This year we tested a French ski resort after many years of Swiss skiing (Saas-Fee in the Valais and Zuoz, a five-lift idyll in the Engadin), which never disappointed. Our standards were high and didn’t get fulfilled immediately – but by the end we were enthusiastic about almost every part of this ski area and hope to be back next year again!
Already the pure facts about this resort, are quite stunning:
- #1 largest ski resort in the world
- 183 lifts serving 321 slopes spanning 600 km
- 1940 m of skiable altitude: from 1300 m (Courchevel La Praz) to 3240 m (Le Bouchet in Orelle)
- 25 summits: ten above 2,500 metres and six glaciers
- Val Thorens (where we stayed) – highest skiing town of Europe at 2300m
- consists of eight resorts with thirteen towns to ski too
or the pictures…
There’s lots of things that made our stay so good from the skiing quality and opportunities, the atmosphere and little fun things around the resort to Val Thorens itself.
Skiing Quality & Opportunities: There are so many slopes that you can’t ever get bored. A ton of great black slopes, from groomed to moguly, that can surprise you any day.
Like the best mogul slope in the world, “m”, that got rid of all its moguls overnight 🙁 (more of my fav runs below)… beautiful landscapes and views from every perspective, above, below or in the clouds and calm downhill runs through the forest. Not to be missed are the Couloirs atop Courchevel (though I appreciate those who just decide to watch the show from above). They’re said to be among the hardest black pistes in the world: steep (up to 85%), long, narrow, icy, mogul covered gullies. The opportunities for off-piste skiing are immense and easily reachable without any risks. For example tree skiing above Courchevel-Moriond, the moguls that can pop up anywhere just between groomed slopes, fresh powder snow or spring (the thinner version of slushy break-a-leg-snow). We also treated ourselves to two back-country tours, for which 3 Vallees has boundless areas. It’s a stunning experience to be encircled by huge white mounds of nature – quiet, peaceful but also scary.
This year we skipped the fun parks (my dad broke his collarbone on a jump last year 😉 – I know a smiley doesn’t belong, but so be it, I think it fits ;)), however there’s lots and lots of fun parks – from family levels to pros. A real fun run is Indians, slow and calm through the forest, with amusements like bow and arrow shooting, teepees and artwork as well as informative boards on history of Native Americans along the way. Similarly another forest run has hidden animal sculptures hidden in the trees with information texts about them on the side.
Cool Stuff around the Slopes: Another thing that made the skiing experience so spectacular was all the tidbits around it. Involving skiing: public timed, maybe even filmed racing courses, selfie spots for example above the Couloirs (I guess they want to enable the choice when it’s still possible) and multiple themed picture frames capturing Mont Blanc and yourself. Update 2017: Now they even have real selfie spots, 6 of them that make these awesome picture shows.
There seemed to be events going on every day; we experienced a helicopter show and stunt airplanes right over Courchevel – for a sec we thought one might crash into our chair lift. Even some sort of donated sculptures that you can recognize from far away such as the huge, bright red gorilla and an even bigger polar bear with its cub. We started a new tradition: daily picnics.
With great picnic spots to choose from, heated indoor areas for those invisible days, and idyllic spots in the forests you can optimize your co[ld]zy-ness. And clean public restrooms all over made pee-breaks bearable for once:
Ok, no I’m serious, really!
You won’t get lost! Every intersection has explicit signposting – of lifts, runs and towns. And if that’s not enough then the very well done 3D Map and WiFi hotspots should be more than sufficient.