The Crystal Ski Holidays Blog

Three Valleys ski resorts, France; our guide

What’s not to love about the Three Valleys? With 600km of interconnecting slopes and 8 different resorts catering for just about anyone’s needs it’s a winner.
Find out more about this monster ski area and the Three Valleys ski resorts in our latest guide:

Why choose the Three Valleys?

  • Situated high up in the Tarentaise valley of the French Alps, you will find 335 ski runs varying in difficulty.
  • You can ski from 1300m–3230m in altitude, some of the biggest vertical in the Alps.
  •  There’s 4 glaciers to choose from – so excellent snow conditions all season long.
  •  This is the Goliath of skiing – the largest linked ski area in the world.
  • It’s easy to get to – all resorts are easily accessible via Chambery and Geneva airports, and also by Eurostar train, direct from London to Moutiers.

The 3 valleys of the Three Valleys

The Three Valleys, as the name suggests, consists of the 3 parallel valleys of Courchevel, Meribel and Belleville.

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The Courchevel Valley

The Courchevel valley is home to the little villages of La Tania, La Praz 1300, Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1650 and Courchevel 1850.

Courchevel is seen as an exclusive world renowned resort; it’s charming, elegant and really does stand out above the rest. In Courchevel 1850 and 1650 you’ll find luxury hotels, fabulous facilities, Michelin Star restaurants and designer shops.

La Tania and La Praz 1300 hold their own within the valley; they provide more affordable accommodations with great piste side locations.

Sitting in a pine forest at 1400m, ski-in ski-out La Tania  has enough restaurants and bars to give you variety through the week, and a supermarket too to stock up with bits too if you’re staying in the apartments there.

La Praz 1300  has a couple of restaurants and bars along with a supermarket and bakery for the essentials.

Both villages are well connected to Courchevel with a free bus service running though La Tania and La Praz throughout the day and night.

The Meribel Valley

The Meribel valley consists of 4 distinct areas; Meribel-Mottaret, Meribel, Meribel village and Les Allues. These resorts sit right in the heart of the of the ski area in the middle valley – so there’s some of the best access to ski the entire area during your holiday if you’re based here.

Meribel is the most famous of the villages, with a bustling resort centre where you’ll find a huge number of bars, restaurants and shops.

The village is beautiful in terms of the architecture, with the majority of the buildings designed in traditional alpine style. The centre is lit up with fairy lights all season long, adding that extra magical sparkle to the surroundings.

And if you are looking for the nightlife, Meribel centre is known for the best après scene in the Three Valleys. Its massive New Year’s party makes it a big-hitter on the apres calendar each season.

Mottaret is a purpose built resort situated just above Meribel at 1750m altitude – the majority of the hotels, apartments and chalets are on the side of the piste. There is a little village centre with a couple of nice bars and restaurants and a handful of shops selling all the ski and board holiday essentials.

Down in the valley is the spa town of Brides les Bains, linked to Meribel by gondola. This is fast becoming a preferred place to stay for budget conscious skiers who want to ski the Three Valleys without paying the slopeside accommodation pricetag that can go with it.

The Belleville Valley

The Belleville valley is home to the resorts of Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville and Val Thorens. It has some of the highest skiing in the Alps, so it’s as snow sure as it comes with 2 glaciers and skiing up to 3420 meters.

Saint Martin de Belleville and Les Menuires are family friendly resorts, known for their great après activities for all ages.

Les Menuires has a fantastic sports centre with a swimming pool, and a fun park with trampolines. Have a go on the 4 km long toboggan run too.

Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe at 2300m altitude. Built in the 1970s, it’s a skiers’ resort through and through –  it sits above the tree line in the bowl at the head of the Belleville Valley, with nearly all the accommodation being ski-in ski out.

You’ll find just about everything in Val Thorens; homely chalets, a whole range of apartments and plenty of hotels to choose from. Again this resort has a fantastic après scene and is well known for its night life.

Skiing in the Three Valleys

First time on the slopes?

Beginners are well looked after in the Three Valleys, you’ll find plenty of beginner areas and snow zones to choose from. Particular resorts to highlight for beginners are La Tania, Les Menuires and Val Thorens. You’ll find wide and gentle pistes, good quality beginner zones and convenient, gentle nursery slopes.

You class yourself as an intermediate?

You really can go where ever you like; but I suggest you head to the Meribel valley so you have the ultimate access to the whole ski area and find more challenging areas such as the Mont Vallon.

Love a challenging black?

You get to choose from the 30 black runs throughout the Three Valleys.  The most famous of them all being the “Grand Couloir” that sits right at the top of where Courchevel and Meribel meet.

Fancy doing it all in a week?

Follow the ‘Escapade’ symbol on the piste map to the 14 check points of the Three Valleys. The challenge is suggested to be completed throughout the week to ensure you make it to each corner of the 600km ski area. From personal experience it can actually be completed in a day if you fancy skiing like a lunatic and not stopping for breath, let alone lunch…

Who likes the park?

5 fantastic snow parks are scattered across the Three Valleys to keep you entertained on the piste with fun runs, boarder crosses and timed trials. Courchevel have a ‘Dark Park’ where you get to try out the jumps in the evening along with music and entertainment for a good après event.

Where to eat?

There’s lots of place to grab a bite when you’re on the slopes, but one of our favourites is the Restaurant du Plan des Mains, just above Mottaret.  If you’re travelling with Crystal, show your lift pass with ‘TUI’ printed on it for special rates and discounts on your lunch.

Après ski and things to do in the Three Valleys

Après ski in the Three Valleys is in a league of its own. With way too many to mention, each resort has its own unique style.

St Martin de Belleville and Les Allues are typical French villages, with pretty bars and restaurants.

If you are looking for the activities in the evening then Les Menuires, La Tania and Courchevel are geared up for plenty of fun activities off the slopes – take your pick from ice skating rinks, swimming pools, toboggan runs  and much more.

Meribel and Val Thorens are the ideal resorts to head to for the party lovers, with a huge number of bars to choose from including lots of British bars, and so of course, lots of Brits partying too.

Both resorts are well known for their fantastic piste side après venues – namely the Rond Point in Meribel and Folie Douce in Val Thorens. You’ll find live bands, DJ’s, table dancing and lots more everyday of the week from around 4.00pm.

What’s new for Winter 2012/13?

The Three Valleys lift systems have had a pretty significant revamp – if you’ve have skied there before you will remember the never ending bubbles to get to and from the different valleys.

Well that’s all changed over the past few seasons. Old bubbles have been switched for express 10 seater gondolas and fancy new chairlifts have replaced the old rickety ones, getting you from valley to valley in almost half the time.

The terrain parks have introduced some brilliant new equipment for this year too. For example, ‘Videozones’ record people’s performance through the park which can then be watched back at the bottom of the slopes. 

And even better, you can download the video onto your smart phone.

And there really is big news for the après party skiers, Meribel has built a brand new Folie Douce – the outdoor restaurant and club destination, adding to the two already in place in Val Thorens and over in Val d’Isere.

It’s said to provide altitude, music and a great mood and anybody who’s been to one of this chain of bars before will know it’s well worth a visit. You’ll find it at the mid station of the new Saulire Bubble that heads up towards Courchevel.

Share your experiences

Have you skied in the Three Valleys?

What did you enjoy about your trip to Val Thorens or your week in Meribel?

Leave us a comment and share your experiences.

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