeriNannies in Courchevel have CRB-checked professional staff ready to take care of your kids while you enjoy a rare romantic meal or an off-piste adventure.
Accommodation in The Three Valleys
There’s a huge variety of accommodation in The Three Valleys, but the following establishments exemplify the excellent standards you can expect:
• Les Balcons de Val Thorens offers comfortable family-friendly accommodation with doorstep skiing, parking, Wi-Fi throughout, an in-house restaurant, spa and swimming pool.
• Les Fermes de Méribel is a pet- and family-friendly option with well-appointed suites for families of all sizes, an in-house pool and spa and a location that’s a stone’s throw from the slopes.
• Hotel New Solarium in Courchevel’s Jardin Alpin sector has a large sun terrace, high quality restaurant and an indoor pool and sauna. Rooms are comfortable, there’s doorstep skiing with easy access to green and blue runs and half board accommodation can be arranged. It’s evident that if you’re yearning for a ski holiday which is suitable for any type of group, has a huge range of pristine pistes and eclectic off-slope entertainment, The Three Valleys is second to none.
Chat to Erna Low about your Three Valleys ski holiday options soon ̶ with over 80 years of experience in Alpine travel, no one is better equipped to deliver your holiday of a lifetime.
The Three Valleys Ski Area
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