Ski Area

Les Menuires Ski Area

Les Menuires is located alongside Saint Martin de Belleville and Val Thorens in the Belleville valley, which contains half of all the runs in France’s famous, and enormous, 3 Valleys ski area. Les Menuires has slopes are on both sides of the resort.

Skier on David Drouilet Red Piste in Les Menuires

David Drouilet is one of several excellent red pistes coming down from Col de La Chambre (c) Les Menuires OT-Vincent_Lottenberg

Col de la Chambre

The Three Valleys’ side of the Les Menuires ski area is usually called the Col de la Chambre side after its 2850m high point. From here a ridge approximately 10 kms long separates Les Menuires and its neighbour St Martin de Belleville from Meribel, and over 50 pistes and plenty of off-piste runs descend nearly 1000m to the valley floor below.

Most of the pistes here are gentle red and blue runs that best suit intermediates who want to cruise in the afternoon sunshine. The blue and green runs close to les Menuires are suitable for beginners. The reds around the Col de la Chambre have some semi-steep parts but usually have the the best snow. Experts should check out the black Leo Lacroix run and the two official Liberty Ride areas (one near the St Martin Express, the other near the Sunny Express) which offer avalanche-protected freeriding. When it snows there is also plenty of unofficial between-the-piste freeriding on the upper slopes but be careful about descending all the way to the valley floor as the lower you go, the more dangerous it gets. If in doubt, stay above the Gross Tougne blue, or better still, hire a guide. Because most of the slopes face west or south-west, they get a lot of sunshine. so snow conditions can change rapidly. The pistes tend to be high enough and have enough artificial snow to be skiable from Christmas through to Easter but early in the morning they can be icy, so it can be better to ‘follow the sun’ and ski La Masse in the morning and come here in the afternoon.

La Masse

La Masse is on the other side of the resort, and here east and north-east facing slopes for confident intermediates and experts predominate. The reds and blacks coming down from the 2800m summit of Pointe de la Masse are genuinely steep in places and are at their best in the morning. They also tend to be less crowded than other areas of the 3 Valleys. Less confident intermediates can now ski from the top to bottom on blue runs, but even these are slightly steeper than the blue runs on the 3 Valleys side.

For off-piste skiers, La Masse offers an avalanche-protected official Liberty Ride area and proper backcountry itineraries that start from the summit and curl back to the resort or the road blow it or to other destinations such as  Lac du Lou, the Vallee des Encombes and Les Yvoses. If you are venturing beyond the official Liberty Ride area, you should hire a guide.

The Rest of the 3 Valleys

Les Menuires’s pistes are linked to those of St Martin de Belleville, where the slopes generally face north-west and hold their snow well, despite their modest altitude. In total the two resorts have 160km of pistes and there is a cheaper local pass that covers just this area, which makes sense for novices and less keen skiers. You can also buy one day extensions that cover the full 3 valleys area.

Val Thorens is in the same valley, but is not part of the Les Menuires-St Martin local lift pass area. It is easy to get to, however, via  Col de la Chambre. You can also ski to Val Thorens off-piste with a guide from La Masse via the Lac du Lou itinerary. Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, with several lifts ascending to over 3000m, so in warm weather often it has the best snow in the 3 Valleys. You can ski back to Les Menuires on the easy blue Boulevarde Cumin, but if the snow is soft or slushy you might need to push hard or walk in places . 

Meribel might be in a different valley to Les Menuires but you can cross into it at Col de la Chambre, 3 Marches, Mont de la Challe, Tougnete and Roc de Fer, so it’s easy to get to and from and you can explore lots of different routes. Because Les Menuires is a much higher resort than Meribel, the Meribel valley’s highest skiing around Cote Brune and Mont Vallon can actually be accessed much more quickly from the centre of Les Menuires than it can from the centre of Meribel. 

Courchevel is two valleys away from Les Menuires but its ski area can still be reached in about 90 minutes by good skiers, so it’s perfectly possible to ski there for the day then return to Les Menuires. But keep an eye on the time when you are there and allow extra time if there are queues for lifts: on skis there are plenty of fun ways to return from Courchevel to Les Menuires, but if you miss the last lift, the only way home will be a very long, very boring,  and very expensive taxi ride.


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