We all know that food tastes better when eaten outdoors. We’ve all discovered to our cost that mountain restaurants can be painfully expensive. Picnicking is therefore a doubly beneficial way of eating on the mountain when the weather is fine, with the bonus of some of the finest views in the world at your feet.
For the perfect picnic, simply stock up on local hams, cheeses and bread from the supermarket or, if you’re short on time, choose ready-made sandwiches from the local boulangerie. It’s best to give the rucksack to the person least likely to fall over and squash your lunch! Experience teaches you to avoid yoghurts – they tend to explode over everything if you fall on them.
You’ll find dozens of suggested picnic areas on the 3 Valleys lift map, marked by a picnic table logo. Here are our pick of the best which combine sunshine, great views and a tranquil atmosphere.
Le Dragon de l’Altai, Pic bleu piste, Méribel
This picnic area opened last winter and is the ideal place for family lunches. Children will enjoy spotting the dragons along the blue Pic Bleu run while their parents will be blown away by the views over the Méribel valley. Two-thirds of the way down, just to the right of the piste, a wooden chalet nestles in a tranquil forest clearing. Here are picnic tables and you can recharge your phones, use the wifi or simply stretch out on the loungers and doze in the sun… A second picnic chalet with fabulous views can be found just above the mid-station of Saulire Express gondola.
Top of Chapelets chairlift, Courchevel-Moriond 1650.
This is right on the furthest edge of the 3 Valley ski area, so it makes a good destination for a full day outing. Thanks to gentle slopes, it can be reached by intermediates skiers and this part of the ski area is generally quiet even during the busiest holiday weeks. The Chapelets area offers scenery which is dramatically beautiful and quite different from the rest of the Three Valleys. There are picnic tables from which you can enjoy glorious views over mountains uncluttered by lifts.
Top of Olympic chairlift, Méribel
From here you can enjoy wonderful views over both the Méribel and Belleville valleys with Mont Blanc in the background. Thanks to the orientation table, you can identify all the peaks around you and there are picnic tables too. After lunch, earn boasting points by descending the Roc de Fer 2015 World Cup piste (there’s no need to admit to anybody that it’s only a blue run).
Top of la Masse, Les Menuires
This iconic mountain is now accessible to all thanks to the recent addition of the easy blue Bouquetin run. Make your way to the top of Masse 2 gondola lift and simply choose a spot off the sides of the piste which has the best views to the south.
The ‘fourth valley’, Orelle
Yes, the 3 Vallées has a fourth valley located on the far side of Val Thorens and it makes a great full day’s ski trip there and back. The Orelle valley faces due south and the air temperature is always a few degrees higher than elsewhere, making it perfect for picnics on sunny but slightly cooler days. Head up the Bouchet chairlift (the highest in the 3 Valleys) then simply chose one of the many boulders just off the sides of the Bouchet piste to perch on. The views over the Southern Alps are glorious and it’s a wonderfully peaceful area away from the hubbub of Val Thorens.
The Yeti Park, Méribel-Mottaret
If you are skiing with small children, the Yeti Park in Mottaret offers a great picnic area on protected beginner pistes. There are comfy tables and chairs, games for the children and a magic carpet lift and baby slope close by where children can ski in safety while you soak up some sun on the loungers.
Chaudanne Lounge in Méribel.
When the promised fine weather fails to appear and you’d rather eat your picnic indoors, head for one of the special indoor heated picnic area called "Salle hors sac". These are marked on the piste map by a picnic table logo with a roof. Our favourite is in Méribel: it’s called the Lounge and is located in the bottom station of the Saulire Express gondola lift at the Chaudanne. Not only are there tables and chairs, comfy sofas and ski info in real time on the screens, there are also microwaves, free Wi-fi and civilised loos as well.
Wherever you eat, please remember to take your rubbish away with you. Bon appétit!