The best ski place in Europe? For me, definitely in France. Surely there are many other awesome spots in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and elsewhere, but the French Val Thorens and Tignes are right at the top of my list. I have visited both French Alp resorts several times and I can say that I know them quite well. However, with each visit I still discover something new as it keeps developing and expanding. After about a decade (due to living in Germany, the pandemics and my second pregnancy), I finally got the chance to return to Europe´s highest ski resort in March 2022. Val Thorens lies on 2300m above sea level and it was absolutely amazing to wake up surrounded by all those mighty mountain peaks covered in snow once again. Even though Mila was only 9 months old at the time and I obviously couldn´t ski as much as in pre-baby times, I made the best out of this week and had 5 wonderful half-day ski days. The content of this post is based on this year´s and all of my previous visits to Val Thorens, read it to find out more about the village itself, accommodation possibilities, ski slopes in the largest ski system in the world, 3 Vallees, which also includes Meribel, Courchevel and other areas.
Visited: Val Thorens – Orelle & 3 Vallees ski resorts
How: our car
Stayed in:Le Cheval Blanc, Les Balcons de Val Throens, Le Hameau du Kashmir
The road to Val Thorens, France
All of my Val Thorens ski holidays were in March and we always drove with our own car from Slovenia. The landscape in Italy always smells and looks like Spring in this time of the year and it was usually always an easy drive concerning road conditions, with an exemption of the very last part. From LJUBLJANA, Slovenia we pass VENICE, MILAN, TORINO, the FREJUS tunnel and the French town of ALBERTVILLE (where we always made a food shopping stop and stock up on French goodies) before turning up to the windy road taking us to VAL THORENS. This way usually takes us 9 hours excluding the stops.
Acommodation in Val Thorens, France
We are not the type for HOTEL ROOMS, although there are certainly many many to choose from here in VT, we always prefer to choose APARTMENTS where we cook ourselves. These are often located within hotel complexes, which means that you can use common areas such as swimming pools and wellness. As a rule, rooms and apartments are quite small around here, the more affordable ones can also be less equipped in terms of kitchen utensils etc. It’s nice if you have a balcony, especially if you go in March or April, when the afternoon sun is very pleasant alreday and you can enjoy the weather in short sleeves. Since the whole village is built practically on a ski slope, almost all accommodation facilities have the option of “SKI IN – SKI OUT” and this is really very practical. In addition, almost all the places also have a designated SKI ROOM with lockers and heaters for your equipment. Apartments are definitely (at least in the pre-Covid years) worth booking several months in advance, we usually did it somewhere in August.
You can also opt for an PACKAGE DEAL through a TRAVEL AGENCY, which offers you bus transport and accommodation, and sometimes a ski pass is already included in the price. Depends from which place you are coming from and how many you are but this might be a cheaper and more comfortable option as driving with your own car.
Val Thorens town
In the first place, you´ll rpbably visit Val Thorens for its amazing ski slopes and other fun winter activities. But you might end up being surprised how much there is to do besides the daily sports activities in the fresh air. In the late afternoons it is very pleasant to walk around the streets, stroll between all the SPORTS SHOPS and BARS, many of which offer a happy hour deal for drinks and food, but then there´s also loads of RESTAURANTS which offer great culinary experinces. In the mornings, don´t miss out on buying French pastry in local BAKERIES.
Also, in case of bad weather there will be lots to do, definitely bring your swimmers as there are a few INDOOR SWIMMING POOL – possibly even at your accommodation, but there´s also a public one. There is also a brand new larger SHOPPING MALL and every Tuesday and Thursday you can also visit the open air LOCAL MARKET, where you can buy mainly excellent local salamis, cheeses and jams.
VAL THORENS – ORELLE and 3 VALLEES ski areas
The main reason why I am always happy to return is, of course, the exceptional ski runs. Not only are they always super prepared, they are also quite wide and long, which ensures optimal conditions for skiing, even when there are a large number of skiers on the ski slope. It´s important to know, that you can choose between TWO TYPES OF SKI TICKETS.
ONE SKI TICKET covers the ski areas in the VAL THORENS and ORELLE. Here you will find about 150 km OF PISTES of varying difficulty (data from 2022 says 8 black tracks, 30 red, 39 blue and 11 green for beginners). You can also find SKI SCHOOLS FOR CHILDREN AND BEGINNERS here, and the main crossroads of the slopes are located practically in both of these areas and are extremely easily accessible. Virtually all apartments and hotels in Val Thorens have direct access to the ski area. THE PRICE OF A DAILY SKI TICKET for an adult in the main season is 59€.
THE OTHER SKI TICKET, however, covers a wider area of the so-called three valleys or 3 VALLEES. It allows you to ski on the ski slopes and connecting slopes of Val Thorens, Orelle, Les Menuires, Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains and Courchevel. In total, over 600 km OF PISTES. You are guaranteed not to be bored even if you ski every day from 9 -5 all week long. The map in 2022 shows 36 black lines, 110 red, 144 blue and 49 green in this wider ski area. THE PRICE OF A DAILY SKI TICKET for an adult in the main season is 66€.
Here is a few snapshots from the VAL THORENS – ORELLE ski area. The highest peaks here are CIME DE CARON (3195m), which is reached by a mighty gondola from Val Thorens and BOUCHET (3230m), which goes up from Orelle. Both peaks offer amazing views so it makes sense to visit on a sunny day. If you like ski touring, there are a couple of great options from Caron to Orellle. In addition to the really beautiful trails from Caron, I also love the piste from the top of PECLET. At the foot of the slopes in Val Thorens, walking distance from all the resorts, there are also PISTES FOR BEGINNERS, otherwise there are also SNOW PARKS, TOBOGAN RUNS and similar attractions along different pistes in the area.
And here are a couple of photos from the rest of the 3 VALLEES SKI SYSTEM, so the ski runs around MERIBEL, COURCHEVEL and MENUIRES. My favorite trails in this part are definitely from the top of VALLON mountain, otherwise the pistes here run on slightly little lower altitudes and there can be less snow towards the end of the inter. There are also noticeable differences in the landscape, as we occasionally ski here between spruces and other mountain vegetation.
In addition to the mentioned pistes, there are also excellent opportunities for SKIING OFFPISTES and SNOW TOURING – of course only if there is enough snow and you know what you are doing. I would say that skiing conditions are always the best in Val Thorens over the other places of the 3 Vallees ski area, simply because it lies on the highest altitude. If you get multi-day ski tickets, the price reduces a little bit but I would only buy a weekly ticket if the weather report was very stable. The conditions here in the mountains can really change so quickly and you might end up with a couple of non-skiing days due to fog, strong winds or heavy snowfall. March is a pretty safe month to visit though, you have to be really unlucky to have bad weather the whole week. It is also possible to only buy tickets for Val Thorens – Orelle area (which are cheaper) and then top them day by day if you wish to use the whole 3 Vallees area.
In March 2022, we had another very special experience, namely skiing on freshly fallen snow mixed with SAHARA SAND. Exactly that week during our visit, the winds from Africa were so strong, that pieces of sand colored the white slopes in interesting shades of orange.
Mountain huts and other offer at 3 Vallees ski area
A short break and lunch in the sun? And another cold beer on top? How about a slice of yummy cake and coffee? Of course, there is no shortage of culinary options over here, but there is still a big difference in price if you are used to the prices of Austrian or Italian ski resorts. However, if you can afford something here and there, I suggest a nice onion soup and a piece of delicious cake. For those who are more thirsty than hungry, it is definitely necessary to go to one of the ICE BARS built along the slopes, and those who are especially eager to have fun must end the day at the famous LA FOLIE DOUCE cottage. You cannot go up there as a non-skier unless you walk up the hill because the lift only takes people with ski equipment on. Otherwise, thereare also enough authentic apres ski experience bars in te town of Val Thorens and everyone of them seems to offer happy hours too.
Useful information for skiing holidays in Val Thorens
Book your accommodation MONTHS IN ADVANCE, especially if you want a more affordable room or a very nice apartment. These two seem to get booked the fastest. Having a balcony is very nice (although the apartments are significantly more expensive then), for afternoon sunbathing or cooling your drinks over night when the refrigerator is full of food.
Don´t forget about proper HEALTH INSURANCE and make sure your car is equipped with WINTER EQUIPMENT (winter tires and chains just in case).
Buy larger quantities of FOOD AND DRINKS at home, on the road in Italy or in Albertville, France. You get a lot in Val Thorens, but for a much higher price.
CHECK THE WEATHER REPORT for the next few days before buying a weekly ski pass. Those are cheaper than buying them every day, but if there is fog or heavy snow for 3 days, you may have to stay in the apartment and play cards to the point of exhaustion.
Always CARRY A SKI PISTES MAP with you and don’t forget to watch the time – you have to return to the place where you are staying at before the lifts are closed. If you are at the other end of the system, you will need some time in order to return.
SAFETY FIRST – do not ski off-piste if you have no experience and are not familiar with snow conditions. Also check the level of danger of landslides.
BRING ENOUGH MONEY especially if you plan evening visits to bars and enjoy daily lunches on the ski slope.
LEARN A FEW BASIC FRENCH WORDS because even though you are in one of the most touristy areas, employees in bakeries and shops often do not understand English well.
So, I hope some of you found this post useful and I´ve possibly insipred some of you to pick Val Thorens for your next ski holidays adventure as well. At the time of my last visit in March 2022, Mila was only 9 months old and unfortunatelly we never visited it with Lu in the past years, so it’s hard to write about how child-friendly the ski resort is – we will surely be back soon and I´ll keep updating this post.
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