Do you think of a ski holiday as an amazing experience sandwiched between a tedious journey of airport queues and long transfers? If so, it doesn’t have to be this way, as many ski resorts
Val Thorens is a lively, cosmopolitan and fun ski resort in the French Alps. Part of the expansive Three Valleys ski area, it offers endless on-piste and off-piste ski opportunities. As the highest ski resort in Europe, it’s one of the most skisure destinations in the world. With its exceptional scenery, party atmosphere and enviable snow conditions, it’s no wonder that Val Thorens is one of the most popular ski resorts in the world.
The town itself is a purpose-built resort. It may not have the quaint charm of other more traditional ski towns, but it does offer convenience. Surrounded by dramatic mountain vistas and with a fun, welcoming vibe, the town is a very pleasant place to be. Due to its purpose-built nature, most hotels are ski-in ski-out, and you’ll have everything you need right on your doorstep.
Popular with both students and luxury travellers, Val Thorens brings together a melting pot of winter adventurers. If you love to ski hard and party hard, Val Thorens is the perfect resort. Now let’s find out why Val Thorens has been voted ‘best ski resort in the world’ seven times.
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There are four main ways of getting to Val Thorens, depending on where you are travelling from: by plane, by car, by coach or by train. The best option for you will depend on the country you are travelling from, how long you intend to stay in Val Thorens for, and your budget.
By far the quickest and easiest way of getting to Val Thorens is by plane and airport transfer. Val Thorens is reachable from four international airports: Chambery, Geneva, Grenoble, and Lyon.
Chambery offers the shortest transfer time of 1hr40 but it is a relatively small airport with a limited number of airline options. At peak times on weekends, it can get incredibly busy and queues can be long. Still, it’s a great option if you’d prefer to avoid an overly long transfer time. If travelling from the UK, TUI, Jet2 and BA all fly directly to Chambery.
Both Lyon and Grenoble offer a transfer time of around 2hr20. Geneva has the longest transfer time at 2hr45 but the Swiss airport is the largest of all airports near Val Thorens. It therefore offers a multitude of options in terms of airlines, flight times and prices, plus it’s accessible from all over the world.
There are three main ways to make the trip from the airport to Val Thorens. Firstly, if you booked your holiday as part of a package then you will likely have a coach transfer included via your tour operator. Otherwise you’ll need to book a private transfer or get the bus.
Airport transfers from Geneva to Val Thorens range from €50-€450 depending on whether it is a shared or private transfer, as well as the time of year you are travelling. Transfers from other airports tend to be on a private basis, so they are usually more expensive and start at around €250.
Some bus services run from the airports too, if you’d prefer a more budget-friendly option. One popular service is Ben’s Bus, which runs transfers from all four international airports mentioned above. You can choose from one of the regular airport shuttles, or book a private car.
At the other end of the spectrum – and for the ultimate luxury – you can get a helicopter transfer. Val Thorens has a heliport located at the foot of the slopes. To arrive in style by helicopter, prices start from around €2,200.
If you’re travelling from the UK or a nearby European country, driving is another popular option. It’s often the preferred option of those who are lucky enough to have a second home in resort, as the main advantage is that it allows more room for luggage. The downside of travelling by plane is the additional luggage costs which come with ski and boots carriage.
Driving also allows more flexibility, as you are in charge of your own schedule. Plus, travelling to Val Thorens by car allows you to bring along your furry friend, if you simply can’t leave your dog behind!
If travelling from the UK, you can cross the channel by Eurotunnel or ferry. The former is faster but the ferry allows you to stretch your legs and relax ahead of the long drive.
The drive from Calais to Val Thorens takes around 8hr40 if travelling direct. It will of course take longer once you factor in rest stops, traffic and weather.
Bear in mind that the roads leading up to Val Thorens can get extremely busy in peak times. Plus, inclement weather can cause further delays, especially if there is heavy snow.
Be sure to check the driving and vehicle requirements before setting off. For example, it is mandatory to have snow chains or winter tyres. In terms of parking, Val Thorens restricts street parking in winter but there are several mandatory car parks to make use of. Learn more about car parking in Val Thorens.
For a more budget-friendly option, it’s possible to get a coach from the UK to Val Thorens. Snow Express runs a regular coach service from London Victoria and Folkestone.
Prices start from just £75 but are usually higher during the peak winter season. The coach leaves London at 18:00 and arrives in Val Thorens at 14:45 the next day.
Train is another option for getting to Val Thorens and whether it is suitable will depend on where you are travelling from and how much luggage you have.
The train runs from Chambery to Moutiers, where you can then get a shuttle into Val Thorens. If travelling from London, you can get the Eurostar to Paris-Nord and then the TGV from Paris-Lyon to Chambery.
Val Thorens is a semi-pedestrian ski resort, so getting around Val Thorens itself is easy on foot. There is also a free shuttle bus service if you don’t fancy the trek with your ski boots and skis. The shuttle bus follows a circular route and runs every 20 minutes from 08:00-20:00.
You can also get to the neighbouring ski resorts of Meribel, Courchevel, Les Menuires, and St Martin by bus. Although it’s much easier to get to Meribel and Courchevel on-piste. The bus should really be reserved for those times when you miss the last lift – it can be easy to get carried away with après!
Taxis are an option to get between resorts, but they are not widely available and can be pricey. If you’re feeling particularly fancy, travelling by helicopter is an option for the ultimate luxury way of getting around.
If you need to hire ski or snowboarding equipment in Val Thorens, you are spoilt for choice with over 30 shops – from independent stores to well-known outlets. Some of the popular ski hire shops include Skiset, Intersport, and Ski Republic – although they can get very busy during peak times.
The ski season in Val Thorens usually runs from mid-November to the end of April. Val Thorens is part of the expansive Three Valleys ski area, offering 600km of perfectly groomed pistes.
The Three Valleys ski area covers the neighbouring resorts of Meribel, Courchevel and Les Menuires. The result is an exceptional range of ski slopes from gentle greens for the budding beginner through to challenging blacks for the seasoned pro.
With fast, modern ski lifts, Val Thorens and the surrounding ski area offers an accessible and compelling ski experience.
There are two different ski passes on offer:
For most skiers and snowboarders, the full Three Valleys area lift pass is the one to get. Of course it does come at a higher price point, but it’s absolutely worth it for the exceptional amount of ski area.
The local only pass would be more appropriate for total beginners, who will likely be sticking to the gentle green and blue slopes for the majority of the week.
One of Europe’s best ski resorts for beginners, Val Thorens offers plenty of wide, gentle slopes close to the centre of the resort. There is a great beginner area right next to the town, complete with magic carpet lifts – so no need to negotiate drag lifts.
There are lots of forgiving blue runs dotted throughout Val Thorens, making it a great ski resort to learn how to ski or snowboard.
Beginners can hone their skills on the Cairn run towards Les Menuires. With its wide and gentle slopes, it’s the ideal place to practise those turns.
For the intermediates, take the varied Allamande red run from the top of 3 Marches down to Les Menuires. It offers a compelling combination of steep sections, twisting passages, and long shusses.
Those with more experience can test their skills on the steeper slopes of Cime de Caron, including the red Col de l’Audzin. Skiers and snowboarders after a challenge can try the black Combe de Caron run, complete with stunning views as a backdrop.
Or there’s the black Combe Rosael which runs through beautiful Orelle (often referred to as the ‘fourth valley’). It’s not one for the faint-hearted though and best avoided if the snow conditions aren’t perfect.
For more exceptional views, head to the highest run in the Three Valleys. Red Coraia is located in Orelle and starts at the dizzying height of 3,230m. This brings incredible panoramic views of the Alps, with a relatively easy descent.
The Val Thorens snowpark can be accessed via the Moutière chairlift. Conveniently there is a drag lift to take you back to the top of the park, saving you the chair lift queues.
Home to some big kickers, the VT snowpark is a great place for pro freestylers to hone their tricks and stunts. Due to the good snow conditions in the resort, the kickers stay in good shape all the way through the season.
Runs in the park are colour coded based on difficulty, following the same system as the slopes: green (easy), blue (medium), red (difficult) and black (very difficult). There are five zones: 800m long boardercross, three freestyle zones and a Jump’Air (the giant air bag).
Key features of the Val Thorens snowpark include a jump table, corner, big air, wall ride, handrail, half pipe and whoops.
Val Thorens provides plenty of easily accessible off-piste opportunities. Due to the altitude and excellent snow conditions in Val Thorens, powder days can usually be enjoyed well into the spring.
The Pierre Lory area offers a good taste of off-piste skiing that’s relatively moderate and close to the slopes. It can be accessed from the top of the Col chairlift and ends in the Maurienne Valley.
For something a bit more challenging, the Vallon Du Lou is a large valley which offers some exhilarating backcountry skiing to the lake at the bottom. For off-piste skiing that’s further afield, there are plenty of guided tours you can join.
Just bear in mind that the terrain is rocky, so off-piste skiing is best done in the second half of the season to protect your skis. If you’re hiring skis and planning to ski off-piste, it’s worth taking out the necessary insurance to cover any equipment damage.
It’s not possible to go heli-skiing in France, as it was banned a number of years ago due to environmental concerns. However, Val Thorens heli-skiing companies will take you to nearby Italy, usually La Rosiere or La Thuile.
It’s an exhilarating way to enjoy all the wonders of the backcountry. You don’t have to be a pro to go heli-skiing, but you should be a relatively competent and confident skier.
On a heli-skiing adventure, you usually get the choice of 1-3 drops. Heli-skiing companies will provide all the necessary avalanche equipment for a safe trip.
Val Thorens itself offers a relatively limited number of cross country trails, covering only 4km. The trails cater for both classic and skating styles. The Val Thorens cross-country ski offering is best suited to beginners or those who would like to try their hand at something different for a few hours.
For those looking to enjoy more rewarding cross-country skiing, nearby Les Menuires and St Martin de Bellevill offer 28km of marked cross-country trails. Seasoned cross-country skiers will be better off heading to Courchevel, which offers 67km of trails.
Whether you’re simply not interested in hitting the slopes on a pair of skis, or you fancy trying something different, Val Thorens offers plenty of activities for the adventurer.
At an impressive 6km, Cosmojet is the longest toboggan run in France. It’s so long that it takes 45 minutes! The perfect activity for kids and adults alike, it’s a thrilling way to get down the mountain.
A high number of belly laughs are guaranteed as whizz down the slopes on your bum! For an extra thrill, you can do the toboggan run in the evening too.
Val Thorens’ version of the famous Icehotel, the Igloo Village is a mini hotel sculpted from snow and ice. It features an ice bar, restaurant and hotel rooms. You don’t have to stay over though. Located just off a green slope, it’s accessible to both skiers and non-skiers. The Igloo Village is open daily from 10:00-17:00 during winter. Pop along on a Wednesday evening for a traditional cheese fondue.
What better way to get the adrenaline pumping than by zooming over the slopes.
La Bee zipline is a 1,800m double zip wire up to 65m above the ground, and the highest zip line in Europe. It’s accessible from the top of the La Moutière chairlift.
There’s also the Bouchet Zipline on which you can reach speeds of up to 100km/h!
Fat biking is an activity that has grown considerably in popularity.
It’s essentially mountain biking on the snow, with a purpose-built bike aided by electrical assistance.
This is one for the adrenaline lovers, as hurtling down a snowy mountain on a bike is not for the faint-hearted!
Always a popular way of taking to the slopes after dark. It doesn’t get better than whizzing over the ski slopes under the starry skies. You can ride solo or as a pair, depending on how confident you feel driving the snow mobile.
Take to the air with an adrenaline-fuelled paraglide over the mountains.
Soar across the sky, over the slopes and take in the calm of the Alps under a canopy.
If you’re after a blood pumping break from the slopes, take to the ice by car. At the Alain Prost Ice Circuit, you can learn how to drive on the ice from the very best. Or if you don’t fancy the drive yourself, you can be a passenger.
For an unforgettable experience, go scuba diving under the ice at the Lac du Lou in Val Thorens. You’ll have 20 minutes under the ice, with all equipment provided. Perhaps not for the faint-hearted but a truly magical experience.
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Val Thorens offers a number of luxury hotel options for the discerning traveller. Here are the best hotels in Val Thorens.
HOTEL LE FITZ ROY
A stunning five-star hotel in the heart of Val Thorens, Le Fitz Roy is an elegant establishment. The rooms feature contemporary lines and panoramic views. Relax and unwind in the enticing spa then fuel up on exceptional cuisine in the restaurant. It’s a luxurious home from home.
Warm and welcoming hospitality awaits at the luxury Hotel Pashmina. It combines the homeliness of a ski lodge with the bright and inviting feel of its modern interiors. Take a dip in the indoor pool or recover in the sauna and steam room. You can also enjoy fine dining at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Les Explorateurs.
Altapura was Val Thorens’ first five star hotel, bringing eye-catching Nordic architecture and uber cool interiors. This modern hotel brings a touch of glamour to the traditional sport hotel. Unwind in the gorgeous spa and wellness facilities or soak up the panoramic views from the sunny south-facing terrace.
HOTEL KOH-I NOR
An exceptional five star hotel, Hotel Koh-I Nor brings the height of luxury to Europe’s highest ski resort. Named after a 105.6-carat diamond on the British Royal Family Crown, that says all you need to know about the quality of this establishment. Located at the summit of Val Thorens, it brings stunning views, three restaurants, and a decadent spa with two pools.
LE HAMEAU DU KASHMIR
Le Hameau du Kashmir is a four-star slopeside hotel in Val Thorens. Located at the foot of the slopes and with a sunny position, it offers the ultimate convenience with a stunning backdrop. This sophisticated hotel brings stylish and modern interiors, as well as an opulent spa. It’s a popular place to stay and a real treat for the discerning guest.
LES BALCONS PLATINUM
Les Balcons Platinium is a five star residence offering stunning apartments and doorstep skiing. From the outside, it is a traditional French rustic wood and stone building; on the inside, it has a modern and luxurious feel. Relax in the incredible spa facilities complete with an inviting pool, or soak up the sun on your south-facing balcony.
MONTANA PLEIN SUD
For high-end self-catering, the Montana Plein Sud Apartments are the perfect option. The apartments are modern but with an alpine theme underpinning the decor. Enjoy spacious apartments, excellent facilities and an ideal location.
LE VAL THORENS
This recently renovated hotel features a contemporary, neutral style with alpine-inspired wooden furniture. After a day on the slopes, dive into the pool, get pampered in the spa, or enjoy a drink nexto the fireplace in the cosy lounge.
Fahrenheit Seven is a trendy four star hotel with a relaxed atmosphere, vintage retro design, and a great position on the slopes. The hotel has four bars, a restaurant with terrace and a luxurious ski room. A friendly hotel with a fun personality.
If you’re travelling as a group or would like a more private experience then a ski chalet may be a better accommodation option. Val Thorens offers a small selection of gorgeous luxury ski chalets with five star service.
Chalet Orlov is arranged over four floors and caters for 8-10 guests. The interiors have a luxurious and spacious feel with lots of natural light pouring in from the large French windows. As well as four bedrooms, there is a cosy cinema room, home gym, and private spa area.
CHALET LA DATCHA
Better for larger groups, Chalet la Datcha is arranged over five floors and can sleep up to 15 guests. The decor is modern and contemporary with a high-end feel. There is also a swimming pool, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, a Hammam, a golf simulator, and a Formula 1 simulator.
Chalets Cocoon is a luxurious alpine chalet, combining a traditional exterior with modern interiors and facilities. Soak up panoramic views of the snow-capped Alps from the jacuzzi on the south-facing terrace. Guests can enjoy a five-star hospitality service with a convivial atmosphere.
Arranged over four floors and with a private lift, Chalet Cullinan has five bedrooms that sleep 10 people. The large private spa features a hot tub, sauna and relaxation area, while the large south-facing living area has a private balcony and large French windows.
CHALET GOLDEN JUBILEE
A traditional luxury chalet with a homely and modern feel, sleeping 10-11 guests. South-facing windows let in plenty of natural light, while the thoughtfully designed interior brings a unique charm. The chalet has a private spa with indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and steam room.
From casual eateries to exceptional fine dining, Val Thorens offers a whole variety of restaurant options. Here are the top mountain restaurants for a slopeside refuel and the best dinner restaurants for a delightful evening meal.
Without doubt one of the best mountain restaurants in Val Thorens, Chalet de la Marine is a traditional mountain restaurant at an altitude of 2500m. Downstairs a casual self-service restaurant. While upstairs is the main restaurant where deserving mountain goers can tuck into refined and creative cuisine.
Located at the top of the Plein Sud and Pionniers chairlift is La Fruitière – the restaurant part of the infamous La Folie Douce. It’s a prestigious restaurant described as a gastronomic brasserie. Once you’ve refueled on delicious food, head outside to party hard and dance on the tables at La Folie Douce.
LES AIGUILLES DE PÉCLET
Set in a truly magical setting, Les Aiguilles de Péclet sits at 3,000 metres at the foot of the Péclet glacier. There is both a self-service restaurant and an a la carte restaurant to choose from. If it’s a bluebird day, relax on the sunny terrace and taek in the stunning panoramic views of the mountains.
Restaurant La Moutière offers a traditional French menu with highlights including schnitzels, quiche and lasagna.
The staff are friendly, the prices not too heavy for Val Thorens, and it’s in a very accessible location in Saint-Martin-de-Belleville.
CHEZ PÉPÉ NICOLAS
A small but cosy mountain restaurant that’s a little trickier to find. It has only five tables inside but more seating on the outside terrace, where visitors can soak up the gorgeous views. Food consists of traditional Savoyard & Bellevilloise dishes, with the likes of croque-monsieur, fondue, raclette and croziflette gracing the menu. Booking ahead is advised.
For a more casual but utterly delicious affair, head to Wok Ski for mouth-watering Asian Fusion food.
It’s a takeaway restaurant where you can tuck into classic Asian noodle and rice dishes slopeside in Val Thorens.
The only Michelin star restaurant in Val Thorens, Les Explorateurs at Hôtel Pashmina offers luxury fine dining in a vibrant setting. If a high end culinary experience is what you’re after, then Les Explorateurs will deliver.
LA DIAMANT NOIR
Another luxury option for discerning diners, Le Diamant Noir is a gourmet restaurant located in the five star Koh-I Nor hotel. The decor is elegant and the mountain light pours in through the large picture windows. The cuisine is excellent enough to be recommended by the Michelin guide.
Another Michelin recommended restaurant in Val Thorens is Le Fitz Roy at the hotel of the same name. With produce from the Savoie terroir and skilfully prepared ingredients, diners are in for a real culinary treat at this refined restaurant.
AUBERGE DES BALCONS
A traditional wooden chalet is the setting for the Auberge des Balcons gourmet brasserie restaurant. Indulge in Savoy and Italian dishes with a selection of classic mountain specialities. The restaurant is also a good spot for lunch, with a beautiful terrace.
As the name suggests, La Fondue Restaurant in Val Thorens serves traditional Savoyard specialties. Indulge in fondue or raclette after a day on the slopes. The ambience is cosy and inviting with friendly staff and classic Savoyard decor.
Il Gusto is an Italian restaurant located in the Oxalys residence, right in the heart of Val Thorens. With a menu bursting with Italian favourites, from antipasti and pasta to minestrone and panna cotta, diners can enjoy hearty food with a fine flair.
Val Thorens is a renowned party ski town known for its vibrant bars and unbeatable après. There is a reason why it featured in the number one spot of the best ski resorts for après.
From slopeside partying and dancing on tables to laid back bars and lively nightclubs, here are the best nightlife spots and après bars in Val Thorens.
LA FOLIE DOUCE
From lunchtime the crowds start to gather at the infamous La Folie Douce for an après party like no other. DJs, live singers and live musicians blast out music that can be heard from several slopes away. Watching people ski back down after a few too many drinks is the best part!
LE SALOON BAR
One of the busiest bars in the Three Valleys, the Saloon Bar is located in the top part of Val Thorens. Live music makes this a popular place to unwind after the slopes with a few drinks and party late into the night.
THE FROG & ROAST BEEF
The highest pub in Europe, the Frog & Roast Beef is popular with seasonaires. It’s perfect for a more convivial affair, serving tasty burgers and English breakfasts – so it’s no wonder it’s popular with Brits!
Bar 360 occupies a perfect slopeside position, making it the ideal place to kick off après after a day of skiing. With its large terrace, live music and happy hour between 16:00-18:00, it’s easy to see why this bar gets so lively.
A bit more of a hidden gem, Rhum Box can be found behind El Gringo’s tex-mex restaurant. This is a rum fan’s dream, with 30 different rums to sample. It’s a slightly quieter bar, but this may be a welcome change from the other more raucous establishments in Val Thorens.
The biggest nightclub in the Alps and the place to be once the après bars have closed. Some of the most famous DJs in the world have played at Malaysia, which is testament to its reputation. With a huge 700m² dance floor, you’ll have plenty of room to show off your dance moves – or blend into the crowds.
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