Whether you call it Three Valleys or, more officially and Frenchily, Les Trois Vallées, the world’s biggest ski area is a force to be reckoned with. Its 600km of beautifully groomed piste are home to some of the best-known resorts in the world – Courchevel, Méribel and Val Thorens to name three – and a dream for mileage-hungry skiers and snowboarders.
Acres of off-piste terrain, steep couloirs and tree runs provide for adventurers, while a variety of lesser-known resort bases provide quieter, cheaper alternatives for families and beginners.
Such an all-encompassing reputation could lead to the Three Valleys relying snootily on size and fame to attract customers, but it does not rest on its ample laurels waiting for us to come. No, it is continuously upgrading, refining and innovating, and this season is no exception.
British favourite Méribel is opening two new red runs in the Roc de Fer sector, for example, where previously there were mainly beginner-friendly blues. However, it’s Courchevel, with six separate base villages, that is leading the charge on new lifts. The gondola from good-value Le Praz at 1,300m to famously upmarket Courchevel 1850 has been updated at a cost of €15 million, cutting journey time to under six minutes, thanks to cabins that seat 10 rather than four. What’s more, it departs from a new €27m lift station built above a new underground car park with 500 spaces.
For those in search of challenge, there is now a dedicated freeride area in Courchevel’s Creux Noirs sector. Courchevel Moriond will also have better links towards Courchevel 1850, thanks to a new chairlift and blue run near the Aquamotion watersports centre.
There is a new hotel near Aquamotion too – the startlingly white four-star L’Ecrin Blanc. It vies with Le Coucou in Méribel, a ski-in/ski-out five-star from the founders of fashion brand Naf Naf, and the environmentally focused Refuge de la Traye, set in the forest near the hamlet of Les Allues, as the Three Valleys’ most alluring new hotel.
At the other end of the ski area from Courchevel, Val Thorens, Europe’s highest ski resort village at 2,300m, becomes the first resort in the world with a self-driving electric bus, providing free transport around the village. Family-friendly Les Menuires is getting with the electric programme too – its new experiences include electric scooter tours.
The quieter base of St Martin de Belleville – served by a gondola with 30 per cent more capacity this winter – has the new outdoor Lys Spa with hot tubs and sauna, while down in the valley, a 30-minute gondola ride from Méribel, the town of Brides les Bains has spent €15m refurbishing its Grand Thermal Spa.
Even the quiet backwater of Orelle beyond Val Thorens has news to report – the highest cross-country track in the ski area no less, a 1km tour at 2,350m.
Many more reasons to head to the Trois Vallées this winter – but perhaps the prize for novelty goes to Wild & Savage in Val Thorens, a new bar/tattoo parlour/clothing shop that also serves brunch.
The best deals to book now
With hotels, chalets, apartments and even igloos to choose from the accommodation on offer in Les Trois Vallées is just as varied as the skiing and snowboarding on offer. Here’s our pick of some of the best deals, in all corners of the giant ski area, to book this winter.
Unless stated otherwise, prices are per person, based on two sharing a double or twin room, half-board for seven nights, including flights and transfers.
Chalet specialist Le Ski has three new properties in Courchevel Moriond, including the contemporary Chalet Mistral. It sleeps eight in four en-suite rooms and has its own private sauna, plus amazing views. From £938.
The new four-star 127-bedroom Ecrin Blanc has ski-in/ski-out access, thanks to the new Grandes Combes chairlift, and a tunnel links it to the Aquamotion water sports complex. From €1,580 B&B. Excludes travel.
The five-star La Sivolière has recently had all its 35 rooms, two apartments and six deluxe suites redecorated by renowned British interior designer Sara Copeland and is one of Courchevel 1850’s most prestigious ski-in/ski-out addresses. From £4,689.
Pierre & Vacances has the new five-star L’Hévana residence in the centre of Méribel, with over 100 apartments all with balconies and some with private saunas. The residence has an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub and spa area. From £317 self catering.
Le Coucou, Méribel’s latest five-star hotel, is spread over 10 floors of a former chalet at the foot of the pistes. It has two restaurants, a spa and an indoor and outdoor pool, plus a children’s centre. From £2,900 with Scott Dunn.
Luxury chalet operator Bramble Ski has two new five-star properties in the resort this winter. Chalet Les Brames is nestled in a gated enclave just above Méribel and sleeps 14 across four floors. It has a spa, outdoor hot tub and swimming pool plus a cinema and games room to keep guests thoroughly entertained. From €37,100 for the entire chalet.
Val Thorens’ new Igloo Village has an ice bar, restaurant and an igloo hotel. An overnight stay under duvets designed for polar expeditions includes guided snowshoe walk, Savoyard dinner with wine, and breakfast. From €350 per night for two people in a double room.
Chalet operator Ski Beat has two new properties in Val Thorens, including Chalet Renne split over two floors and sleeping 12. There’s a large living area, plus access to the shared complex’s indoor swimming pool and sauna. From £679.
British operator Action Outdoors’ partnership with French not-for-profit organisation allows Brits the chance to stay in top locations in the French Alps for a fraction of the usual price. The UCPA centre in Val Thorens sits in the middle of the pistes and has unrivaled ski-in/ski-out access. From £713, including lift pass, ski rental, ski instruction. Excludes travel.
Chalet Panda is a new property available through specialist ski travel agent SkiLine. Sleeping 12 it is 200m away from the nearest piste. Guests have access to a minibus service to ski school or main gondola. From £679.
Chalet Eva is run by Ski Famille in the family-friendly enclave of Reberty 2000. Close to pistes and ski school, it sleeps up to 17 and has family suites, in-chalet child-care, a spacious playroom, fitness room and a new hot tub on the terrace. From £2,800 for a family of four.
St Martin de Belleville
Newly built five-bedroom Chalet Astilla is five minutes’ walk from the slopes just outside resort centre. It has a spacious lounge and large terrace with seven-seater hot tub. From €2,935 for the entire chalet based on 10 sharing, self catering, with Self Catered St Martin. Excludes travel.
The four-star apartments at Chalet Caseblanche, which opened last winter, is located just 50m from the resort’s main gondola. The spacious chalets and apartments all have a terrace or balcony, a wood burner or open fire, and most have their own private sauna. A meal delivery service, beauty treatments and babysitting are just a few of the additional services on offer. From £563, self catering in six-person apartment, with Eurotunnel crossing, with Peak Retreats.
Brides le Bains
Near the thermal spa and main gondola, the new Alticimes Residence houses five apartments, sleeping up to six, decorated to a high standard. There’s also a private indoor car park. From €1,330 in total for a six-person apartment, self-catering. Excludes travel.
The Grand Hotel Des Thermes is the resort’s largest hotel and just one of JUST two four-star properties. It has recently had 100 of its rooms revamped ready for winter 2019. The hotel houses a fitness center, Cinq Mondes branded spa, both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a lounge bar plus Les Cèdres restaurant, where this winter chef Thierry Giannini is launching vegetarian menus and healthy salads. From €430, B&B. Excludes travel.