The Three Valleys
The Three Valleys (“Les Trois Vallées” in French) is the biggest lift-linked ski area in the world, and home to the blockbuster resorts of Courchevel, Méribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens as well as less famous ones such as La Tania, Orelle and St Martin de Belleville.
Overview of skiing in Les Trois Vallées
Please see our feature article: ‘Where to Stay and Ski in the 3 Valleys’
The Courchevel Valley
The furthest east of the Three Valleys, the Courchevel valley is home to 6 different villages: Courchevel 1850m, Courchevel-Moriond 1650m, Courchevel-Village 1550m, Courchevel-La Tania 1400m, Courchevel-le Praz 1300m and the old village of Saint-Bon at 1100m. The higher villages used to be known just by their altitude (“Courchevel 1850″,” Courchevel 1650″, “Courchevel 1550” etc) but for some reason they were rebranded and given extra names like Moriond and Village, although not everyone uses them. As a general rule, the higher the village, the more expensive it will be, and accommodation is noticeably cheaper in Courchevel-le Praz than in Courchevel 1850.
Courchevel La Tania is the most self-contained of the Courchevel villages, and has its own separate identity. Almost everyone calls it just La Tania rather than Courchevel La Tania, much to the annoyance of the Courchevel Marketing Department. We have therefore given it its own Ultimate-Ski resort review.
The Meribel Valley
The middle valley is, unsurprisingly, dominated by the famous resort of Meribel, situated in the middle of the valley at 1450m. This is now a very big sprawling resort and effectively split into different suburbs like La Chaudanne, La Renarde, Moulin, Mussillon, Morel, Altitude 1600, Altiport, Belvedere and Les Chalets. The two largest Meribel suburbs are also the furthest away from the centre so feel like separate resorts: they are Meribel Mottaret at 1750m and Meribel Village at 1400m. They are both self-contained with their own lifts, restaurants and shops. Our Meribel accommodation guide covers all these suburbs.
Les Allues at 1100m is a separate resort, 350m below Meribel. In theory you can ski down to it on a single piste, although in practice this piste is often closed or unenjoyable to ski, so you often go down on the same lift as you go up in the morning, the Olympe bubble. This is a long lift but a fast one: it only takes about 10 minutes to get from Les Allues to Meribel and the lift takes you all the way to the main lift hub at la Chaudanne.
Below Les Allues is the valley level spa town of Brides-Les-Baines at 600m. This is very definitely a town below a ski resort rather than a ski resort itself, but it is connected to Les Allues and Meribel by the Olympe bubble. The bubble takes just under half an hour to complete the journey from Brides-Les-Baines to Meribel.
The Belleville Valley
The Belleville valley is the largest valley and its resorts have almost half of all the lifts and pistes in the 3 Valleys. At its top is Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe at an ear-popping 2300 metres. Half-way down is Les Menuires at 1850m, a convenient good-value resort, the centre of which is mainly composed of large apartment blocks, but there are nicer-looking suburbs further up the mountain, such as Reberty. Further down the valley is the relatively unspoilt small village of St Martin de Belleville at 1450m, which has its own local slopes as well as quick access to Méribel and Les Menuires.
The Maurienne Valley
There should really only be three valleys in a ski area called “Les 3 Vallées”, but around Val Thorens the skiing in the Belleville valley spills over the ridgeline and into the Maurienne valley. This mysterious fourth valley is where the highest lift in the whole of the 3 Valleys is: the 3230m Sommet des 3 Vallees. Most skiers visiting this fourth valley come from Val Thorens (there are three crossing points that seamlessly connect it to the rest of the Val Thorens ski area) but you can also stay in the Maurienne valley in the small ski resort of Orelle at 900m. There are no runs down to Orelle, but there is a bubble which connects Orelle with Plan Bouchet at 2350m which is the bottom of the local ski area, and has lifts which bring you back over the ridgeline to the Belleville valley above Val Thorens.
Getting to the Three Valleys ski resorts
The Three Valleys ski resorts are well-served by the Lyon, Chambery and Geneva airports, each less than three hours away, and easily accessible from Moutiers train station. Click on the links for more information: