Val Thorens

If you want to get the most out of your winter sports holiday, then Val Thorens is the place to be. Val Thorens has a warm, welcoming atmosphere and a breathtaking natural environment. All ingredients are present for an unforgettable world-class winter sports holiday. It is a pleasant and friendly place where both beginners and advanced winter sports enthusiasts can indulge themselves. The ultimate goal: to fully enjoy the high-quality slopes and superb snow conditions. The area literally and figuratively brings visitors to great heights. Whether it’s winter sports, accommodation, or après-ski. It is hardly a secret that Val Thorens has been one of the world’s top ski resorts for years. It has been regarded as the best ski village in France and Val Thorens received the top prize at the World Ski Awards for sixth consecutive times.

Safe choice

At the end of November – the winter sports season starts early in legendary Val Thorens – you are assured of three things. The first and the most important: an early-season relatively thick layer of quality snow. Val Thorens is the highest winter sports resort in Europe. Due to its high location (at 2300 meters), you are already assured of a good amount of snow in November. When mother nature can use a handful of help, the necessary snow cannons provide back-up. Val Thorens has a large water buffer and can therefore produce a lot of artificial snow. However, this is rarely necessary.

The second you can count on is a wide selection of accommodation; ranging from economic self-catering accommodation to the best five-star luxury hotels. The resort is only one square kilometer in size, but has appartments and hotels of different sorts and price class at its disposal. There are more than 25,400 beds for tourists. People sometimes tend to forget that Val Thorens also has many cozy chalets and chalet-style accomodation. What almost all accommodations have in common is the convenience of the so-called ‘ski-in’ and ‘ski-out’. The majority of accommodations are located directly on the slopes, so you only have to strap-on your equipment and enjoy the endless ski opportunities right in front of you!

The third and final point is that in Val Thorens you are assured of the ultimate winter pleasure thanks to the large variety of slopes, some of them legendary. So, whether you are a beginner, or seasoned veteran you are assured of enough choice to keep you busy and happy for a week.

Wide slopes at your door step

Val Thorens is a fantastic place to find your feet in as it’s packed with confidence-boosting wide, cruisy blue runs and plenty of piste for less-experienced skiers to get their teeth into. At the same time, there’s a huge range of pistes to suit even the most advanced skiers and boarders, with challenging reds and blacks, moguls and ungroomed pistes to be found. The steepest descent is the Combe de Caron. Snow parks have been created at various locations. The Val Thorens snow park can compete with the top of Europe.

The heart of the town is focused around the top of a short slope equipped with a canopied conveyor-belt surface-lift, which enhances the ski-in/ski-out convenience. The main access road through the resort is bridged by a couple of pisted bridges that funnel a through-route piste via the down-town area, so slope users can simply glide through the middle of the resort to access all areas. At the front of the resort you will find an excellent gentle beginners’ area with canopied conveyor-belts and a drag lift. The beginner’s lifts are free of charge. In general, the beginner runs are all situated right in the heart of the resort in and around the nursery slopes and lifts. Progression will be on blue runs many of which are easy and wide so that beginners can gain confidence. A gentle set of nursery slopes around the Rond Point des Pistes provides an excellent training ground, with greens and blues off the Deux Lacs and Cascades chairs well positioned for graduation to the piste-proper. Intermediates will love the grippy, confidence-boosting snow on many of the runs above Val Thorens itself. And, the best thing? You don’t have to worry as all these slopes converge into town.

Val Thorens’ ski area fans out over seven distinct sectors, including the mostly blue-classified slopes of the Col de la Chambre, where links towards Meribel-Mottaret and Les Menuires are situated. The high Peclet sector directly above Val Thorens, offers a handful of nice long reds plus a glacial black, while the narrow Pointe de Thorens sector at the head of the valley provides access to epic off-piste routes but also has a lovely long red-into-blue cruise back towards resort.

The principal twinned Rosael and Cime de Caron sectors form the bulk of the area, filled with wide high-altitude blues and reds plus some testing mogulled blacks. The ‘fourth valley’ sector of Orelle, over the watershed in the Maurienne Valley beyond the col de Rosael, boasts the highest lift-served point in the entire Three Valleys; and finally the usually quieter Boismint sector that overlooks the Vallon du Lou and runs down to Plan de l’Eau at 1800m, the lowest point in the Val Thorens ski area.

The three Glaciers, that form the crown of VT-snow bowl, comprise Glacier de Peclet which is at an altitude of 3100m, the Glacier de Thorens at an elevation of 3130m and the Glacier de la Pointe Renod at 3230m. The tops of these glacier runs offer either red or black runs down from the top, however, there are easily accessible blue runs which run down from about the halfway mark on all of them.

Snow bowl

Val Thorens ski resort is not only the highest village in France’s famous -600km- Trois Vallées linked ski area, it’s also the highest ski resort in Europe; snow conditions are very reliable throughout a long season. SkiWeather.eu ranks Val Thorens among the best destinations in Europe for that matter. Val Thorens welcomes a whopping 6 to 10 meter of snow during the winter season and its altitude means its much less affected by mid-season thaws, too. Val Thorens’ ski area is comprised of the highest and most reliably snow-sure sectors in France and makes for a superb late or early season skiing destination. In fact, Val Thorens is so sure that their resort will have snow from November to May, that they have a Snow Ski Pass Guarantee!

Where to party

Val Thorens is an après heavyweight. The après-ski in Val Thorens is considered the best in France. So, you can already start in the afternoon on the terrace of La Folie Douce, near the top station Plein Sud, where DJs play excellent music which often creates a huge party. Especially on sunny days when the south-facing, sun-drenched mega-terrace is filled with an enthousiastic crowd. Across the mountain and served by a gentler green run down into the village lies 360 Bar, La Folie’s’ lesser known but equally enthusiastic counterpart. In town you will find many après-ski venues including the famous Le Monde, where everyone is whipped up with party music. A very nice pub next door is the Snesko, there is always live music here. Furthermore, there are plenty of small bars where you can have a nice drink and want to continue for a while. Towards the early hours, Club Malaysia -which is located underground- will get you a worthy end of your party.

Off the slopes

Val Thorens is a fairly big town, but a compact one nonetheless; its wide streets and covered walkways are pedestrian friendly and it has a good selection of shops, supermarkets, cafés, restaurants, bars and pubs, plus plenty of indoor facilities to cope with any inclement weather, mostly located in or around the big central Galerie Caron complex that houses a shopping mall and leisure centre. The leisure centre has a spa, swimming pools, a gym and fitness suite, squash courts, multi-sports hall plus a children’s fun-park area. Several hotels also have spas that are open to non-residents. Other leisure options include ten-pin bowling, games arcades, and a cinema. For more active fun there’s snowmobiling, mountain biking on snow, paragliding, paintball, an ice driving circuit, and an epic 6km toboggan run from the top of the Peclet gondola.


Copyright: Hotel AltaPura

Moving on up

In recent years Val Thorens has steadily drifted more upmarket with many new 4 and 5* residences opening, improvements to its lift system and with the local resort facility modernisation programmes too. What is striking is that Val Thorens has invested a lot in recent years in the atmosphere of the village and the ski huts on the slopes. Instead of the stone eateries, more wooden ski huts have been built, which provides more atmosphere and ambience. Another development is that many five-star hotels have entered the scene. Some examples of these hotels are Fahrenheit7, FitzRoy, Altapura and Pashmina. In total there are now over 25 five-star hotels. This brings in a different audience. More wealthy people. In recent years the so-called Val Tho has been busy getting rid of the student image and this makes it very popular with older skiers nowadays. The restaurants in the village and on the slopes capitalize on this. There will be more gastronomy.

In conclusion

Val Thorens has become the buzziest and most well-rounded high-altitude ski resort in the Alps. Thanks to continued investment, it’s still evolving. Bars like La Folie Douce and 360 have brought a powerful apres-ski buzz, while a new generation of upmarket hotels such as Altapura, the Koh-i-Nor, and Hotel Pashmina – as well as smart self-catering residences – are broadening the appeal beyond its traditional, budget-conscious core. Val Thorens has a loyal following. Students and twenty-somethings love the place – because despite its recent step upmarket, there’s still plenty of budget self-catering accommodation here, and the apres-ski scene is one of the best in France. The future is looking bright for Val Thorens, as it is one of the few ski destinations with a spotless snow record. In a time when climate change is affecting low-altitude ski resorts, VT is a reliable choice for a holiday without any worries. Whether it is snow condition, value for money or plain fun.

Getting there

Nearest airport: Chambéry, 90 minutes (122km), Geneva, two hours and 30mins (200km). The nearest train station to Val Thorens is Moutiers which is about 45 minutes away by car or bus if you’re staying in Val Thorens. A regular shuttle bus runs from the train station to Les Menuires and Val Thorens. More info: valthorens.com

During the winter season (mid December to 1st week of April) Eurostar runs both a direct daytime and a direct overnight train from London St Pancras or Ashford in Kent to Moutiers. The direct daytime Eurostar leaves London / Ashford on Saturday mornings and arrives around 7-8 hours later in Moutiers. Cross country trains also connect Moutiers to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, changing in Lyon, which takes around 6.5 hours. If you’re coming from Lyon Part Dieu (across town from Lyon Saint Exupery airport) you can reach Moutiers on the regional trains which takes around 3 hours. If you’ve flown into Geneva, trains change either at Chambery, Bourg en Bresse or Lyon and then onward to Moutiers, which takes around 3-4 hours.

Link suggestions

For more information on Val Thorens, Trois Vallees, please visit the official website of Val Thorens

Profile Snow

Known for it’s traditional atmosphere, beautiful backdrop and wide meandering slopes Les Houches is often under-rated as a ski destination in Chamonix Valley. However, if you prefer a slower pace of life away from the hustle and bustle of Chamonix, enjoy breathtaking scenery, yet still have a good selection of challenging slopes then head to Les Houches at the bottom of the valley. Les Houches is perfect for families, progressing beginners or cruising intermediates as there are many mellow runs descending through magical snow covered fir forests. Moreover, Les Houches is your best bet for open lifts on a powder day.

The village of Les Houches sits at an altitude of 1002 metres. It’s the lowest ski resort in the Chamonix valley and the first ski resort you’ll reach as you drive up and enter the valley from the motorway. The Les Houches ski resort, with over 55km of beautiful tree lined runs, stands at the foot of Mont Blanc offering a spectacular backdrop to your ski experience.

Perfect for families with it’s wide, blue pistes and it’s dedicated kids Ski Camp play area, it also has enough reds, twelve in total, to keep intermediate skiers happy. Beginners will love the gentle beginners area at the Prarion and more advanced skiers can try their hand on the famous world cup black run – the Kandahar.

The Bellevue Cable Car in the centre of Les Houches brings you to the Bellevue plateau (1800m). The Prarion gondola, further on through the village, takes you up to 1900m. The Prarion lift shunts you up to the heart of the ski area. It’s here you’ll find the beginners slope accessed by the Ecole 4 man chair, lots of gentle blue graded pistes and the Ski Camp play area for kids. Five lovely broad blues meander tamely down through a ‘forêt du sapins’ on the Saint Gervais side of the mountain. With plenty of easy blue pistes, Les Houches is much less intimidating than the rest of the valley and a great place for beginner skiers to progress up from the Espace Debutant.

Les Houches

For intermediate skiers Les Houches offers a whopping 12 red pistes. Access via Bellevue leads you straight onto three short reds down to the Grands Bois drag lift. On the Saint Gervais side, at the end of both the blue graded Chamois and the Abbaye pistes, there’s the option of further vertical decent via two red pistes, the Plan du Crêt or the Plancerts. Both take you to the base of the long, 40 year old Plancerts drag lift (1370m).

With a vertical drop 900 metres, the home runs back to the village are quite long, and unlike any other ski mountain in Chamonix, Les Houches has not one but three different home piste gradients. Take your pick from blue, red or black pistes to get you home. You can ski down to either car park, Bellevue or Prarion.

Les Houches is renowned in the valley for being excellent on bad weather days. Because so many of Les Houches’s runs are in between trees, it’s a great place to ski when visibility is low or during high winds. Also if there have been high amounts of snow falling, and avalanche risk is high, many or sometimes all of the other Chamonix lifts may be closed. This is when Les Houches champions. It is rarely closed. Les Houches is relatively snow sure for it’s altitude. All the runs are mainly north facing and hold the snow really well. Lower slopes are prone to rain when temperatures soar.

Getting there

It takes around an hour to transfer from Geneva to Les Houches. From Geneva airport, either organise a direct resort transfer through one of Chamonix’s many transfer companies. We had a very good experience with Chamonix-based Cham-van.

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