A guide to Val Thorens
Val Thorens is a compact, purpose built resort and, at 2300m, the highest ski resort in Europe. Situated at the top of the Three Valleys its high altitude makes it snow sure and easy access to the rest of the region means that you have a huge terrain on your doorstep! The Three Valleys consists of Méribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens, as well as lots of little villages and hamlets.
The complete ski area of the Three Valleys is the largest in the world and is well linked by lifts and runs, allowing you to explore to your heart’s content. The ski area in Val Thorens alone is extensive and varied; from the gentle nursery slopes of St Martin to the more challenging runs of Cime de Caron, there is something to suit everyone.
The region is surrounded by no less than 6 glaciers, which provide summer skiing from the beginning of July to the end of August. To read more about the skiing and boarding in Val Thorens and the rest of the Three Valleys take a look at our suggested itineraries, our favourite runs and a few ideas of where to go for lunch on the mountain. You can keep an eye on the weather and snow conditions with our regularly updated Snow Report.
Food is a great part of life in the French Alps, and with all those outdoor pursuits to try you can rest assured it is all very hearty! Local specialities are often cheese or cream based (sometimes both…), featuring local meats, potatoes and green salad. The food in the Alps is often accused of being unadventurous and ‘lardy’ but there are plenty of delicious regional dishes besides the good old fondue. The emphasis is very much on fresh local produce and so cured and seasoned meats will have come from cattle grazed on Alpine pastures, the local cheeses of Abondance and Beaufort will be prevalent and although there isn’t a coastline in sight there is still a regional fish dish! The féra is caught in nearby Lake Geneva and is a popular dish served in many restaurants, alongside other lake fish such as Omble Chevalier (char), truite (trout), brochet (pike) and perche (perch).
Where is Val Thorens?
The most convenient airport for the Three Valleys is Chambery, situated 109 kms (1 1/4hrs) away. From here, you have a number of different methods of transport to choose from to get you up to resort. If you can’t get a flight to Chambéry, the next best options are Grenoble (2 hours), Lyon (2 hours) or Geneva (3 hours) - all of these airports are serviced by a number of the major airlines.
Each airport has it pros and cons. Chambery is closest but may close in bad weather and your flight be diverted elsewhere. Geneva has excellent bus/shuttle links to Meribel, Courchevel & Val Thorens, but finding the route in a hire car isn't particularly easy. Lyon St-Exupery has fewer links to resort, expecially midweek, but the journey is easier and quicker than from Geneva if you hire a car.
Also see: Towns & Villages in Val Thorens
History & Culture in Val Thorens
Despite being purpose built, Val Thorens is not the 1960’s concrete eyesore that you might expect. It has developed sympathetically to its surroundings and has benefitted from plenty of investment during the last 10 years. Those few drab monoliths that were thrown up during the 60’s are being replaced by more attractive buildings and with 40 million euros earmarked for the resort before 2010 there is going to be plenty of improvement taking place in the near future; some of which will go towards state of the art lifts and snow making machinery.
Also see: History of Val Thorens
Events in Val Thorens
A number of events take place over the winter and summer months in Val Thorens and the Belleville valley in which it sits. From Ski cross championships to a mountain bike race that takes place across the whole of the 3 valleys, you'll find something to keep you entertained during your stay.
Sights & Attractions in Val Thorens
Being the highest resort in Europe, Val Thorens offers some of the most stunning views in the Three Valleys. At the top of the Cime Caron lift you are offered a fantastic 360 degree panoramic viewing platform with views over to Italy. The Orelle Valley, often known as the fourth valley, also offers great views with the highest altitude point at 3230m. As the third resort in the Belleville area you also have views right down the valley of Les Menuires and St Martin de Belleville.
Where to Stay in Val Thorens
You can choose to stay in the main part of Val Thorens at the very top of the valley, or Les Menuires (about one third of the way down) or all the way at the bottom in St Martin de Belleville. All parts are connected by lifts in summer and winter, so it's easy to make your way around and into the neighbouring resorts of the 3 valleys.
Also see: Where to Stay in Val Thorens
Chalets in Val Thorens
You'll find a relatively small selection of chalets in the main resort in Val Thorens, as there tends to be more hotels and apartment buildings, however the choice that is there is pretty good.
Apartments in Val Thorens
There are literally hundreds of apartments to choose from in Val Thorens, from studios to larger apartments sleeping 14 people or more. They tend to be self catered and some come with access to a spa and swimming pool.
Hotels in Val Thorens
There is a wide variety of accommodation on offer in Val Thorens from a fantastic youth hostel in the bottom of the resort to five star hotels in the centre.
Things to Do in Val Thorens
Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe and offers an extended season than most other resorts - being open nearly two months longer, from the last week in November until the first week in May. Being part of the Three Valleys, Val Thorens gives you access to the largest ski area in the world with 600km of piste. In Val Thorens itself there are snow parks, ski cross and big air bags, the quality so good that world events are often held here. Away from the slopes you can relax in the sports centre with swimming pool and spa or if you are feeling energetic there is a fitness area. You also have 15 other spas to choose from in Val Thorens. Back on the snow there are numerous activities including snowmobile outings, paragliding and if you are brave enough you can take part in ice diving. Val Thorens has many claims to fame and boasts; the longest toboggan run in the world at 6km with a 700m vertical drop from an altitude of 3,00m; the highest zip wire in the world taking a descent from 3200m; and the highest ice racing track in Europe. Once the snow melts, in the summer months the pistes turn into walking tracks with the lifts open for walking and mountain biking and graded routes for both in July and August. You can also play squash, badminton, tennis, basketball and table tennis with a varied weekly events programme for both adults and children.
Restaurants in Val Thorens
Val Thorens has a huge amount of restaurants to choose from with everything from Michelin star restaurants along with traditional local cuisine to pizza or take away. Face West offers a nice variety for families and provides a great service located right in the centre of the resort. You can opt for eating at a mountain restaurant in the evening, you just have to walk there first! Steak Club has a really refreshing interior for a mountain restaurant and is located next to the main are of bars for post meal entertainment.
Nightlife in Val Thorens
The highest après ski in Europe is also one of the liveliest! Live bands, DJs and karaoke nights are all popular and there are plenty of places to grab a beer and something to refuel the system after a day on the slopes. Val Thorens has a plethora of French, Irish, English and Dutch bars to choose from, Le Saloon and the Frog and Roastbeef being two of the most lively venues. If partying in Les Menuires you should head to the Croisette for bars and nightlife, whereas St Martin has the Dahlia and the Pourquoi-Pas to name but two.
For a more dignified approach to eating out Val Thorens has a number of wonderful restaurants including L’Oxalys, the Fitzroy Hotel and the Bergerie.
Location: Val Thorens