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 ski enthusiast busy all-season long. 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 to plan your adventures
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. It’s 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 sadly lacking trees due to its altitude. But if the snow is a little sparse then a day trip to VT is well advised, where there’s generally some 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. And as such, offers some of the best value in the area. St Martin also offers easy access to Méribel, Val Thorens and Les Menuires in around half an hour. And is home to the infamous Jerusalem piste. Nuff said. And lets not forget it’s growing reputation as a foodies paradise….
Les Menuires was built in the 60s, which is evident from the architecture that still remains around the resort. While it doesn’t have a reputation for good looks it does offer some great skiing, and is easily reached from St Martin. Le Menuires is an intermediates paradise with lots of long cruisey blues, perfect for building confidence and technique. Then, once you’ve got your legs back 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 bagging rights alone!
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 tick off…
St Martin de Belleville: Jerusalem’s name precedes it, but it 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.
Other Three Valleys Highlights
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 yesterday year. Think high speed and tight turns and you’ll be half way there. Val Thorens boasts the longest toboggan run in Europe, with a 45min descent from the top of the Peclet Funitel with Le Toboggan. While over in Les Menuires you’ve got Speed Mountain, with an actual metal track the toboggans run down. Or 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 turns and 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. 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 whatever your palette or budget, there will be plenty to keep you sustained and tantalised all week long. With its Savoyard routes there is obviously enough cheese to keep dairy lovers grinning from ear to ear. You can learn more about some of the local specialities here. Or if you’re more of a carnivore then we’re sure 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!).