The Three Valleys: The Largest Ski Area in the World
The Three Valleys, or Les Trois Vallées if we’re using the local lingo, is widely touted as the largest interconnected ski area in the world. And with 600km of interconnected pistes, as well as extensive off-piste terrain to explore, there is enough skiing to keep the most adventurous skier or snowboarder busy, as well as having plenty of gorgeous blue pistes so the intermediates in the group won’t get bored.
Maybe that’s why so many people return to the Three Valleys every year for their ski holiday!
Wondering what is on offer during your holiday in the Three Valleys? Or looking for some inspiration? Read on for our comprehensive guide of the Three Valleys…
Three Valleys Stats
- 600km interconnected pistes
- Over 85% of the ski area is situated above 1800m
- 166 ski lifts
- More than 2,300 snow canons, covering 50% of the ski area – ensuring snow throughout the season across all of its resorts
- 327 ski runs:
- 49 green runs (15%)
- 135 blue runs (41%)
- 110 red runs (34%)
- 33 black runs (10%)
Three Valleys Piste Map
Download the 3 Valleys piste map 2019 to plan your adventures and understand the scale of this legendary ski area.
To briefly explain the piste map, Ski Talini’s catered chalets are located in St Martin de Belleville which is on the right hand side of this lift map. (You’ll see that it’s at the same altitude as Meribel: 1450m).
The Belleville Valley is also home to Les Menuires and Val Thorens, the highest altitude ski resort in Europe. St Martin has the charm of a small, French mountain village which has this huge ski area on the doorstep. Read more about St Martin de Belleville here. The skiing here includes glaciers: head up ‘Col’, ‘Bouchet’ or ‘Thorens’ to ski these areas. From the Belleville Valley you can also make a little trip into the largely unexplored ‘Orelle’ valley, (known locally as the 4th Valley!) There are several snow parks in the Belleville valley – look for the yellow shaded areas on the map.
Meribel Valley: At the centre of the map is Meribel, in the centre of the Three Valleys. It can get a little busy at peak times, but there are ways to avoid the crowds and ski some of the fantastic pistes, such as Mont Vallon or the World Cup ‘Face’. Freestyle skiers should check out the Snowpark Area DC, shaded yellow).
Courchevel Valley: Many of our guests enjoy a full Three Valleys day and head over into Courchevel – Moriond being the furthest away but home to some gorgeous cruisey blues. Don’t miss Folyeres down into La Tania, after a refuel at Le Bouc Blanc restaurant.
Guide to the Three Valleys Resorts
The Three Valleys encompasses the world class resorts of Courchevel, Méribel and Val Thorens; as well as (our favourite) St Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires and Orelle. Each bring their own strengths and appeals, with a resort or area for everyone, and every budget.
Renowned as one of the most upmarket of the Three Valleys resorts, Courchevel consists of five connected villages: Courchevel, Moriond, Village, Le Praz and La Tania. Courchevel offers world class skiing; with wide open pistes, carefully crafted beginner areas, stunning tree runs, and challenging couloirs and off-piste terrain. Although often considered an intermediate resort Courchevel offers something for skiers of all levels. Due to its location on the far side of the piste map, Courchevel Moriond also stays relatively quiet. And with some of our favourite runs over there, including the lovely Chapelets, its well worth a foray to the far side.
Méribel is situtated in the middle of the Three Valleys ski area. With the Courchevel and Belleville valleys in easy reaching distance Méribel is a popular choice for skiers, but as a result it can get pretty busy at the central hubs and throughfares of Méribel and Méribel Mottaret. If you like tree skiing, then the runs into Méribel Village are a good choice. Or to give your legs a challenge take on one of the two long runs which descend from Mont Vallon. If you’re planning on skiing in Méribel it’s worth noting that the St Martin side of the Méribel valley is best skied in the morning while it’s in the sun, leaving the Courchevel side until the afternoon.
The highest of the Three Valleys resorts, Val Thorens or “VT” as it’s often known, offers snow-sure skiing throughout the season, making it a popular and safe choice, especially early or late season. Its high altitude location means it can get quite chilly so be sure to wrap up warm and layer up if you’re spending the day there. It’s also lacking forested pistes due to its altitude, making it challenging in low visibility. But if it hasn’t snowed recently, then a day trip to VT is well advised, as there’s always good snow to be found.
St Martin de Belleville
OK, we might be biased but we reckon St Martin is one of the best of the Three Valleys resorts. For one, it is arguably one of the prettiest, least spoilt and most quintessentially French. As such, it offers some of the best value accommodation in the area. St Martin also offers easy access to Méribel, Val Thorens and Les Menuires in around half an hour. It is also home to the legendary Jerusalem piste. ‘Nuff said! And lets not forget its reputation as a foodies paradise (it won a Gastronomic Resort of the Year award!)….
Les Menuires was built in the ’60s, which is evident from the architecture! While it doesn’t have a reputation for its looks, it does offer some great skiing, and is easily reached from St Martin. Les Menuires is an intermediates’ paradise with lots of long cruisey blues, perfect for building confidence and technique. Then, once you’ve got your ski legs, there is always La Masse to take on.
There is in fact a fourth valley reachable by skis within the Three Valleys ski area. The lesser-known resort of Orelle is situated in the Maurienne Valley and is accessed by one of three cols on the far side of Val Thorens. It’s actually in this valley that you will find the “Sommet des 3 Vallées”, or highest point of the Three Valleys, at 3230m. Worth the trip for a photo opportunity!
Three Valleys Skiing
The Three Valleys boasts some of the best skiing in the world. But if you’re overwhelmed by all on offer then here are some of our favourite pistes to add to your bucket list…
St Martin de Belleville: Any of your friends who have skied the Three Valleys will recommend ‘Jerusalem ‘ and it certainly gets our vote for the fun rollers and beautiful setting. Another great option, often overlooked, is the red run Pramint, which runs parallel and sits on the other side of the St Martin Express.
Les Menuires: For intermediates you have a great selection of blues and red running from St Martin towards Val Thorens, including Mont de la Chambre and Grand Lac. Or for intermediates tackle the steeper terrain and off piste from the top of La Masse.
Val Thorens: From the top of the Peclet gondola Christine is a long winding red run with great views across Val Thorens.
Courchevel: Red run Chapelets is on the far side of the piste map in Courchevel Moriond. Winding through the trees, this gentle red run is great in all conditions, and offers hero skiing when freshly pisted. Creux is another favourite with wide open pistes, a nice gentle gradient and a beautiful end down to the fruit bowl.
La Tania: Don’t miss out the beautiful Folyeres run down to La Tania. A slightly challenging blue, it offers a few rollers to add to the fun as it winds through the trees.
Méribel: Combe de Vallon from the top of Mont Vallon offers a stunning start point at 2952m and a really long run down, offering a great sense of achievement, and helping you earn your morning coffee stop.
Three Valleys Activities
Here are some of our top tips for things to do during your stay in the Three Valleys:
Tobogganing has come a long way from the old style wooden sleds of yesteryear. Think formula one bends and high speed straights and you’ll be on the right tracks! Val Thorens boasts the longest toboggan run in Europe, with a 45min descent from the top of the Peclet Funitel with Le Toboggan. Over in Les Menuires you’ve got Speed Mountain, which is a little like a roller coaster crossed with a luge track – toboggans run down a metal track (you can control the speed!) Further afield there’s Mission Black Forest in Méribel where you’ll descend 470m over 3km in 28 turns. And in Courchevel there’s Moriond Racing, with a 3km descent incorporating tight hairpins and plenty of tunnels.
If you’ve a head for heights and like your holidays packed full of adrenaline then you The Tyrolienne might float your boat. We don’t claim to have tried it (do we look mad!?) but we have heard it’s a lot of fun if you like that sort of adventure! You take off from the top of Orelle at 3230m and glide between the valleys for about 1 min 45 seconds. The views are outstanding as long as you don’t mind looking down onto a huge drop.
Three Valleys Restaurants
The Three Valleys is renowned as a foodies’ paradise, and rightly so. There are countless restaurants, snack bars and bistros, on the mountain and across the resorts meaning that whatever your palette or budget, there will be plenty to keep you sustained and tantalised all week long. Savoyard culture is heavily focused on the outstanding local fromage and there is obviously enough cheese to keep dairy lovers grinning from ear-to-ear with raclette, tartiflette, fondue… Need we go on? You can learn more about some of the local specialities here. More of a carnivore? The steak, veal or duck you’ll find on many a menu will prove just the ticket. And with Italy in sight there is a notable Italian influence with wood-fired pizzas and pasta dishes to be found on many menus.
No Three Valley Restaurant section would be complete without a review of the top spots. So we’ve selflessly worked our way around resort bringing you a list of our top dining spots in the Three Valleys. If you really want to treat yourself though you’ve come to the right place. The Three Valleys is famed as the ski resort with the most Michelin stars to its name. If that tickles your fancy then you might be interested in learning more about the 12 Michelin starred restaurants in the Three Valleys (and a twinkling 21 stars!).
Three Valleys Accommodation
And if you’re still planning your trip and looking for somewhere to stay, then why take a peak at one of our beautiful chalets in the Three Valleys. As foodies through-and-through, our catered service includes food to rival the local restaurants. See our tripadvisor reviews here.
Further Reading on the Three Valleys
Want more insider’s tips? Read some of our Three Valleys blogs:
- Three Valleys Online – Apps and digital tools for your stay in the Three Valleys
- Best Restaurants in the Three Valleys – We’ve been tirelessly testing. These are some of our favourite haunts
- New in the 3 Valleys for Winter 18/19 – Including new lifts, runs and snow making facilities
- Secret Spots in the Three Valleys – Insider tips for things to see and places to seek out during your stay
- Three Valleys Mountain Food – Local specialities to whet your appetite
- Three Valleys Michelin Starred Restaurants – In case you fancy a little indulgence…