Insider Tips on How to Make the Most of the Three Valleys.
The Three Valleys ski area sits in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, and is home to some of the country’s finest ski resorts. From Courchevel in the east, through la Tania, Meribel, Mottaret, St Martin de Belleville, les Menuires and then Val Thorens, the Three Valleys boasts the largest lift-linked ski area in Europe and is quite simply some of the most exciting terrain you could ever hope to ski.
From complete beginners through to world-class skiers and snowboarders, the Three Valleys has slopes suitable for all, and with so many resorts to explore the range of accommodation options here is spectacular. But the question is, whether you’re there for just a week’s holiday or you’re working there the entire winter ski season, how can you make the most of the mighty Three Valleys?!
Pistes for all Levels
Beginner skiers in the Three Valleys can find a number of areas which are perfect for comfortable progression. Meribel’s Altiport takes pride of place as the single best part of the Three Valleys for learner skiers. Gently rolling, broad, sheltered and long, it’s just the most fantastic place to master those all-important first turns. Aside from that, Courchevel 1850 and the nursery slope under Val Thorens town centre are also superb.
Intermediates looking for long, undulating terrain can focus on the area between Courchevel 1850 and Moriond, where the pistes flow down between the pines and exploration is a joy. The Meribel valley is well suited to intermediate cruising as well, especially on the Saulire side. The approach down into Mottaret is steeper, the perfect place to push yourself. The fantastic selection of blue and red pistes around the les Menuires and Val Thorens end of the Three Valleys are also ideally suited to intermediate skiers and boarders. In
Advanced skiers looking to get real mileage under their skis can challenge themselves to ski lift-to-lift and get right across the Three Valleys and back in time for après ski. Although it’s perfectly doable if you’re quick enough, you don’t want to get caught out the wrong side of a ridge as those taxis are pricey! Highlights include the red Jerusalem piste down towards St Martin and the Folyeres run down into La Tania. If you want a real challenge, try skiing from the Saulire peak all the way to either Courchevel le Praz or Meribel Village non-stop!
Off Piste; the Highlights
First things first – if you’re going off piste then pack a probe and transceiver and hire a guide! That said, read on. Everybody who knows the Three Valleys well will have their own favourite spots to head to when the powder is fresh, and this is a huge ski area so few people know them all!
A highlight from this writer involves starting at the Saulire peak and heading down the steep couloir above Meribel. Once through the couloir, stay right and stay high – you can traverse the entire mountainside off piste all the way down to the point where it re-joins the piste.
Another great of piste track starts at the Tougnete peak – in fresh snow you can drop in near there and bounce though fluffy powder all the way to St Martin! This run has its pitfalls though and a guide is highly recommended.
Over in Val Thorens, one spectacular bit of back country is accessed from the top of the Boismint chair. Once you reach the top, climb up and over the ridge in front of you and drop in. Following the valley along its natural course, you pop out at the bottom and can head off to the right to catch the base of the Plan de l’Eau chairlift.
Back in the Meribel valley, from the top of the Saulire gondola you can ski to the enormous rock that sits on the Courchevel/Meribel border, take a right and traverse past the edge of the piste. From here you can pick your line carefully and ride down the mountain off piste all the way to Meribel Mottaret!
In a nutshell, there are two outstanding parks in the Meribel Valley; the Moon Park and the DC Area 43 Snowpark. Both offer a superb range of hits and kickers, though the Moon Park is slightly smaller. Both parks are within easy reach of Meribel Centre, heading in the direction of les Menuires.
There’s also a fantastic snow park in Val Thorens, located under the Plateau lift.
Après ski and Nightlife
The best après ski and nightlife in the Three Valleys is found in Meribel centre, Courchevel Moriond and Val Thorens. Apres ski bars such as the Folie Douce in Val Thorens or the infamous Rond Point in Meribel are perfect places to enjoy a drink and a dance at the end of your ski day.
For late night partying, Malaysia nightclub in Val Thorens and Dicks Tea Bar in Meribel are highlights, with regular sets from international DJs as well as various club nights throughout the week.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a bit of peace and tranquillity, villages such as Courchevel le Praz, la Tania and St Martin have very little of the nightlife of their noisier neighbours and are the perfect antidote to all that silly dancing!
In general, the level of tuition you can expect in the Three Valleys is very good. With the ESF operating across the board and an excellent selection of international ski schools to choose from as well, classes for all levels and pursuits are readily available. Whether you’re looking for beginner lessons in the hope of learning the basics or hoping to progress to parallel turns on skis, keen to master mogul fields on your board or push yourself past your plateau, the sheer range of tuition options in the Three Valleys means you’ll find the right classes to meet requirements.
Overall however, the two resorts offering the highest quality tuition are Courchevel and Meribel. It’s in these resorts that the best beginner slopes can be found, and it’s here that the best of the best ski schools are based.