An epic new years ski holiday, Val Thorens – France
Imagine the highest ski resort in Europe. Imagine 3 Vallées. At the top of the 3 Vallées, you look out onto the world’s largest ski area which includes a whopping 600km of equipped slopes, 320 signposted runs and over 170 ski lifts… which of course includes the fabulous Val Thorens.
Now, if that doesn’t have your attention and you don’t think it’s for you then you may as well stop reading now!
The 3 Vallées consists of Vallée de Courchevel, Vallée de Méribel, and Vallée de Belleville. Val Thorens forms part of Vallée de Belleville.
Click here for a map of the 3 Vallées.
Why Val Thorens?
So, why pick Val Thorens? It is the highest resort in Europe, sitting at 2300m which is pretty impressive. The insane altitude means that you have the luxury of ski in-ski out accommodation, and most importantly, guaranteed snow cover throughout the entire season which is November – May.
If that’s not enough to get you excited about visiting Val Thorens, then you might like the fact that it is surrounded by 6 glaciers and 6 equipped mountain peaks all at an altitude of more than 3000m. The views are insane, you simply head up to the top of the chairlift to get panoramic views of over more than 1000 peaks not only in the French but the Swiss and Italian Alps as well. It is truly impressive, even for Jenna who was petrified of how high we were!
Variety of runs
We had only been skiing once, for 3 days in Austria, so were pretty much beginners. We booked in private group lessons (see below for info) and they were amazing! The variety of runs for beginners as well as intermediates is really good. The runs are long and spread across the resort, which means you don’t get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. There are heaps of green (beginner) and blues (intermediate) runs which run off a chair lift so have nice long runs, even at that level.
Pretty much all of the runs we did were lovely and wide so as a beginner or intermediate, you had plenty of room to turn around and escape from those snowboarders!!! *insert winky face here*
I can’t recommend highly enough, our ski instructor Philippe. He was absolutely incredible. We booked through Prosneige Ski School located right on the ski field in Val Thorens making it easily accessible…
We booked a few private group lessons, each going for 4 hours and they were money well spent. Phillipe was the best instructor we could have asked for and whilst these cost more than a group lesson, you are guaranteed to learn the correct technique much quicker!
We had only been skiing for 3 days the year before and our friends had not been at all. Phillipe had us going up the chair life within 10 minutes of the first lesson, parallel turning (no plows/pizza allowed!) and we were on to blue runs before we knew it!
We pre booked our lift pass before we got there and picked them up from the self-service machine. Click here for current prices and lift pass options.
We picked Val Thorens simply because it is the highest mountain so the chance of good snow is better than other parts of Europe. We were not disappointed, actually if anything it has made us massive ski and snow snobs! I’m not sure anything will come close to the quality of snow and skiing we experienced here and in St Anton.
There is nothing more amazing than jumping, walking, swimming (yes, we tried to ‘swim’ through the snow it was that thick!) and of course making snow angels in the incredibly deep snow.
Oh, and you can’t forget the snowman!
Because it gets so cold, a warning goes out to those who carry their credit cards with them while out skiing… When you take them out to use in a shop, in our case to buy a souvenir – be careful – they all snapped in half due to the cold! Thanks so some generous friends who gave us some money for the afternoon until we could get our backup cards from the chalet!!
New Years Eve at Val Thorens
We spent the new year in Val Thorens. It is safe to say that the village certainly knows how to put on a good show! The ski schools put on an evening show where they ski down the slopes holding lanterns and it is really quite beautiful!
Then, of course, there is the big party down in town, overlooking the slopes where there is a DJ and you can watch the fireworks at midnight.
If you want to go somewhere specifically for new years, I would suggest booking ahead and pre purchasing your tickets to avoid disappointment!
Where to eat
The benefit of staying in Val Thorens is that there are so many choices of where to eat. We stayed in a chalet that sleeps 5 people and had a full kitchen so we made use of the supermarket located across the street and cooked breakfast and some dinners at the chalet.
For lunch every day (yep, don’t judge) we ate waffles with chocolate sauce! They were some of the best waffles we’ve ever had, they were made to order and absolutely perfect for a below freezing day. Surely we burnt enough calories to justify eating them, right? The waffles are located halfway down a green and blue run so anyone can get there.
It is worth mentioning that there are some very comfortable sun chairs to relax in whilst watching the chairlifts and fellow skiers (and those evil snowboarders) zip down the slopes!
This particular spot also had a DJ and dancing area each afternoon, a perfect pit spot all round!
A very popular place for Après Ski in Val Thorens is La Folie Douce. Now, you do need to come down a tricky blue/red run to get there. We did this particular run with our ski instructor but Jenna didn’t have the courage to come down again so we didn’t get back up there to see what all the fuss was about. But, we’ve heard great things so you should check it out if you can get down!
We had dinner on our first evening at La ferme de Rosalie. The restaurant is located across the street from our chalet so it was quick and easy to get to. Inside is cozy with a fantastic fireplace and great service. We ordered pizzas and weren’t disappointed, so if you’re staying near Les Balcons then it is definitely recommended. If you are staying more in the town then, I wouldn’t recommend it as there are plenty of other spots in the village for a great feed.
We ate at a couple of other restaurants in the town centre, but we were too busy enjoying ourselves and didn’t take notice of the restaurant names!!
How to get to Val Thorens
We flew into Geneva, Switzerland, picked up a bus transfer with Ben’s Bus from the airport to Val Thorens which stops in the centre of the village. Depending on where you’re staying you can then either walk or catch a local bus to your final destination. Ben’s Bus was at the time of our booking by far the most competitive in terms of price and I liked the fact that it was a UK based company.
The day we were due to go from Geneva to Val Thorens there was a blizzard. The journey was supposed to take around 3.5 hours, but instead took over 10 hours and a pit stop at McDonald’s in Albertville for a toilet break and some dinner! It was absolutely insane, the roads and mountains complete gridlock. We arrived close to midnight (which made navigating up the mountain to our chalet interesting!!).
It snowed for the next day or so as well, but because of the blizzard, we managed to get three -20 degree days with perfect blue skies – amazing!
Ben’s Bus got us there and back safely, however, our only criticism of the company was that the drivers didn’t speak English. This became a problem when we were delayed with the blizzard, we had to get someone on the bus who could translate so we knew what was happening, odd that a UK based company doesn’t have any English speaking employees on the bus, however the main thing is that we felt safe along the journey given the extreme conditions.
Where to stay
We stayed at Résidence Les Balcons de Val Thorens & Spa which worked well as there were 5 of us. The chalet consisted of two bedrooms, a pull-out sofa lounge, and one bathroom. It had a beautiful balcony overlooking Val Thorens and the slopes.
The kitchen was big enough and well equipped to be able to cook breakfasts and dinners. The two bedrooms were a decent size, but the pillows weren’t amazing which was our only downside.
The resort has a spa, indoor heated pool and a steam room which are perfect after a full day of hitting the slopes.
The supermarket was literally a minute long (or short) walk down the street which makes picking up essentials super easy.
Overall, I’d recommend this accommodation for affordable group ski accommodation.
Check out this short video compiled in collaboration with Paul & Courtney at Wanderfall World.
Do you have travel insurance?
Before travelling, make sure you get a travel insurance policy – you never know when you might need it! Click here for information on travel insurance, what company we recommend and a link to get an instant quote.
If you’re looking for alternative accommodation to either save some money or share with friends or family, click here for information on Air B&B ($50 discount on your first booking), hotel price comparison websites etc.
Here is a few more picture of Val Thorens.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury