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|Resort: Val thorens
Domain: 3 valleys
Author: Ian Hopkinson
Dates: 10th-17th April 2004
Our holiday: We're a thirtysomething couple who started ski-ing a few years ago and have taken 5 weeks of ski-ing lessons. This was the first time we let go of the apron strings and skied independently. It's also the first time we've been to a French 'mega-resort'. We were there the second week of Easter 10th-17th April 2004.
Website : http://www.valthorens.com/ not a bad site but a bit reliant on Flash. I like the panorama camera at http://www.belhorizon.com/, go to the 'Webcam' menu item and select Panorama. The Ski Club provides some information on Val Thorens, and the snow-forecast 3 day weather report can be found here.
Basics : In the Savoie region of the French Alps, a 3.5 hour transfer from Geneva. Route from Geneva takes you through Annecy and Albertville - most of it on single carriageway, the last hour or so of the journey is a long climb up the valley from Moutier.
Lift system : Part of the 3 Vallees area. Modern detachable chairlifts all over the place, too numerous to count. No t-bars that we found, 3 drag lifts around the village area and a handful of others aroundabouts. We experienced very little queuing (never more than 10 minutes), there are a lot of lifts coming out of the village and they're pretty high capacity. To my mind queuing was a bit more civilised than in Austria or in Switzerland, but this is on the basis of experience of a very limited number of resorts. The chair out of Orelle (the 4th valley) seemed to get crowded around lunchtime and if you catch the ski school start time (9am) or hit the staggered opening of the lifts wrong you can wait a few minutes.
The terrain : A wide area at the head of a valley, with two forks up to separate glaciers. Crossing over ridges takes you into Orelle and the Meribel/Mottaret valleys. The area around the resort is completely treeless. The terrain means it is relatively easy to scope runs out before ski-ing them - which is nice if you're not so confident. Plenty of easy blues around the resort with more difficult blues and reds higher up. The link over to Orelle involves a bit of a walk back (200m) if you want to stick to blue runs, but there is nice ski-ing over there and well worth the visit. The run down into Mottaret is red at the top, but is not particularly challenging and the run on into Mottaret is a chance to see some trees! The Mont Vallon runs have been recommended by others but we didnâ€™t ski them. DO NOT TAKE THE â€˜OURSâ€™ RUN INTO MOTTARET â€“ ITS REALLY A FOOTPATH â€“ Iâ€™VE NEVER POLED SO MUCH IN MY LIFE!
The snow : We had fantastic snow conditions! It snowed fairly heavily on two nights giving around 15cm of fresh powder on top of the piste. Only the slightest sign of slush at resort level in the late afternoon. Snow cover continuous down to the level of Les Menuires, which is a little down the valley.
Off-piste : Can't help on the off-piste front!
The resort : A purpose built ski resort with no 'original village', however it is not unattractive, certainly if compared with Les Menuires! Plenty of cafes, restaurants, ski gear shops, a sports centre, a number of small supermarkets, no bookshop!
Food : Le Scapin on the Place de Caron has a good value menu and a large sun terrace on the main ski area (2 croque monsieur+cokes for 15 euro), service can be a bit slow at busy times. Le Delice, next door, does savoury crepes â€“ which I like. Had dinner at Le Petâ€™te Ferme on Rue de Soleil with jonpim et al, busy (booking essential) but friendly staff and a good pizza. Around the slopes a wide range of eateries. CafÃ© at the bottom of the Moraine lift is good for waffles on the upper terrace. Genepi (part way down the Moraine lift) has a cosy ambience and an open fire - when we were there they were playing French Ska (groovy!). Bar de le Marine â€“ close to the top of Cascade chairlift is pleasant too, Friday mid-morning it was home to a succession of childrens ski school classes having â€˜chokkyâ€™. Why does French bread only taste so good in France?
Accommodation : We stayed in the Hotel Portillo at the top of the resort, near to the Place de Peclet. Ski out but a 100 metre walk to get back in, boot room with individual lockers for each guest room. We liked the Portillo, food great, room spacious and staff friendly. They do residences as well as half board.
Costs: Cheap compared to Switzerland!
Conclusion: We really liked Val Thorens, the ski-ing is great â€“ certainly the best Iâ€™ve experienced (compared to Westendorf, Saas Fee and Val Cenis). The lack of an attractive village doesnâ€™t seem to matter and the lack of trees gives the place a stark beauty.
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