Val Thorens: A Marvel at 2,300 Meters
Being the highest resort in Europe at 2,300m, Val Thorens is the perfect place for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts that want guaranteed snow cover from late October to May. Much higher that the giant Trois Vallées ski area, the purpose-built French resort is definitely hard to beat for snow fans. Situated at the head of the world's largest ski area – the 3 Valleys -, it has something for everyone in search of an unbeatable skiing experience; from sophisticated ski lifts that take you all the way up to the highest peaks, where you can have your breath taken away by the panoramic views of more than a thousand mountaintops, and cutting edge facilities to over 600km of perfectly groomed slopes and powdery fields. As for apres ski, the friendly and informal village atmosphere comes with a rich variety of clubs restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, and a plethora of off-piste activities.
The Ultimate Ski Resort With Reason!
After being nominated and winning the title of the Best Ski Resort in The World at the annual World Ski Awards* for three times already in the last 4 years, Val Thorens has proven that it is a cut above the rest. The popular ski resort in the French Alps is most favorite for its striking combination of exceptional snow conditions, heart-stopping natural environment and the fact that the ones that keep the engine running never rest on their laurels. It is no wonder that the popular resort is the first in the country to implement a Ski Flux system that allows visitors to monitor which pistes are busy at any given time; a project that is part of the $888m (€839m) “innovation scheme” put forward in 2010 that is expected to be completed by 2020.
* More than 85 countries voted in the awards (>1.6 million people).
From a White Wasteland to Leading Ski Resort
1. The Pioneer Behind the Concept
Some 40 years ago, Val Thorens was nothing but a white land. Everything changed, though, when property developer and contractor Pierre Schnebelen saw an opportunity to build the highest-altitude resort in Europe, after considering the exceptional natural environment of the area, in 1969. At a time when the development of winter sports resorts was highly controversial, he thought up the resort of Val Thorens and sourced funding to get authorization to get his ambitious project off the ground.
2. Setting Things in Motion
Along with a group of other visionaries and pioneers of their time (i.e. Mayor of the Belleville Valley – Joseph Fontanet, the head of SODEVAB – Bernard Reverdy, and leading figures like Pierre Le Blanc and Jacques Francois), the on-site adventure began. The first 3 ski tows were opened to the public in 1971, followed by the creation of the Tourist Office, the Sports Club, the French Ski School, and the resort's first restaurant (“Le Gloulou”) a year later, as well as the Sports Centre in 1980. At that time, the French Olympic ski champ Christine Goitschel described Val Thorens as like living in the Wild West!
3. Working at Full Speed!
The next decade was characterized by an explosive development of the resort with projects like the Val Thorens Tour travel agency and the world's largest cable car (the Cime Canon) being built, which ascended to 3,200 meters that positioned Val Thorens among the leading principle winter sports resorts.
However, one of the main arguments of Val Thorens' rivals was that the place was not a proper village without a church. To end that argument, a church adorned the village in 1991, right after installing the first of its kind Funitel bi-cable lift that offered excellent wind resistance, at the foot of the Péclet glacier; a concept that was later exported to ski lift manufacturers throughout the world. From then on, it was innovation after innovation for the Val Thorens ski resort. The early-year concrete edifices were replaced by more favorable materials, and the village now boasts a more appealing Savoyard style and modern constructions.
4. Gastronomy Excellence
Val Thorens is put on the map not only as an attractive, sophisticated resort but also as a high-altitude gastronomic hotspot after chef Jean Sulpice (the Oxalys restaurant) received his first Michelin star in 2004 (and a 2nd one in 2009). Today, the resort fulfills the culinary demands of gourmet lovers and foodies that come in hordes every year to combine their passion for skiing with good food.
Let the Adventure Begin!
Besides offering a terrain that suits literally everybody, from novice to expert skiers and snowboarders, Val Thorens is also linked into the colossal network of trails across the world-renowned valleys of Méribel and Courchevel AND the neighboring Maurienne valley, providing a spectacular horseshoe of dramatic peaks and world-class winter panoramas. This makes Val Thorens a fantastic base from which one can explore as far as the very corners of the vast Trois Vallées. However, it should be noted that such a journey (say, from Val Thorens to Courchevel), will take up most of your day, which means that you will spend more time on paths and lifts than on the pistes. So, it would probably be best to enjoy the slopes closer to where you live! With myriads of luxurious chalets and apartments available, you will definitely be spoilt for choice!
Accommodation in Val Thorens