Les 3 Vallees, also known as The Three Valleys, is the most extensively linked ski area on the planet. Bringing together 7 ski resorts spread over 3 valleys the ski area offers skiers and snowboarders the perfect blend of high altitude, guaranteed snow conditions, vibrant après-ski and a large dollop of luxury.
Les 3 Vallees offers some of the most diverse skiing terrain in France, with each ski resort expressing their own unique ambience. You can either stick to one of the 3 valley’s ski pass or upgrade to a ‘Les 3 Vallees pass’ that gives you access to all 600kms of marked pistes, 3,230m in altitude, over 160 high-speed lifts and a myriad of on and off-snow activities no matter which ski resort you choose to stay in.
Les 3 Vallees ski resorts include: Courchevel, La Tania, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains, Saint Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires, Val Thorens and Orelle.
Located at opposite sides of the Saulire Peak, Meribel ski resort and Courchevel ski resort provide a contrasting skiing experience. Meribel’s laid back atmosphere makes you feel right at home in its beautiful alpine setting as you ski the heart of Les 3 Vallees, whilst Courchevel’s elegance casts a spell on many encouraging you to sip champagne and enjoy the finer things in life whilst enjoying the view.
A sunny energetic British-built resort in the heart of Les 3 Vallees, Meribel holds multiple villages idyllically nestled amongst the trees including Brides-les-Bains. Although pistes can get busy for keen skiers it offers a perfect base to explore the all that the Les 3 Vallees have to offer. Meribel Mottaret which stands alone at 1800m offering almost entirely ski- in ski-out accommodation.
The villages are always energetic and teeming with life, end your day with some après-ski, live bands will help you relax on the warm south facing slopes which are also home to the infamous Folie Douce.
Courchevel ski resort is known to be ‘the playground for the rich’ where exclusivity and luxury are combined with luscious wide open feel good slopes. Divided into 3 North facing bowls the ski area features Courchevel 1850, Courchevel Moriond 1650 and La Tania.
Courchevel ski resort has an abundance of family friendly activities after you have finished skiing. You can take the 2km luge run or the short bus ride to the Aquamotion centre where parents can warm their toes in the spa whilst the kids take on the waterslides and surf machine.
These two ski resorts offer entirely different skiing experiences once you are on the snow. Skiing in Meribel can vary during the season often with more limited snow cover during the early and late season due to lower altitude and more sunshine. Sun-baked slopes mean it is important to choose your areas wisely, but once you reach the altitude of 2952m skiing is always guaranteed.
Courchevel sits facing North from Meribel and the snow conditions vary hugely between the two resorts. Over the peak you will usually find pristine cold wide open slopes. The 150kms of Courchevel ranging from 2738m down to 1300m hold exceptional snow conditions in the mountain shadow. The full descent is definitely a challenge and you may need legs of steel for the 1400m vertical drop.
La Tania ski resort intersects Courchevel and Meribel with some low altitude tree skiing that is a saving grace for both resorts when the visibility is poor.
When comparing Meribel ski resort with Val Thorens ski resort, we are also comparing a British-built ski resort and a French purpose-built ski resort. Yet they complement each other beautifully to make up a huge chunk of Les 3 Vallees’ 600km ski area.
Meribel is the sunny beating heart of Les 3 Vallees that comprises of intricate quick access lifts serving slopes primed for the intermediate skier. Traditional wooden chalets fill the lower slopes and tree lines painting an idyllic winter scene. Val Thorens is built in high altitude and offers an adrenaline fuelled all-rounder village with big terrain skiing. The apartment blocks are packed full of excitable skiers from November until May.
Both ski resorts are energetic world-famous ski hubs yet they have significant differences.. For example, even air temperatures can change dramatically between the two resorts, which often sees Meribel glowing in sun whilst Val Thorens will be holding it firm in colder conditions.
Meribel is made up of multiple villages which are all busy throughout the ski season, perfect for afternoon après-ski in the sun to relax after exploring its 150kms of piste skiing. Intermediate skiers have plenty of options with long blue and red runs that zigzag through the mountainside. Ski down through the winding trees to Meribel Village and take on non-stop ski trails on Mont Vallon that reaches 2952m. In contrast to this Val Thorens towers up to 3230m and is the place to visit if you are looking for guaranteed snow conditions early and late in the season. The 150km ski area is suited to all abilities with an abundance of beginner slopes equipped with covered magic carpets, perfect for the cold air temperatures above 2000m. The more adventurous can find some truly exciting spots including red run Coraia, the highest point in Les 3 Vallees or challenge themselves on the thigh burning 1000m descents from one of the 6 surrounding glaciers.
Freestyle skiers and snowboarders are spoiled wherever you head with the DC Area terrain park in Meribel and Val Thorens’ international competition slopestyle setup.
The compact town of Val Thorens is more of the adrenaline punching ski resort built to give you everything you could want from a ski holiday whilst Meribel’s multiple villages sit bristling with excitable energy in a valley surrounded by skiing treats. Their modern ski lift system provides easy access to 1 or all of the 3 Vallees. The Meribel side does offer a more classic feel to a ski holiday with chalets hiding amongst snowy trees. Val Thorens makes life in the mountains easy with pistes and ski lifts running through the centre of town. There’s no need to lug your gear around, just go skiing.
Courchevel ski resort and Val Thorens ski resort are the 2 most contrasting offerings you can find in the Les 3 Vallees. Courchevel ski resort has multiple villages, a more naturalistic feel with traditional wooden chalets elegantly constructed amongst the trees and hills. Val Thorens ski resort is more of the bully in Les 3 Vallees built with purposeful 1960’s concrete that is designed to do provide one thing – Skiing.
Courchevel ski resort is filled with wide open runs designed to make you feel good about your skiing. Broken up into three areas, Courchevel 1850, Courchevel Moriond 1650 and La Tania it holds incredible snow quality throughout the season, almost as much as Val Thorens. Considered ‘the playground for the rich’ it offers luxury and relaxation personified with 5-star quality service and fine dining everywhere. Enjoy the 150kms of piste skiing in the morning before a Michelin Star lunch.
Val Thorens is at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to French ski resorts. Large cable cars and lift links all depart from the compact town which is filled with slightly more humble restaurants, bars and music. You can tackle some of the biggest ski days without even having to venture out of the 150kms Val Thorens ski area. If you want to see how the other half live pop your head over the peaks into Courchevel, however you will need a multi-area lift pass for this.
From a skiing point of view, there is plenty to debate in both Courchevel’s and Val Thorens’ corner. The big difference you will find is altitude. Courchevel maintains a highest point of 2738m compared to Val Thorens which has 6 glaciers that can rise well over 3000m to its highest point of 3230m.
Val Thorens is ready made to give its visitors a non-stop ride for a week and may even leave you feeling like taking another holiday just to recover. Courchevel has its exclusive luxury awaiting. Ski throughout Les 3 Vallees if you want to sample Val Thorens safe in the knowledge you can retreat to relax and feel like royalty in the evening. They are valleys apart, metaphorically and literally.
If you are interested in comparing more of the ski resorts in Les 3 Valles area, or comparing any ski resort on the planet, you can visit the Snowcomparison website or go straight to their Compare Ski Resorts page https://snowcomparison.com/compare.
- Eliot Prince
- May 22, 2017
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