Sitting at 2,300m, Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, forming part of the famous Trois Valles, the largest linked ski area in the world with over 600 km of piste. Many lifts in the local ski area ascend to over 3000m, meaning that even in a poor snow season, it is a safe bet for good snow.
Val Thorens sits at the head of the Belleville valley (one of the three valleys). The Belleville Valley alone contains three connected ski-resorts (Val Thorens, Les Menuires and St Martin de Belleville) and hosts 8 peaks above 3000m. There are over 70 ski lifts and about 300km of piste.
Should ski tracks further afield be on the agenda, the Col de la Chambre, which is just two ski lifts from Val Thorens, takes you into straight down into Meribel. And from there, it only takes two more lifts to reach Courchevel. Val Thorens is admittedly, not pretty. However its convenience alone more than makes up for it. The resort is compact, offers ski in ski out to pretty much everyone who stays, has minimal traffic, and hosts a wide range of bars and restaurants as well as ski schools. It’s also surprisingly sunny!
The one factor to consider however when booking a holiday in Val Thorens is the lack of options available in bad weather. In blizzard conditions, there are no trees nearby in which to play and in most storms, the top lifts often have to close. We should say however that the sunny days certainly outnumber the stormy days.
150km (600km linked piste)
December – April
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The gentle nursery slopes in the heart of the resort are simply perfect for learning. They are snow sure and have magic carpet lifts. Once the very basics have been mastered, there are some ideal green sand blues for progression and with the slopes being so high, the crisp grippy snow only enhances development. There are a couple of good greens to progress on to in the 2 Lacs and Cascades sectors and some of the blues immediately above the village are good for progression. As is always the case in high altitude, if the clouds do come in, it can get fairly cold and the visibility reduce dramatically, which certainly doesn’t help the enjoyment levels of those learning.
Val Thorens has some of the best intermediate friendly terrain in the Three Valleys. Most runs are wide, with great snow (thanks to the altitude) and as such, intermediates can really travel under-ski visiting the Meribel and Courchevel valleys. Orelle, on the other side of Val Thorens, is also a super place to escape the crowds. Les Menuires and St Martin are also super – the long run named Jerusalem (which, if you carry on down Biolley to St Martin gives you over 1000m of vertical) is simly epic.
Very little of the terrain in Val Thorens is rated black, but there are some challenging blacks from the Pointe de la Masse and down into the Orelle Valley. Combe de Caron is a long and winding black with a precariously steep start and Combe Rosael provides even expert skiers pause for thought. It is however the off piste that attracts the good skiers, and on a clear day, there are few places we would rather be! However be wary, underlying rocks can lie perilously under the snow. One run to mention however is the drop-down 2000m of vertical through the Gebroulaz Glacier from the top of the Col chair down into Maribel. If there was one off piste run to try, do that one.
Beginners have a variety of easy runs leading into the resort, which allow for easy access and steady progression. Freeriders have a huge area to enjoy – take a trip up to the Cime de Caron for the best view in the Trois Vallees, and then drop down the back side or follow the long sweeping red or black down. Freestylers have a dedicated snowboard park serviced by the 2 Lac lift, which has a boardercross circuit and a 110-meter long halfpipe. However, these are only kept in tiptop condition during a competition, rather than on a regular basis. There are some good natural hits but mainly drop-offs.
MTB on snow
A snow activity that seems to becoming more and more popular is mountain biking on snow. This is exactly as it sounds and entails heading up on a ski lift with a mountain bike and cycling down the slope. The guidance does gently suggest that this activity is suitable for experienced mountain bike riders or ‘sporty ones’. That’s not to say others are excluded, just useful guidance to get the most out of the experience. This is a fairly difficult descent so if you are not familiar with biking even without snow, then the ride could take a little longer than anticipated. Also, given that this activity takes place after the slopes have closed you won’t want to hang around on the piste with the night sky falling. The track commences at an altitude of 3000m a the top of the Peclet lift and descends down the Tete Ronde slope, normally graded a blue run for skiers. This activity takes place every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening setting off at 16:45 (17:15 later in the season). You will be accompanied by a professional instructor and descend as an organised group with between five to ten people per group. The track is not accessed on an individual basis. At 6km the descent should last around 45 minutes and you will be rewarded and warmed up with a mulled wine at the finish. Don’t worry all equipment is provided so you don’t need to think about packing your bike as well as your skis. The cost is 40 if you already have a ski pass and 50 if you are without ski pass. Must be booked in advance.
Whilst the zip line has been an activity available in Val Thorens for the past few seasons it has never made it onto the non-ski activity list, being previously only accessible on skis. This year though Val Thorens have added a second zip line at a lower altitude that is now accessible to pedestrians which is great news. The new zip line is located at the top of the Moutiere chairlift and at 1.6km will take you over the pistes back to the centre of resort reaching speeds of 75 kmph.
A truly unique experience available in Val Thorens is a helicopter tour to take a view of the French Alps from up above. As you can imagine the views are incredible and this is not the moment to forget your camera. At just 10 minutes long the tour is pretty limited in terms of distance to see the largest ski area in the world, although a perfect length for a quick taster if you have never flown in a helicopter before. This falls into a more expensive price bracket than other non-ski activities however is a truly memorable experience.
A popular evening activity is a snow mobile trip around the slopes of Val Thorens. A great experience for couples and groups of friends as you can either drive a snow mobile solo or head off in pairs if you prefer to cling on behind the snowmobile rather than be behind the drivers controls. A fantastic opportunity to see the slopes at night with incredible moonlit skies. The trips set off at 17:30 every evening and so make sure if you do sign up that you wrap up warm and don’t forget your gloves.
A slightly different activity to add to your ski holiday in Val Thorens is ice diving. This activity takes place at Lac du Lou located between the lower part of Val Thorens and Les Menuires. The Val Thorens ice diving experience lasts thirty minutes and all equipment is provided. There is also an added snow shoe walk to arrive at the lake of 40 minutes which in itself is a great addition to the trip and good opportunity to take in the mountain views. If you are looking for an extra activity to ‘tick off’ then this is a good activity to just experience donning all the kit and heading under the ice to see the darkness and light streams that filter through. If you are an experienced diver however maybe not the biggest adrenaline rush. This activity is open to anyone over the age of 16 years and the total cost is 180.
Staying on the theme of ice, another different non-ski activity available in Val Thorens is ice driving. The highest ice racing track in Europe at 2200m, the Val Thorens Driving school is well established and is also the location for the Trophee Andros event each year where well known drivers compete. There are a range of experiences available at the circuit. Whether it is driving with a trained professional alongside to guide you round the bends or if you prefer the opposite, letting the professional do the driving and you can remain in the passenger seat and there is also ice karting and ice quads available to try. There are free shuttle buses to access the track from the resort centre. Prices vary depending on which experience you choose whether a short taster or full driving course. It is recommended to book in advance.
If you haven’t been sledging since your childhood days then the thought could bring up images of heading down a hill with bits of grass sticking out. Well sledging in Val Thorens is a little bit different. Firstly the descent starts at an altitude of 3,000m at the top of the Peclet lift and the sledge ride back down take you to an altitude of 2300m. The whole descent should take around 45 minutes. This activity is open to anyone aged five years and up and the cost is â‚¬16 per descent. Please note the track is only available to those who have reserved and taken equipment provided by the lift company SETAM. You are not permitted to head up with your own sledge individually. Sledging is free for children between the ages of five and 10 years as they can only descend sharing a sledge with an adult. From 10 years and above children can sledge by themselves and from nine to 10 years they can have a sledge of their own if joined by an adult who is also on their own sledge. There are the options to have a go in the day or opt for an evening excursion for something a bit different. The evening option costs 24 with the added extra of mulled wine and local cheese.
Val Thorens have also taken the idea of sledging up a notch by introducing ‘snake gliss’. A truly unique way to descend the slopes of Val Thorens, this activity involves ten sledges all tied together. The group is led by an instructor from the top of the Peclet lift at 3000m back down to resort. The activity guidance does state there is a “rapid descent” and that “participants should be physically fit,” so maybe not for the faint hearted. The cost is 30 per person and all equipment is provided, including ski passes.
Snow shoeing is the perfect way to get out and about on the mountain at your own pace. There are several planned itineraries in Val Thorens (map available from the Tourist Office) ranging from a leisurely 2km walk lasting 1h30 up to a longer five hour walk or 6km. Some snow shoe walks also involve a walkers ski pass taking you first up on the ski lift and walking down.
An activity open to the littlest of mountain folk is the dog sled in Val Thorens available for children from as young as two years old. A lovely winter experience, each trip lasts 30 minutes and you will be tucked up in a sled behind the dogs who will pull you along the snow. Available all mornings from Monday until Friday.
Unfortunately the local nursery slopes in Kitzbühel are slightly limited and despite the best snowmaking efforts, the snow quality can suffer. There are similar areas in all of the villages in the valley but the same issue persists. Higher up however there is a decent gentle zone on the Kitzbüheler Horn, where there is also good progression on to longer blues. Elsewhere, Pengelstein is probably the best bet for gentle blues within the main ski area.
There’s a huge array of runs for intermediates in the resort, but some of the
slopes can get crowded – especially on the Hahnenkamm. Despite the modest
altitude, you can notch up some serious vertical on the Pengelstein sector by
skiing down to Skirast and also on the Kitzbüheler Horn. Take the 3S across
towards Pass Thurn for the quietest slopes, including the highest piste in the
resort at the aptly named Zweitausender.
View the live snow report for Val Thorens here
Val Thorens Family Guide
Most of the accommodation in Val Thorens offer slope side convenience. To add further convenience, by the resort’s largely pedestrianised nature and a gentle piste running through the middle. Families buying a lift ticket are offered family rates and there a number of family friendly places to eat which won’t break the bank. The local ski slopes are very family-friendly too with excellent beginner and intermediate slopes which are easily accessible. Val Thorens has dramatically improved its range of off slope activities in recent years, especially at the excellent sports centre, which, along with swimming pools and sports court, has an indoor fun park spread over 600 square metres just for kids, featuring trampolines, bouncy castles and plastic ball pools. Val Thorens has a local nanny service, Alpine Child Care, as well as a kids club and day-care run by the cole de ski Francais (ESF) at Roc du Peclet which is a right next to the Chalet de la Lombarde. Babies from 3 months and up can be catered for here or at the main ESF hub by the Village Montana and Residence Montana Plein Sud.
Hotel Le Val Thorens
Hotel Le Fitz Roy
Hotel Koh-I Nor
Chambery Airport – 111 km / approx 1 hours 30 mins
Geneva Airport – 199 km / approx 2 hours 30 mins
Lyon Airport – 196 km / approx 2 hours 25 mins
Grenoble Airport – 186 km / approx 2 hours 25 mins
It’s a 976km journey from Calais but only about a 9 to 10 hour drive because it’s on motorways almost all the way. (The toll charges add up, though.) Usually the A6-A46-A432 route around the outskirts of Lyons quicker than the A39-A40-A41 route around the outskirts of Annecy and Geneva but check road conditions on the day. Either way, the final part of the journey is on the A430 athen N90 then D117 via St Martin de Belleville and Les Menuires.
The nearest railway station to Val Thorens is Moutiers, about 40kms away. On railway timetables, Moutiers station is also sometimes called Moutiers-Salins-Brides Les Bains.Trains from Paris for Moutiers depart from the Gare de Lyon and normally take between four and six hours. There are direct trains from Paris and also indirect services which usually involve taking a TGV to Chambery, Aix Les Bains or Lyon, then completing the journey onto Moutiers on either a regional TER train service or a bus.