Another great ski destination in the French Alps, which is also THE HIGHEST EUROPEAN SKI RESORT, at 2,300m! We were here a couple of times and every time the long drive from Slovenia was worth it. We left home towards the end of March and stayed for a week – at that time of a year the weather is normally nice, but there can still be heavy snowfall. The best thing about it are the amazing 600 KILOMETRES OF INTERCONNECTED RUNS which form THE LARGEST SKI AREA IN THE WORLD, largest ski are in the world, the famous 3 VALLEES!
The town is not so small when you look at it from a distance and if we are honest, there is a strange mix of architectural styles. The whole village or better said town was build from scratch, back in the 1960´s when the access road was built and a few years later the first lifts were constructed on the slopes. Lacking the architectural guidelines, the old big buildings are mostly made of concrete and have usually really SMALL APARTMENTS, but they are surrounded with charming houses which were built later on, from local materials like wood and stone. Above the whole town there are ski lifts so you are basically going through the town in the air, it´s kind of funny.
HOW TO GET THERE
It took us about 9 hours from Ljubljana to our apartment in Val Thorens. On the way we passed Venice, Brescia, Milan, Turin and crossed the border to France where we made an obligatory shopping stop in Albertville, before we left the highway and drove the last leg of the way on a winding road. We were just one of the many with the same final destination – Saturday´s can get busy, because guests switch often on the weekends. It was a long way and we often had snowfall in the last hour of driving, but in the end it´s all worth it!
In case you live too far away to go with the car, you can fly to LYON and get a bus, or get a bus from home – there are many tourist agencies offering week-long ski holidays with organised transport. In this case, your accommodation will most probably be already included in the package, sometimes also a ski pass. Sometimes you can get a very good deal, but just don´t expect to get a really nice hotel – it will more likely be a small room, sometimes even with no windows.
- Book your apartment/hotel MONTHS IN ADVANCE! If you can afford one with a balcony, it can be very useful to catch some afternoon sun or to keep the beers cool if the small fridge is full with food.
Make sure your HEALTH INSURANCE pays for any possible treatment in a foreign country and have the car ready for snow conditions before you drive off.
BUY FOOD for cooking in ALBERTVILLE or bring some from home, in Val Thorens you can buy some small things, which will be expensive, but don´t expect a huge supermarket.
Check out the WEATHER REPORT before you buy your ski pass. Ski pass for a week is cheaper than buying a ticket every day, but if you see the weather will be bad for the next 3 days lets say, then rather buy tickets for less days.
Always carry a small SKI PISTE MAP with you and watch the time – don´t forget you need to come back to your village before the lifts stop operating and that might take some time if you are at the other side
Do not venture OFF PISTE if you have no clue about the current snow conditions or risks and do it only there where it´s not prohibited with a sign.
Bring ENOUGH MONEY especially if you need to eat a lot during the day or if you plan to party in the evenings.
Learn a few BASIC FRENCH WORDS because despite this being a well known ski resort, the employees in bakeries and shops might not understand what you want. “Baguette” is an easy one to start with And a very useful one also!
There are great snow conditions making it possible to ski from mid-November until early May, although towards May it might happen that you will only find snow in the higher areas on the glacier. The highest peaks where you can ski are POINTE DU BOUCHET and CIME DE CARON, both around 3200 m, the Caron cable car can take up as much as 150 passengers at one time. There are around 70 MARKED RUNS, more than 30 lifts and 5 terrain parks in Val Thorens.
In the town there is a great LOCAL MARKET, where you can buy some delicious regional specialities!
Many of the slopes are facing north which is good for the snow, but the town itself gets lots of afternoon sun which is just perfect after a long skiing day, you can relax on the balcony and catch some sun. (well, if you have one, but most of the apartments have them).
There are endless possibilities and in a week time you cannot get bored even if you ski every day from 9am to 5pm. Depending on the snow conditions, this is exactly what we usually did – SKIED THE WHOLE DAY and then grabbed A BEER IN THE LAST COTTAGE before skiing back into the town. Another great thing about all such ski resorts is, that you don´t need a ski bus to take you to and from the ski slopes. You just ski inside basically and leave the skies in the ski room, take a few stairs and you are already in your apartment. Very convenient!
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