Les Menuires Off-Piste

Despite its reputation as a resort for intermediates and beginners, Les Menuires also has good between the piste skiing, some decent ‘LibertyRide’ freeriding areas, and some long off-piste itineraries, particularly from the top of la Masse.

Freeride skiers on La Masse above Les Menuires

Freeride skiers on La Masse above Les Menuires © P.Lebeau-Les Menuires OT

There are some truly stunning off-piste sections in Les Menuires and unsurprisingly most of them feature in the La Masse sector to the west of the resort.

La Masse provides plenty of off-piste terrain between the pistes. There is a patrolled but ungroomed Liberty Ride area at the top of the Masse bubble, but this is just a small fragment of what is available within a couple of hundred metres of the various pistes. But as ever take care and take a friend who can get help if you have a bad fall, or better still, take a guide.

La Masse is also the starting point for much longer itineraries for which a guide is even more strongly recommended. The spine of the Pointe de la Masse runs roughly north-south and to the east lies the pretty Vallon du Lou with the lake at the bottom. In good conditions (normally in the morning) you can ski there from the top of Pointe de la Masse. The valley is perfect for off-piste skiing and can also be accessed from the top of the Boismint chairlift and the Cime Caron cable car in Val Thorens. Try them all, they all have their charms and allow completely different routes and views.

On the west side of the spine to Pointe de La Masse is the Vallee des Encombres. The landscape on this side is stunning and starting at the top of La Masse you ski along the Fred Covili red until you reach the giant wooden carved Bouquetin. From there if you aim for the village of Le Chatelard below Saint Martin de Belleville a wonderful backcountry area opens up to you. Start in the morning, and you will arrive in the village for lunch. Book a table at the wonderful La Ferme Auberge de Chanacoucou (T +33 6 13 98 91 56) and after you have eaten your superb lunch the owner will drive you to Saint Martin de Belleville to access the return lift. If you don’t book, you’ll have to work off your lunch by walking the kilometre uphill to Saint Martin.

Also from La Masse, you can ski down to the village of Le Bettex at the base of Les Menuires, via Les Yvoses. You must go around Le Teurre, the peak with the old telephone tower on top of it. On the far side you pass some huts and then aim for the bridge to cross the river at the bottom, but you really need a guide to do this safely.

Advanced skier on La Masse looking across to ski slopes on the Meribel side of Les Menuires

Advanced skier on La Masse looking across to the Meribel side of Les Menuires (c) Les Menuires OT_David_ANDRE

On the other side of the valley, there are two official, avalanche patrolled, ungroomed Liberty Ride areas – one near the Sunny Express lift and one near the St Martin Express. In fresh snow there is also lots of ‘between the piste’ free riding coming down from 3 Marches and Mont de la Challe and Tougnete, but many of the runs face west or south-west so snow quality can change quickly. Be very careful about going lower than the Gros Tougne blue – the lower you go, the rockier, and more dangerous, it gets. In good conditions, you can ski down to Le Bettex (you have to cross the road and there is a long flat section at the end) from the bottom of the Granges chair – turn right off Gros Tougne, keep the Pelozet blue on your right, and keep well to the left of the village of Les Granges.

Remember always to check the avalanche warning and make sure you have the necessary equipment including probe, shovel and transceiver. And hiring a guide is always recommended.

More off-piste skiing is available in Val Thorens, Meribel and Courchevel. The highest lift-accessed off-piste areas in the Meribel valley (Cote Brune and Mont Vallon) are easier to reach from Les Menuires than from the centre of Meribel.


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