Val Thorens

Val Thorens

Overall Rating

Val Thorens

Val Thorens4.5/52
Val Thorens4.5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews
  • Recommend
    100%
  • Would Revisit
    100%
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3 Vallèes Ski Resorts

3 Valleys
Courchevel
Les-Menuires
Meribel
St Martin de Belleville

    Val Thorens Piste Map
  • Val Thorens Ski Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,800 – 3,230m (1,430m)

    3 Vallèes: 1,100m – 3,230m (2,130m)
  • Average Snow Fall
    6 - 8m+
  • Lifts (30)
    7 Gondolas/cable cars
    16 Chairlifts

    3 Valleys - 166 lifts
  • Opening Dates & Times
    Val Thorens Orelle: late Nov to May
    9:00am - 5:00pm
    3 Vallees: early Dec to late April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 150km
    Longest run – 12km
    Advanced - 13%
    Intermediate - 33%
    Beginner - 54%

    3 Valleys
    Runs – 600km + ski routes
    Off-piste - 10,500ha
  • Lift Pass Price
    Day Ticket 20/21
    Val Thorens - Orelle
    Adult - €46 to 57.50
    Child - €41.40 to 46
    Child u/5yr - Free

    Vallèe des Belleville
    Incl. Les Menuires & St Martin
    Adult - €60
    Child - €48
    Child u/5yr - Free

    3 Vallèes ski area
    Adult - €64.50
    Child - €51.60
    Child u/5yr - Free
    3 Vallees Ski Trail Map
  • 3 Vallèes Ski Trail Map

Val Thorens - Reviews

Val Thorens - Reviews

On a High at Val Thorens

30/04/2020

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  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Telemarker
  • Rider Level
    Expert
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Month Visited:
    January
  • Admin Rating
    5

On a High at Val Thorens

30/04/2020

We first visited Val Thorens & its partner resort, Orelle on a brutally cold January morning. OK, maybe it wasn’t so brutal, but I was not feeling great & the prospect of taking photos in -10 degrees plus a serious wind chill & blowing snow didn’t fill me with enthusiasm.

First impressions are totally different to arrival in its 3 Vallèes partners – Meribel & Courchevel. Under a leaden sky & howling wind, Val Thorens certainly did not present as a friendly environment. And without a doubt the wind plays an important role in the snow, trail & terrain conditions up there. Talking itself up as Europe’s highest ski resort (a dubious contention, but we will let it slide as it does have the highest resort village), the entire ski area is well above tree line & totally at the mercy of the elements.

Luckily for anyone staying overnight, the village is impressive. A cunning design that to some may look like nothing more than a blight on the alpine landscape, the way the central village links access from accommodation to ski trails, lifts, shops & streets is superb & softens the worst of mother nature’s winter storms. To our eyes, the village sits reasonable comfortably in the surrounding environment – at least when compared to real blights on the landscape like parts of nearby Les Menuires or La Plagne. And it is all ski-in ski-out or damn close to it!

Given its elevation [lowest lift base 1822m (the excellent Plan de l’Eau); village at 2300m; highest point at 3230m], Val Thorens is rightfully popular due in large part to its snow reliability & long season. Cold, squeaky quality snow drapes its mainly north-aspect terrain longer than most other resorts in the French Alps.

Another reason for its popularity is the high alpine on-piste groomers are a beginner & intermediates delight. The combination of quality snow, lifts, grooming, pitch & length is outstanding. We would rate them 5 out of 5 for each ability category, but without some trees to provide vision and shelter on the worst days, a perfect score is impossible. Several runs are one helluva lot longer than the trail map would indicate too (i.e. Lory into Orelle); fun for us, maybe not so fun for a beginner or someone on a snowboard down the flat bottom end.

Despite the incredible number of skiers observed in the morning leaving the village, we never noted any congestion on the ski trails. Everyone seemed to either disperse rapidly to points unknown, or simply hung around the few village lifts in one of the many lesson groups. Advanced riders have a handful of steeper trails emanating for the 3200m Cime Caron, but little else to inspire them on the groomers.

Lift infrastructure in Val Thorens area is first class & it needs to be. Thoroughly modern infrastructure, all able to keep turning in high winds (funnily enough), it copes brilliantly with the high numbers of skiers that stay in the village all through the season. Indeed, observing the incredible numbers of humans being disgorged from the accommodation first thing in the morning onto the pistes is a sight to behold. Fears of proportionally long lift lines were totally unfounded. We did not stand in a lift queue once. Straight onto a lift every time. We noted in Orelle the construction of a new 2-stage top to bottom gondola & plans for other chairlift replacements closer to Val Thorens. The extraordinary level of investment pays dividends in keeping queues non-existent. We despise lift lines, so were INCREDIBLY happy customers. Oh, did I mention its really easy to get to some tasty Meribel terrain from the lifts out of Val Thorens village?

Now we are powder hounds, so a BIG question is how is the off-piste? Well it is a huge area, but we did experience it in a wind-impacted state. The previous day would have been bluebird & totally different – c’est la vie! Nevertheless, we found wind-blown powder ON the piste, plus in more sheltered aspects OFF the piste. We had a particularly delightful 800m+ vertical run in powder alongside an intermediate run from Boismint (2640m) down to Plan de l’Eau (1822m). Always a good sign when one can access powder along the side of a run. The top of the Boismint lift accesses some lusty freeride terrain including chutes & a huge bowl immediately to the left as one exits the chair at the top station (mind the entry, it is a tad interesting!). Further along the Cime Caron cable car provides the most consistent fall line skiing into both Val Thorens & Orelle. Elsewhere around the valley toward the boundary with Meribel are increasingly mellow glacial & post-glacial off-piste terrain interspersed between the easier piste trails. In more favourable weather, exploration further up particular ridges & bowls by skin or boot would have been fun, but time was limited & hands were cold!

Après ski is an obvious affair in the central village where numerous bars & restaurants are lined up & ready to entertain. There is a vast number of outdoor seating available, but we do wonder how often they are used in the depths of winter – its bloody cold in the Alps at 2300m. We enjoyed the cosy interior of Le Coq bar restaurant. Unfortunately, we missed the La Folie Douce shenanigans, but having experienced it elsewhere (Val d’Isere, Meribel et al) we know that regardless of how contrived, it is still great fun if in the mood for a high energy après ski boogie.

For day visitors arriving by car, stop at the P4 car park. Despite the gated entry, it is free. Anything further up the hill will cost in time, nerves (on the icy road) & money. A host of lifts including 2 gondolas (one direct to the village called Cairn) plus two chairs get you on your way from P4 toot sweet. At the end of the day, ski trails from the village & wider resort all converge on the car park. Peep peep, toot toot.

As with the rest of the 3 Vallees, we cannot imagine what it is like skiing here during the peak season. We can only suggest that where possible, stick to the Powderhounds rule of not skiing major French ski resorts during French school holidays. January though is bliss. The 3 Vallees is a bucket list resort & Val Thorens, as the most snow sure of them, is integral to it. Ski Val Thorens during the most favorable weather possible as you tick it of the list. Even better, spend a few nights in the village when you do & have a go on the La TyrOlienne zip line from the highest point of the resort in the Orelle sector across a breathtaking valley. Don’t be embarrassed if you scream!

You can see our thoughts on the pros & cons on the Val Thorens overview page and also see our European ski resort ratings regarding how we score it compared to other skiing areas.

Val Thorens

Ryan Lennon
31/01/2018
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Snowboarder
  • Rider Level
    Advanced
  • Rider Age
    12-17
  • Month Visited:
    December
  • Admin Rating
    2

Val Thorens

Ryan Lennon
31/01/2018
Val Thorens is a kid-friendly resort that will also challenge the best of riders.