Val Thorens can be found in the heart of the French Savoie region forming part of the impressive Trois Vallees ski region. Its highest peak, the Aiguilles de Peclet, stretches up to over 3,500m, with the resort itself at 2,300m – making it the highest in Europe. One of the resort’s selling points is that it links to the whole Trois Vallees region and the height does mean virtually guaranteed skiing whatever the weather.
This area benefits from runs on the Peclet glacier itself, which are rarely unusable. As a consequence, it has a long ski season from around the end of November right through until early May (the season ended on May 9th in 2010). Sunshine is common on these slopes as it is set on a wide open location.
The resort can be reached from a choice of airports namely Geneva, Lyon and Chambery, of which the latter is the closest. Transfer times vary and can depend very much on traffic but are usually approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. This makes it just about reachable for those looking for short break skiing.
It is a purpose built resort and as such the accommodation is mainly well placed to allow direct ‘ski in ski out‘ this can be a real time saver in an action packed holiday.
The resort itself is traffic free with a shuttle service on offer between car parks and accommodation. Although this location has been purpose built for skiers, there is a downside to this – it does not have the same charm that other settings own.
That said, the more recent constructions have added some local character. The benefits of height are sometimes outweighed too, because much of the skiing is above the tree line it can be prone to low cloud and mist creating poor visibility at times.
Having access to the Trois Vallees means that there are runs to suit every type of skier, from tentative beginners to steady improvers and right through to those looking for off piste challenges. Guides are available in resort for those looking for an adrenaline run off the main pistes.
The broad appeal can make it a busy place, especially on the runs in and around the resort itself. Once beyond the bounds of beginner runs, the skiing opens out to offer wider and more leisurely slopes that are great for building confidence. The resort has a choice of 4 ski schools including the widely established ecole du Ski Francaise.
Depending on ability and time available, there are a choice of 3 different lift passes extending from the Val Thorens locales up to full access to the Trois Vallees ski region. Although there are enough runs for all types of skier, this resort is particularly well suited to the intermediate and expert skier simply because of the sheer range of options it provides.
If you do choose to ski outside the local area, it is important to check which resort your run might end up in. There are usually connecting lifts but once these are closed for the day it could prove an expensive error if you have to return by taxi.
Aside from the skiing and boarding there are other activities available on the snow such as snow shoeing outings, snow mobiling trips and even ice driving lessons that are held on a permanent ice circuit. The ski area also offers a toboggan run of 6 km where the ski school sometimes offers torch-lit runs for children at holiday time.
Indoor activities can be found at the sports centre, which offers a swimming pool, sauna and steam room as well as tennis, squash and badminton courts for those with energy left after skiing! For a more restful evening, the resort includes a cinema and a bowling alley. Families are well catered for with lessons and activities for the very young, as well as a choice of nursery and creche facilities for those children too young to ski. The resort has its own fun park complete with trampolines and bouncy castles.
Val Thorens offers a selection of retail outlets but these are mainly confined to winter sports wear, souvenirs and local specialities. There is plenty on offer here and it is a resort which has been continually upgraded and invested in and therefore, quite rightly, earns its place in the world’s top 20 most popular ski resorts. It is a busy place and runs are near to full capacity for a large part of the season. It might be wise to book early to ensure you get the best choice of accommodation.
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