More than 600 km of ski slopes of different difficulty levels, all types of ski lifts and many little charming ski towns. Those are the 3 Vallées, a skiing region in the Tarentaise Valley in the Savoie department of South-eastern France and it’s the largest ski region in the world.
The ski region is huge… it’s simply impossible to ski all those 600 km of piste in one trip. I was there for eight days and probably didn’t even make one tenth of it. So, what do you need to know about the 3 Valleys before you go there for the first time?
Turn right and continue 20 km uphill. This is what the satnav showed when we turned to the spaghetti-shaped road leading to Les Menuires – one of the towns in the 3 Vallées. Generally, the best way to get to one of the 3 Vallées ski resorts is by car or a tour bus. The closest train and coach station is in Albertville – approx. 55 km from the ski resorts. Quite difficult to get to by public transport… so either rent a car, go with an organised tour, or book a transfer. When it comes to picking the ski resort you will be staying at, the choice is very easy. Pick the one with the cheapest hotel. Fact is that in the high season the hotels are not cheap at all.
Where to stay
You need to be prepared to spend a minimum of 1500 Euro for two people for a week. The ski resorts themselves, doesn’t really matter which one it is as all of them are connected via ski lifts. There are several but the five main ones are – St. Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires, Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens.
· St. Martin de Belleville – it’s said this is the prettiest resort in the 3 Vallées but it’s also the one that lies on the lowest altitude. In case the weather is not great, meaning it’s warm and there is not much snow skiing in St. Martin won’t be much fun
· Les Menuires – it’s the resort where mostly families stay so apre ski and nightlife is not very lively. The resort has a good location because it’s in the middle of the 3 Vallées and it’s a good spot if you want to ski over to the other resorts.
· Meribel – located also in the lower part of the 3 Vallées but good for apre skiing attractions and good connection to Courchevel.
· Courchevel – forget it, way too expensive. This is where the rich and famous stay and ski. Luckily to ski the Courchevel slopes you don’t need to pay extra so you pop in while you stay at a different – cheaper place.
· Val Thorens – the resort that lies on the highest altitude from 2300m to 300m above sea level. So in case the weather in the lower valley is bad, there is always plenty of snow and good skiing conditions in Val Thorens. Also, this is the perfect resort for nightlife due to the famous La Folie Douce.
Wherever you decide to stay you need to book way in advance. I booked my hotel in July and already then most of the places were sold out.
Slopes and ski pass
When it comes to the slopes, everyone will find something for themselves. The 3 Vallées have a huge variety when it comes to slopes. From easy green over medium daffily red to challenging black slopes. Also, the amount of ski lifts and gondolas can bring you to every corner of the 3 Vallées. Imagine 600 km of slopes, it’s simply impossible to do them all during one stay. My favourite slopes were in Val Thorens. Absolutely loved the area, especially skiing down from Glacier de Peclet. My second favourite route was skiing approx. 7 km from Les Menuires to St. Martin de Belleville. Ofcoz I couldn’t resist the one-day trip to Courchevel to ski among the rich and famous. Oh, wow the slopes there were amazing. That brings me to the ski pass. It’s also not cheap, 500 Euros for eight days with insurance for the entire 3 Vallées area. Basically, you buy a ski pass for a specific area of the 3 Vallées or for the whole area of the 3 Vallées. Despite the high prices it’s totally worth it to get a ski pass for the whole area, point! You can then enjoy the full flexibility where you want to ski. The insurance for the ski pass cost only 20 Euros so it was very much worth getting it. Better to invest 20 Euros in an insurance that hopefully you won’t need than 2000 Euros for medical rescue in case you will need it.
What to do after skiing?
That’s simple – food! You are in France so what else can you do than enjoy the delicious, amazing, and fabulous food… especially in the mountains. The absolute highlight of the whole trip was the raclette. Till now I knew raclette as a social thing where you have those small pans in which you melt the raclette cheese and pour them over potatoes and ham. In France the traditional raclette consists of a device with a heater on the top and spikes at the bottom on which the cheese wheel is being placed. The cheese gets melted from the heater and with a wooden spatula you scope it. When K and I ordered the raclette dish we were thinking if it will be enough and if we will get full. Well, the answer was obvious when the waiter brought half of a cheese wheel for us. It was the best dinner we ever had. Additionally, there are all the cheese fondues, the freshly made crepes, the delicious macaroons and of course the beef. The best thing about being in France is that you don’t have to say how you like your beef, it arrives on your plate just the right way. The only right way – nice, juicy, and rare. You need to know while in France, don’t ever tell the waiter you want your beef well done. That’s considered as an insult and as a crime of rapping meat. So, in case you really do like your beef well done, don’t order it in France.
All in all, I was super happy with the 3 Vallées. Skiing in a different part of the mountains every day, delicious food, super wine and despite the warm weather all those slopes you could explore… and most of all – ski to door. Meaning you take your skis from the ski room at your hotel, get out of the door, put them on and you are on the slope already! Didn’t have ski to door in Austria or Italy so a huge plus point for France in this matter. Also, in the 3 Vallées you can see Mont Blanc… yes the highest peak in Europe. Saw it and it looks stunning! Now, would I go skiing to the 3 Vallées again? Absolutely yes! Only not during New Year… the prices are just too high then. For the next time I would rather choose February or March.