© C.Cattin / OT Val Thorens
Val Thorens in one of the ski resorts that makes up La Vallee de Belleville which also includes Les Menuires and Saint Martin de Belleville. The Vallee de Belleville is part of the vast Three Valleys ski area which is the largest ski area in the world, boasting around 600km of pistes and 200 lifts.
The slopes cover a massive area, ranging from a height of 3230m to 1450m. As 99% of Val Thorens’ runs are based above 2000m, great snow conditions are pretty much guaranteed throughout the season making it one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe.
Val Thorens & Les Menuires combined have in the region of 66 lifts, giving access to 300km of pistes. The pistes are made up of 14% green, 27% blue, 38% red and 11% black runs (see the piste maps).
The Glacier de la Pointe Renod is the summit of the Three Valleys and boasts spectacular views from the top of the Bouchet lift. This area also tends to be a peaceful spot as it is situated in a remote part of resort, away from the majority of the traffic and the surrounding runs require a certain amount of skill. The bottom of the glacier is where you will find the famous Combe de Rosael black run. It is often a good place to aim for first thing in the morning for some fresh snow.
Another favourite spot first thing is to head to the Pointe de La Masse. The area gets the best of the morning sun and there are a number of long runs down from its summit. This part of resort also features a number of steep slopes and three challenging blacks, Lac Noir, Dame Blanche and Rocher Noir. However, if you are just looking to cruise along in the sunshine, there are some long windy blues from the top of either Masse 1 or Rocher Noir lifts.
If you want to take it easy and not push yourself too hard, the blue runs down from Val Thorens, cairn and boulevard cumin, are nice and gentle allowing you to enjoy the ride whilst taking in the breath-taking scenery.
The areas on the east side of the valley which have lifts granting access to Meribel are best avoided first thing in the morning and between 15:00 and 16:00. During this time both those lifts and slopes will be jam-packed with skiers and boarders traversing between the three valleys. It is best to hit these pistes between 11:00 and 15:00. Favourite runs on this side are Jerusalem a long wide red run, the Plein Sud blue that leads into the heart of Val Thorens, and Petits Creux which takes you into Les Menuires.
Towards the end of the day take the Funitel Peclet gondola up to the glacier to take advantage of the last of the sun’s rays. If you are comfortable with black runs, you can continue right to the top via the Glacier chairlift. The top of the gondola is another spot where you will see fantastic views of the whole valley and snow covered mountains stretching out into the distance. From here the Lac Blanc and Les Vires pistes are extremely wide allowing you to easily avoid other skiers and pick up some speed.
For freestyle boarders and skiers the snow-park in the plateau sector of Val Thorens is probably the best spot in the three valleys to practice your tricks. It has a series of different size kickers, tables, rails and boxes suitable for all levels from beginner to the expert.
Beginner areas in Val Thorens
Val Thorens is, for beginners, quite simply one of the best places to learn and improve. In Val Thorens alone there are 11 green runs and 29 blues. If you extend that to the whole of the Belleville Valley, learners have access to 20 green runs and 60 blues. The best thing about this resort is that unlike the majority of others, it has gentle pistes that connect the various different areas of the valley, completely opening up the ski domaine for those who are still building up their confidence. It means that learners get as much variety as advanced skiers and spend less time, if any, doing the same slopes over and over again.
The valley has over five designated beginner zones. In Val Thorens this covers the area between the Roc, Cascades and 2 Lac lifts (it is worth noting that the 4 magic carpet lifts are free of charge). For those based in Les Menuires, this zone spans the space below and to the sides of the Doron lift.
Advanced areas in Val Thorens
Val Thorens has a wide variety of steep ski runs to offer those that like a bit of a challenge. With access to three different glaciers and four different summits, skiers and boarders are spoilt for choice.
Runs from the top of the Cime Caron lift, particularly combe de Caron, have always been a favourite. From the top of this lift you can also access the famous combe de Rosael which is often filled with huge moguls that will test your skills.
Being the furthest point, the slopes around the Bouchet lift in the fourth valley of Orelle, are the best place to get fresh powder. The runs up here are wide and often quiet, allowing you to pick up as much speed as you can handle.
The Point de La Masse has four tricky blacks, masse, lac noir, dame blanche and rocher noir. It is the perfect spot first thing in the morning as it avoids the Three Valleys traffic and gets the best of the pre-lunch sunshine.
Another good place, although slightly busier as the gondola leaves from the centre of resort, is the runs at the top of the Funitel Peclet. Christine is the steepest and longest of these runs and gives you the chance to follow up with the col red run at the top of the Glacier de Thorens accessed via the Moraine lift.
Snowparks in Val Thorens
Val Thorens has a fantastic 70,000m² snowpark on the Plateaux Pistes. You can access it from the Moutière chairlift, and the Plateaux drag lift allows you to slide back up to the top once you've jumped and somersaulted (hopefully on purpose) your way through the course!
Like most slopes in Val Thorens it can be a little hard in the mornings so it's best to wait until the afternoon sun has warmed and softened the snow. This park does have some proper kickers and for years it was Val Thorens who had the biggest park in the Three Valleys. You can still find some fairly meaty wedges here and thanks to the parks high position they stay in good shape until late in the season.
All the runs are colour coded depending on their difficulty: green (easy), blue (medium), red (difficult) and black (very difficult). The snowpark has five zones; a boardercross (800m long), three freestyle zones which are classified according to their technical difficulty (beginners, intermediates and experts) and a Jump'Air (a jump with arrival on a "stunt man's" mattress, airbag). The snowpark contains Whoops (a succession of waves), a corner (raised bend), a jump table and big air, a wall ride (extended snow wall), a hand rail and a half pipe.
The park in Val Thorens is also one of the 'freestylepark' locations so you can film yourself on the kickers here and try out the airbag.
Best pistes in Val Thorens
This red run winds from the top of 3 Marches down towards the resort of Les Menuires, and has enough twists, turns, long shusses and steep bits to keep everyone happy. Nominated by Merinet’s own snow reporter.
Cime de Caron
All three runs from the top of the Cime de Caron are excellent. Black Combe de Caron and red Col de l’Audzin run back towards Val Thorens, but our favourite is the black Combe Rosael which takes you to the gorgeous ‘fourth valley’. It’s seriously steep, so don’t attempt is if the snow is icy.
The start of Jerusalem is tucked away, which is why this red run is always quiet, and usually keeps excellent snow. This perfect intermediate run is rolling with gentle and steep sections, and the off-piste to either side is safe and gentle – ideal for first forays into powder. Nominated by Mike Harrison, ESF instructor.
Don’t miss the highest run in the whole 3 Valleys, located in Orelle (sometimes called the fourth valley). Red run Coraia starts at 3,230m and offers one of the best views in the Alps plus a long and relatively easy descent into this pretty, tucked-away valley.
Off-piste areas in Val Thorens
Val Thorens is one of the most stunning areas in Europe for off-piste skiing and ski touring. The area is surrounded by six glaciers, giving endless fields of powder snow in breath-taking surroundings. Discover the glaciers of the Vanoise (check out the descent from the Gebroulaz glacier towards Méribel or Pralognan) and the most beautiful off-piste skiing in the Three Vallées on the amazing Maurienne side.
If you are an experienced off-piste skier Val Thorens has several recognised off-piste tracks starting at the top of several of the peaks. The weather must be taken into account when attempting any of these off-piste itineraries, not just on the day but also the build-up to it as, due to the altitude of Val Thorens, the snow and wind can create some precarious situations.
Popular off-piste routes include: The Pierre Lory from the top of the Col chair into the Maurienne Valley; Lac du Lou from the Combe de Rosael black run from La Masse; La Masse down Vallée des Encombres; further down the valley above St Martin the area between Jerusalem and Pramint is renowned for its off-piste skiing, especially with the instructors and their clients. But you have to be quick, otherwise, the Meribellians get there first!
Ski itineraries in Val Thorens
Finding your way around such a large ski area as the Three Valleys can be pretty daunting, so we've written up a few itineraries that you can follow, to help you find your way around.
Bad Weather areas in Val Thorens
If you are up the mountain and the visibility closes in then why not try heading to the lower pistes near resort as these may be below the cloud and you might be able to catch a few good runs. Try the pistes that come off the top of the Cascades chairlift such as the gentle blue dalles or harder black cascades piste. Head up the Plein Sud and take the gentle blue piste down to the bottom of the Cairn bubble.
Alternatively, if the cloud is sitting in the valley it is worth bearing in mind that it might be clear high up the mountain, just make sure you head up a bubble or cable car as if the weather is still bad high up you will probably want an easy route down. Check out our webcams and see what the weather is like up the beautiful Val Thorens mountains. Also if it is snowing in the valley then it will usually mean it is snowing up top, making for great skiing and quiet pistes!