Vast terrain, high elevation
Long way home to the other valleys
This is one of three reviews based on a recent trip to "Les Trois Valles", the 3 Valleys region of the French Alps. Located about 30 miles southwest of Mont Blanc and 20 miles west of Val d'Isere, 3 Valleys lays claim to the title of Largest Ski Area in the World, with over 260 lifts and some 600 km of pistes.
The region had not had any significant snow accumulation for two weeks prior to my visit. Despite websites extolling an epic year for snow in the Alps, the details on conditions told a different story, with off-piste skiing described as "limited". That was a disappointment, because the off-piste potential for this area in a good snow year is truly vast.
The western-most of the "3 Valleys", the valley I refer to here as “Val Thorens” actually includes 3 distinct villages/areas: Saint Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires, and the village of Val Thorens, which at 2300m is the highest resort village in the 3 Valleys region. If you purchase a 3 Valleys lift pass, you need not worry as you transition from one area to the next. (Unless you are a beginner intending to stick to just a very small area, I highly recommend the 3 Valleys pass for max flexibility.)
I entered the valley by way of Meribel and the Tougnete lifts. The view from the ridgeline separating the two valleys is breathtaking.... peaks stretching in all directions, with the huge Mont Blanc massif to the north.
Getting all the way to Val Thorens involved a pretty long traverse, via the village of Les Menuires. The Mont de la Chambre chair and Bruyeres 2 Gondola, which both off load at Mont de la Chambre, service some pretty nice terrain. A had to pick my way through some rocks to get onto Leo Lacroix, but once I did, the snow was good and I had it all to myself.
After sampling the terrain off the Moraine and Col chairs, I began to work my way back to Les Menuires. This involved a very long run with some big flat stretches....in general, be advised that getting to and from the far corners of Val Thorens takes a long time, so planning your day carefully is advised. You don't want to get stranded in the wrong valley when the lifts start to close.
Unfortunately, I was staying a long way away and had to quit early to begin the long run from the Mont de La Chambre summit back down to Meribel.
I only skied a small fraction of Val Thorens. I hope to return, but will likely do so later in the year when the snow pack is deeper and I can explore off-piste. Friends who have skied there often tell me it’s truly amazing.