Ultimate guide to skiing in the Three Valleys
3rd November 2017
The Three Valleys is the largest linked ski area in the world and one of the most popular destinations in France for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. There is nowhere that comes close to matching the scale of skiing for intermediate skiers who like to travel distance, but complete beginners and experts will love the skiing here too.
If you are looking for a great ski deal, the three valleys is hard to beat
The Three valleys cover 600km of perfectly linked pistes with a ski range from 1260m to 3230m and 180 ski lifts. We have clients who claim to have skied every run in a week, but we doubt that its possible.
As the name suggests its ski area is spread over three valleys, in the far left as you look at the piste map is Courchevel 1650, which these days is referred to as Moriond spreading to, on the far right of the piste map, the Belleville valley, home to Val Thorens, the highest ski village in Europe at 2300m.
The Three Valleys includes some of the best-known ski resorts in France, Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens but there other smaller less well-known villages that make a great base for exploring the Three Valleys. Meribel Village, La Tania, La Praz, also known as Courchevel 1300, Les Menuires, Reberty, Le Bettaix, Mottaret and St Martin de Belleville.
The mountain restaurants are excellent in the Three Valleys, you’ll know the expensive ones, they are the ones with silver service big furry blankets and huge wine and Champagne coolers! For real fine dining, the 3 valleys has some excellent Michelin starred restaurants.
How Much Does A Three Valleys Lift Pass Cost?
|Full Area Lift Pass Prices In The Three Valleys 2018|
|Adult 6 Day Pass||€300|
|Adult 65 to 75 years||€270|
|Child 5 to 13 years 6-day||€240|
|Child under 5 or adults over 75||FREE|
|Family pass (2 adults 2 children)||€960|
|Buy 2 adult passes||10% Discount|
|Buy 3 adult passes||20% Discount|
If you are planning on buying your ski pass through your tour operator, it’s worth knowing they only receive commission on the adult and child passes, we have known one “unnamed” tour operator to sell a full ski pass to a 78-year-old, who qualified for a free pass.
There are several excellent ski schools in the Three Valleys. We are huge fans of Oxygene ski school, we have been working with them for nearly two decades, small English-speaking classes are just what our clients want.
We also recommend New Generation ski school which is British run and has an excellent reputation too.
Getting to The Three Valleys
The easiest way to reach the ski resorts in the Three Valleys is by Eurostar, the station at Moutiers is within about 30 minutes of most of the ski resorts. We offer package ski holidays by Eurostar trains direct from London, it’s also possible to book a TGV train from Paris which operates a daily service from Paris.
The nearest airport is Chambery, about 1 hour 45 minutes, Geneva takes a little longer at 2 hours 30 minutes. Grenoble is used by several tour operators and is around 2 hours 25 minutes.
If you prefer to take the car, driving to the Alps takes around 8 to 9 hours from Calais.
Skiing in the Courchevel Valley
Visitors to the Courchevel Valley mainly choose catered chalets, we offer a huge choice to suit every budget and taste.
Its possible to buy a local ski pass, covering just the Courchevel valley, its 150km of pistes so it’s big enough for a weeks skiing if you don’t normally cover any great distance.
Off-piste skiing in Courchevel
Despite Courchevel’s reputation for having beautifully groomed slopes with corduroy stripes, its home to some of the best off-piste skiing too, much of it with easy lift access or only a short climb but a guide is essential.
Courchevel 1650 AKA Moriond
Courchevel 1650 is a cracking base, being at the far side of the ski area the slopes here are often some of the quietest in the whole area. Most visitors choose to stay in ski chalets, there is a wide choice to suit all budgets and tastes.
An ideal place to stay for any level of skiers and one of the best for complete or near beginners in the Three Valleys as the Green slopes link nicely and are wide and quieter than at Courchevel 1850. The progression slopes work perfectly both in the local area and the wider full area too. You access the skiing via the Ariondaz bubble. Make sure you don’t miss the blue runs connected by a double drag lift, because it’s a drag, many simply don’t venture up, but the runs down hold great snow, are deserted and great fun.
If you like your après ski, this is the best of all the Courchevel villages to be based in, The Bubble bar is a firm favourite and features bands and DJ’s.
Courchevel 1650 is an ideal choice for families because of the fantastic new pool complex that opened in 2014, an ideal option for any non-ski days.
Courchevel 1550 AKA Courchevel Village
The road through Courchevel 1550 has the accommodation on one side and the skiing on the other, We have several very popular chalet hotels here and some excellent catered ski chalets. Staying here is less than its more expensive sister resort of 1850.
Courchevel 1550 is immediately below its more upmarket sister resort of 1850 and offers much better-valued accommodation than can be found in 1850. There are two lifts departing from either end of the village at 1550, both lead to Courchevel 1850, which is where connections to the rest of the Three Valleys pistes are made.
There is also an excellent toboggan run down from 1850 that finishes in Courchevel village and is popular with both adults and children.
The nightlife in Courchevel 1550 revolves around the bars. Rockies bar in the centre is always a popular après ski venue.
It was many years ago that we had some great low budget options to stay in 1850, sadly not anymore, as the arrival of the wealthy Russian guests meant the owners of the lower priced accommodation quickly elected to redevelop their hotels into Luxurious places to stay. Courchevel still attracts a few Russians but mainly over the 2 weeks of Russian New Year, and they have Sochi now!
The mountain airport at Courchevel 1850 sees private jets landing and brings some of the wealthiest skiers from around the globe. Some of the luxury retail stores in Courchevel 1850 take more money than their Paris stores, such is the wealth of some of the visitors. So if you have been looking for a mink-lined denim jacket or a diamond-encrusted Rolex you’ll find one here!
Courchevel’s pistes are regarded to be some of the best kept anywhere in the World, corduroy stripes are maintained throughout the day, particularly on the excellent beginner slopes around the village.
Courchevel isn’t just for the rich, we have some excellent chalet hotels for families, located on some of the best beginner slopes in and around 1850. The Chalet Hotel Crystal 2000 is very popular with families wanting childcare.
For a ski resort with such high rollers, the nightlife is remarkably quiet.
Courchevel 1300 AKA La Praz
Mal in our sales team did several ski seasons in La Praz, in fact, It’s where he met his wife. Mal is our biggest fan of this attractive ski village. It’s perhaps most famous for the ski jump, a relic of the 1992 winter Olympics games.
The narrow cobbled streets give it a feel of a real working village, we offer a limited choice of ski chalets, some excellent hotels and a few popular apartments.
La Tania is the last of the villages in the Courchevel villages, it’s our sales director, Sarah’s favourite ski resort in the Three Valleys. It was originally built to house the competitors in the 1992 winter games but has developed over the years into a small chalet village, almost car-free (except on change over days over the weekends), a large car park below the village is free, but not covered.
Two runs, a red and blue cut through the trees form the top of Chenus, both runs are great fun, especially the blue, whenever we stay in La Tania, it’s always our first run, even though it brings us back to the starting point, in good snow or even in bad snow, it has to the best blue run in the whole area. The blue is very popular with ski school groups, particularly at lunchtime as it has some of the best value restaurants for lunch in the area on the way down and at the bottom in the village.
From the Chenus, you have the option to ski over to Courchevel 1850 or drop over to the Meribel valley.
La Tania has a very good nursery slope, ideal for children. There is a green run, but it’s not ideal for nervous beginners, as its both narrow and in sections steep, one short section is in fact on the red run. The better option for beginners is to take the cable car up and down, at least until you can ski the blue.
Nightlife is OK, and very good if you have teenagers who are ready to start enjoying après ski. The lodge and a cocktail bar are limited, but both very good.
We have a very good selection of catered ski chalets in La Tania, some offering in-house childcare.
Skiing in the Meribel Valley
The central valley of the three, your choice of villages is the main Meribel Centre or Meribel Village a charming small satellite village sandwiched between Meribel centre and La Tania. The highest village in the valley is over to the right of and higher than Meribel is Mottaret. Each are quite distinctive, but all share the central valley of the ski area, so are ideally placed to explore the whole area.
It’s the central position in the ski area that makes Meribel so popular with winter sports enthusiasts. There is a local ski pass, which covers the Meribel valley only and covers 150km of great skiing, via 41 ski lifts. Most skiers take the full area pass, in the excitement of skiing this great ski area its all too easy to ski into a valley not covered on your ski pass, so we always recommend getting the full area pass.
Meribel slopes face roughly East and West and are not the highest slopes in the Three Valleys, so from mid-March when returning via Courchevel on West facing slopes that have caught the full force of the sun conditions can become slushy and in the morning and can be still frozen solid from overnight temperature drops.
The slopes around the Altiport are sheltered from the sun and snow is normally some of the best to be found in the valley. It’s here that many first-time skiers head, there is a superb network of gentle green runs, easily reached via the Rhodos bubble and leads to slopes around the treeline, an excellent place to hone your skills. This area is also popular with families skiing together, the Inuit village has whoops, tunnels, banked turns and a nature trail through the trees.
Dining and Après ski in Meribel
We have always been disappointed at the choices of mountain restaurants around Meribel, with one exception, The Folie Douce and Fruitiere complex which are highly recommended. Our recommendation is to dine at the restaurants in the other valleys, as they are better.
If you like a combination of skiing and partying, then Meribel is an excellent choice. The party starts at the Folie Douce from around 3pm, it gets packed on a sunny afternoon with spectacular dance shows and dancing in ski boots on table tops. The longer established Rond Point at the top of the village is also popular.
There are a number of lively bars at Chaudanne, such as jacks or Meribar and the bars around the main square do good business later on. The former Dicks Tea Bar, is now called O’Sullivan’s and is open until early morning.
Off-piste skiing in Meribel
There are excellent off-piste opportunities in and around Meribel, but some of it can be dangerous, so we always recommend you book a guide, all of the local ski schools provide this service.
We have enjoyed the run from the Roc de Fer to La Raffort, near the mid station on the Olympic gondola from Brides Les Bains, from a ridge it drops into a gentle bowl, after fresh snow its good fun.
Some of the best off-piste runs are accessed from the Courchevel valley such as the Col du Fruit. Some of the best off-piste snow is accessed from the 3 Vallees chair over on the Val Thorens Valley which leads to varied terrain and some exciting, but challenging couloirs.
If you want to be central in the Three Valleys but looking for a quieter and altogether more intimate base to stay, you should consider staying in Meribel Village, its over towards La Tania and located at 1400m, access is via the Golf Chair and at the base of a really good blue run which cuts through the trees from the Altiport area of Meribel.
The nightlife is more laid back, the Lodge has live music and DJ’s and is the focal point of the après ski scene here.
The village of Mottaret is located at 1700m, it’s mainly apartments but with a limited selection of chalet hotels and catered chalets. Chalet hotel Tarentaise is a popular family chalet hotel and offers childcare.
Its location below the ridge to Val Thorens and above Meribel means its snow is often a little better. The Pas du Lac gondola links to the slopes above Meribel, while the Platieres gondola and Combes chair link to the ridge towards the Belleville valley and Val Thorens.
There is a small nightclub which is open late in Mottaret and the bars at the foot of the slopes are busy at tea time only.
Brides Les Bains and Meribel Les Allues
The spa town of Brides Les Bains was used by athletes and the media during the 1992 winter games. The installation of the Olympic gondola which connects it to the centre of Meribel makes for an ideal budget base in the Three Valleys. It’s advertised as being a 25-minute ride, but it takes 40. The problem is the last lift down departs at 5:00pm, too early if you want to enjoy the après ski fun in Meribel. There is an off-piste route that joins the mid station of the Olympic at Meribel Les Allues when conditions are good. Beware some websites advertise Meribel Les Allues, giving the impression its Meribel, which it is not, we have a couple of ski chalets here.
We use Brides Les Bains as a base extensively for weekend skiing breaks, the hotels are good value and the there are some excellent bars and restaurants.
Skiing in the Val Thorens Valley
The valleys real name is Belleville Valley, Val Thorens, is located at the top and the delightful village of St Martin de Belleville is at the bottom, with Les Menuires and its satellite village of Reberty 2000 in the middle.
A local pass is available that covers 150km and 32 lifts, but most visitors prefer to get the full area pass to gain access to the 600km of slopes that include Meribel and Courchevel.
Val Thorens offers a huge choice of off-piste skiing which should only be tackled with a guide. From the Chaviere glacier, there is an ideal off-piste route for beginners to first try off-piste skiing, it is gentle and wide, taking in some breath-taking views before re-joining the lift system at Plan Bouchet.
For skiers with more experience, the Lac du Lou is one of Val Thoren’s signature routes which drops 1400m via the Cime de Caron.
Val Thorens is the highest ski village in the Alps at 2300m, its never going to win a beauty contest, but great improvements have been made to soften the once brutal architecture from the 1960’s. This ski resort is moving upmarket, it was once home to mainly small self-catered apartments, but now boasts four, 5* hotels and is home to our bestselling, Club Med Sensations resort a winner of our ski hotel of the year.
We feature a good choice of apartment styled catered ski chalets, many of which are ski in, ski out, or very near to the nearest slopes.
On a cold winters day Val Thorens can be a bleak place, its well above the tree line and can suffer from high winds especially in the early season, before the snow has a good base, any fresh snow can be blown to the slopes below, so don’t always think, “it’s early we must be high”.
In the late season, Val Thorens can be one of the best places to ski, the slopes stay open until early May most years. We have enjoyed fantastic powder days in late April while skiing on our end of season ski trip.
Val Thorens has made huge improvements to the lifts infrastructure with new faster lifts replacing the older slower ones.
Nightlife and après ski in Val Thorens
The fun in Val Thorens starts on the slopes at the Folie Douce, on a sunny day there is no better place to enjoy the party, if you have never danced on tabletops in your ski boots, this is the place to start.
In the evening, there are no shortages of good clubs and bars, the Red fox at the Balcons is very popular, so too is the Frog and Roast Beef in the village which is popular with Brits. Later on from around 11:00pm the Malaysia cellar bar is a great venue with live bands and dancing.
Les Menuires, Reberty and Le Bettaix
Les Menuires is located at 1850m and just above is Reberty at 2000m. Both are above the tree line and although both villages are greatly improving some of the older concrete buildings around the centre are a good example of why the French should never build ugly high-rise buildings again.
Newer developments at Reberty are much more pleasing on the eye and the ski resort is becoming more popular due to this. Much of the accommodation here is ski in ski out or situated within a comfortable walk in ski boots from the slopes.
The lift system around Les Menuires is good fast and modern and spread lefts to reach the Meribel Valley or right linking to the higher slopes of Val Thorens.
Just below Les Menuires is a recent development of Le Bettaix, connected via a chair to the main resort, we offer a good selection of ski chalets with Hot Tubs and chalets offering childcare here too. It’s very quiet at night, taxis are available to get to the bright lights of Les Menuires.
All levels of skier will enjoy using this area as their base, for beginners, there is a good nursery slope with 5 magic carpets, which are free to use and excellent snowmaking means the snow is often good. Later in the season slush can be a problem.
Nightlife is quiet, a few bars are located in the Mall at La Croisette.
St Martin de Bellville
We are huge fans of the small attractive village at the foot of the valley, we first sold this resort in our days as a Teletext agent in the late 1990’s long before any chalets or tour operators sold holidays here. Its lovely old church dominates the skyline and some of the restaurants here serve exceptional food.
The lift system in St Martin de Belleville is constantly being upgraded and the beginner’s area has been re-shaped making it an ideal base for families with the addition of a magic carpet. New Generation ski school operates out of St Martin and are our recommended ski school here.
The run down to St Martin from the ridge connecting to Meribel is long, wide and great fun, it’s a favourite with ski schools around lunch time as its restaurants are good value for money too.
We offer some fairly upmarket ski chalets in St Martin de Belleville
Here are some of our favourite places to stay in the Three Valleys
All-Inclusive Club Med hotels in the Three Valleys:
Catered ski chalets in Three Valleys:
Chalet Catherine, Val Thorens, sleeps 18
Chalet Leterlou, Courchevel, sleeps 6
Chalet de la Lune, St Martin de Belleville, sleeps 12
Chalet Cote Coeur, La Tania, sleeps 14
Chalet Rikki, Courchevel, sleeps 22
Chalet Jasmine, Les Menuires, sleeps 10
Chalets and Chalet Hotels with Childcare in the Three Valleys:
Chalet hotel Alba, Meribel, sleeps 66
Chalet hotel Crystal 2000, Courchevel 1850, Sleeps 151
Chalet Katie 1, Reberty, sleeps 11-13
Self Catered apartments in the Three Valleys: