An independent guide to Val Thorens
Here, we cover the Val Thorens ski area, including the beginners area, an overview of the ski area sector by sector, the snowpark, Skicross, slalom stadium, and off piste itineraries. We also have a piste map, and the ski pass prices. There's information about walking in Val Thorens, a mountain restaurants section, and news of what's new in the Val Thorens for 2017-18. Read about the Val Thorens ski area here.
Beginners usually start at the Rond Point des Pistes, as it's a mainly flat area, with some slight inclines, which are ideal for the first steps. Our beginners area page tells you how to get to the Rond Point des Pistes, depending on where your hotel is, and has a map.
Adjacent to the Rond Point des Pistes are the nursery slopes and travelator lifts, known as 'magic carpets'. The two magic carpets by the nursery slopes are Campagnols and Musaraigne. Using the slopes next to them, you can practise speed control, and turning left and right.
When you're confident on the beginners' slopes by the magic carpets, you move on to the first chairlift, 2 Lacs, which takes you to a green run - Traversée des 2 Lacs, with a choice part way down between the Espace Junior and the Combe de Thorens.
Cascades chairlift is usually the next one, which gives access to a marginally more difficult green, 2 Combes. Beyond that, there are some easy blue runs, which we list on our beginners area page.
Read more about the Val Thorens beginners area.
Val Thorens has 27 lifts (32 including those in Orelle), and 71 pistes (78 including Orelle), totalling 150km. It is part of the 3 Valleys, together with Les Menuires, St Martin, Méribel and Courchevel, with a total of 600km of pistes.
This overview covers the Val Thorens ski area sector by sector.
Plein Sud, chairlift & piste
Plein Sud means south facing (literally, fully south). The Plein Sud piste, accessed by the Plein Sud and the Pionniers chairs, is wide, and has snow cannons all the way down. This means that it usually has good snow cover. It's one of the most popular pistes in Val Thorens, too, because it gets sunshine for a large part of the day, and the Folie Douce - a café/bar with DJs and live music - sits at the top of the piste. It's also a route to Val Thorens from the other valleys.
Towards the end of the day, Plein Sud can get very chopped up, especially in warm spring weather.
Marmotte, Plein Sud
From late April onwards, you can see marmottes off to the side of Plein Sud, emerging from hibernation.
To get higher up in this sector, take the 3 Vallées chair, or the fast Funitel des 3 Vallées (formerly Funitel Bouquetin).
Signpost at top of 3 Valleys chairlift
These lifts give access to Méribel Mottaret and the 3 Valleys, on the other side of the ridge. There are also various runs back towards Val Thorens on the near side of the ridge - easy blues Pluviometre and Mont de la Chambre, tricky red Chardons, and the black run Goitschel. (Goitschel is named after Marielle Goitschel, who together with her sister Christine, was a French ski champion. People sometimes say it's too easy for a black run, and it can be when it has winter snow and is newly pisted; on the other hand, towards the end of the day, or when the snow conditions are not ideal, it can be challenging). Triton is a fairly newly created short black run that joins up with Pluviometre.
Here's a short video of the Folie Douce:
This sector of the ski area is broadly west facing, which means it gets the sun in the afternoon. There's a restaurant, Les Aiguilles de Péclet, at the top of the Funitel Péclet.
The Funitel Péclet is one of the resort's most important lifts, giving access to three red runs, as well as a blue and a black. If you're skiing with children, sometimes they're frustrated at having to take their skis off, and carry them through the building at the bottom of the lift. The journey takes 8 to 9 minutes, but you arrive at 3000m, with a view of the glacier, and some great skiing/ boarding options.
Of the reds in Val Thorens, Lac Blanc is probably the easiest, and has reliably good snow - snow cannons mean that it almost always has a good base. Béranger is steep, and often has a few rocks at the very top if it has been windy. It rejoins Lac Blanc part way down.
Béranger piste, Péclet sector
If you turn right at the top of the lift, there is a path that leads you to the other side of a ridge, where it splits into two pistes: Tete Ronde (blue) and Christine (red).
Tête Ronde piste, Péclet sector
Tete Ronde can be fun to ski - it's not too difficult, and it can be skied like a downhill race if it's not busy, with some great winding corners in the lower half. It rejoins Dalles at the level of the Chalet de la Marine.
Christine is named after French ski champion Christine Goitschel, who is one of the pioneers of Val Thorens. It is about average difficulty for a red, with the steepest part about two thirds of the way down. It brings you out close to the bottom of the Moraine chair.
Another option from the top of the Funitel Péclet is to ski down to the Glacier chair, a slow 3-man. It takes you up to a black run, also called Glacier. The terrain has changed a fair bit over the last years, as the glacier has dramatically reduced in size. Maybe the run will soon have to be called Rock!
Glacier chair & piste
The top of the piste is steep - this is a no-fall zone, or if you do, you won't stop until a good deal further down the run. Lower down, it becomes easier. The main reason to do Glacier is for the challenge; the main reasons to loop round and round on Glacier are if it's the only place above the clouds, or the only piste which still has fresh, cold winter snow when the snow on the other runs is in the melt-freeze cycle.
Lower down in this sector is a black called Cascades, under the Cascades lift (named after the ice fall to your right as you go up the chair, see photo above). It's the resort's classic mogul run. Eric Berthon, the first moguls World Champion in 1986, used to train here, and asked the resort never to piste it, so it would always have great bumps, and that tradition continues.
The Moraine sector, telecabine, and piste are named after a geographical feature, a glacial moraine on which the lift's pylons stand. (A moraine is a glacially-formed accumulation of unconsolidated debris (soil and rock). This one appears to be a lateral moraine).
These slopes face north west, which means the snow is usually in good condition. On the other hand, they stay in the shadow for a large part of the day, so it can be cold. The area is not recommended when the wind blows from the south east. A south easterly is the worst wind for Val Thorens anyway, because it is usually dry, so it doesn't bring snow, but blows it away, down the Belleville valley. Moraine is one of the sectors worst-affected by a south easterly, as the wind is funnelled into the little valley, and howls down it. Riding the old Moraine chairlift in those conditions was no fun, and that's official. The new telecabine is an improvement.
Top of the Moraine telecabine
In good weather, the Moraine piste, a blue run with snow cannons, is a favourite for early intermediates, and anyone finding their ski legs at the start of the week, as it's wide and not too steep. Its sister run, Génépi (no snow cannons), is perhaps marginally more difficult. The Caribou restaurant is part way down Génépi.
Caribou mountain restaurant, Val Thorens
(Génépi is an Alpine flower, which is used to flavour a liqueur of the same name. The liqueur is similar to absinthe and Chartreuse, and is a taste that can be acquired if the individual concerned is sufficiently dedicated. It is based on vodka or pure grain alcohol, with chopped, dried génépi flowers added for taste, aroma and colour. This flower is from the genus Artemisia, commonly called wormwood in English. It is native to the mountainous areas of France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland, and grows high up in the Belleville valley. It can be harvested in July and August - or you can buy it in tea-bag like sachets).
Top of Col chairlift, Val Thorens
From the top of the Moraine telecabine, you can go higher up, on the Col chairlift. This is slow, and can be cold in poor weather. The arrival is tricky - make sure to move away from the chairlift quickly. On a fine day, the view from the top is unbeatable. The Chalet de Chavière, near the top of the chairlift, used to be a mountain restaurant, but is now abandoned. The red run down (called Col) is steep at the top, and can be icy. It's usually pisted every other night.
Chalet de Chavière, top of Col, Val Thorens
Val Thorens airstrip, with Funitel de Grand Fond departure station in the background
With north-facing slopes, this sector usually has excellent skiing. It can be very chilly at the top when the weather is cold.
Around the same level as the departure point of the Moraine chair is another chairlift, Portette. From the top of the lift, you can take a red piste, Portette, under the chairlift, or traverse to the right on Fond, towards Plateau.
Alternatively, from the top of Portette, you can go higher up with the Funitel de Thorens. It has two lots of 2 x 33-person cabins, and whisks you from 2795m up to 3003m in a jiffy. If you want one of your own, you need to have €6.5 million to spend (cost in 2011, when it was put in).
When you're at the top of the Funitel de Thorens, you're also at the arrival point of the zip wire, La Tyrolienne, which runs from the top of the Bouchet chair in Orelle.
La Tyrolienne zipwire, Val Thorens
Two new pistes have been added to the Val Thorens ski area, from the top of the Funitel de Thorens - Asters, a red, which links back to Génépi, in the Moraine sector, and Chocard, a blue that runs under the funitel.
(An aster is a flower, and the aster Alpinus has lilac petals and a yellow centre. A 'chocard' is the most common type of crow seen in Val Thorens. It has red legs and a yellow beak, and is also known as a 'choucas').
La Moutière chairlift, Val Thorens
La Moutière is one of the lowest chairs in Val Thorens. It gets busy sometimes, and once you're down there, there's no alternative for getting back to resort. It tends to be unreliable, and stop at times. Turn left at the top, on Linotte, and you have access to a blue, Hermine (that takes you back to the bottom of the chair), and to a green, Deux Lacs; by turning left, you can also get to Les Chalets (a blue run), the Skicross, and the second slalom stadium (Stade des Chalets). Under the Moutière chair, there's Arolles, a black that's rarely pisted, so becomes a bumps run.
(Linotte is a type of bird (linnet in English). A tete de linotte is a bird brain, someone who is lost their ability to think. Hermine is an ermine, or stoat. Arolles means Swiss pines, or Arolla pines).
If you go straight on from the top of Moutière, you come to the two parallel Plateau draglifts, which take you to the top of the snowpark. Or, at the side of the snowpark, you can just descend Plateau, a blue run. The Moutière restaurant is close to the bottom of the Plateau drags.
Funitel Grand Fond & the Belleville Valley
A little further on, there's the Funitel Grand Fond. It's a fast funitel lift (no seats), and from the top (3000m) if you look to the north, you'll see Mont Blanc. You can also look south east towards the Maurienne valley. The skiing here is usually excellent, with good snow, but it can be cold and windy when the weather is bad.
Top of Funitel de Grand Fond
The easiest run down is a blue called Niverolle (then take Fond to get back to resort). The reds are Variante and Médaille. You can also take a track to the right towards Rosaël.
(A niverolle is a snow finch - not a true finch, but a type of sparrow).
This sector is known as Rosaël, Orelle (which is the little town down in the Maurienne valley, with relatively cheap accommodation), or the Fourth Valley. A gondola brings people up from Orelle to join the 3 Valleys ski area here.
It has a different feel to the rest of Val Thorens, and a different view, looking towards the Maurienne valley and resorts further south, including Les Deux Alpes. It's run by a separate lift company (the STOR), so technically a different ski area, but covered by a Val Thorens pass (and, of course, a Belleville or Three Valleys pass).
It gets a lot of sunshine, the pistes are usually well groomed, and it can be a little quieter than the rest of Val Thorens.
The main run down this side, Mauriennaise (not mayonnaise), is a joy to ski or board. A blue run, Gentianes (not to be confused with Gentiane in Val Thorens), that's more of a path than a piste, snakes around it, crossing it from time to time.
There's a restaurant, the Chalet Chinal Donat, at the bottom of Mauriennaise.
From the restaurant, you can either take the Rosael chairlift back towards the Val Thorens side, or head up the Peyron chair (which was new in the 2013-14 season). The blue under the chair, also called Peyron, is easy-peasy, and very pleasant. If you go higher up from the top of Peyron, on the Bouchet chair (slow - take a crossword puzzle), you're on the highest lift in the Three Valleys, with its summit at 3230m. Beware, though, the red down, Coraia, is seriously steep at the top, and can be difficult in poor conditions. We suggest you don't go there with anyone who is not expert and confident. A little further down, there's a split between Coraia and another red, Bouchet.
Coraia piste, Orelle
The zip wire, which opened in February 2014, goes from the top of the Bouchet chair to the top of the Funitel de Thorens, a distance of 1300m (€50).
If you're not taking the zip wire, return to Val Thorens via Coraia/Bouchet/Peyron pistes, then the Rosaël chairlift. The ski from the top of the Rosaël chair to Val Thorens can be a bit tricky, although they have made it easier in recent years by creating two blue runs, Chamois and Eterlou, as an alternative to the red, Falaise.
(Chamois and éterlou are both types of mountain goat, éterlou being the name for a male ibex (bouquetin) in its second year. Falaise means rocky cliff).
Top of Cime de Caron cable car
This is the jewel in Val Thorens's crown. The Cime de Caron was the largest cable car in the world when it was built in 1982, and it can still thrill visitors today.
Access to the cable car is via the Caron bubble, or a short ski from the top of the Moutière or Boismint chairs. There can be queues for the cable car, but it takes 150 people at a time, so the queue moves in waves, and it's well worth going up for the view alone, on a fine day.
You arrive at an altitude of 3200m. Straight ahead of you when you exit the cable car is a climb up to a viewing table. From there, you can see the Belleville valley to the north west, Mt Blanc to the north, the Aiguille de Péclet to the east, and Les Deux Alpes to the south. New in 2015-16, there's a telescope featuring 'augmented reality', which displays the names and altitudes of the mountains when you point it at them. There's also a cafe on the summit - the Freeride Cafe Caron.
Terrace of the Freeride café Caron
All the runs down are quite challenging (but you can go back down in the cable car if you wish, and it's open to pedestrians, who can access it via the Cairn and Caron bubbles from the resort of Val Thorens). The main red is Col de l'Audzin. Part way down, there's an option to turn left onto a black, Les Cristaux, which often has moguls. The main black is Combe de Caron, which involves a path followed by a couple of steep sections, before opening out, then rejoining Col de l'Audzin. You can also turn right off it, onto Névés, to head towards Plateau.
There's also a black off the back, towards Rosaël, called Combe de Rosael. It's usually difficult and bumpy, and sometimes rocky in places.
A number of Val Thorens off piste itineraries begin from the top of the Caron.
The Boismint sector is north east facing, and gets the sun quite early in the morning, so it is worth a visit first thing.
Turn right from the top of the Boismint chair for the Blanchot, a nice blue with snow cannons. Extend the trip by taking Tétras right to the bottom of the Plan de l'Eau chair. The reds are Haute Combe to the left, and Boismint to the right (which has one very steep section part way down). Boismint links to another red, Plan de l'Eau, if you want to go all the way down to the chair of the same name.
The bottom of the Plan de l'Eau chair marks the lowest point of the Val Thorens ski area (literally, not metaphorically) at 1800m.
(Blanchot means mountain hare; tétras is a black grouse; a plan de l'eau is a lake or pond).
There's a cafe at the junction of Blanchot and Tétras - the Chalet des 2 Ours.
Val Thorens has a great snowpark, next to the Plateau draglifts, in the Montée du Fond sector of the ski area. On the right hand side of the Plateau piste is the Expert Park, with blue, red, and black jumps. The big kickers in the black lane are used for freestyle competitions. On the skier's left of the Plateau piste is the Easy Park, which is ideal for learning the basics with small jumps.
Easy Park, Val Thorens
The Val Thorens snowpark hosts top-class competitions, such as the French Championships SlopeStyle 2013:
The World Cup Skicross in Val Thorens is truly is an attraction of the resort. In December 2012 it hosted a World Cup ski cross event for the first time, and the World Cup came back the following year; Val Thorens seems to be a fixture on the World Cup ski cross calendar now.
From the 2014/15 season, the ski cross was named 'Jean-Frederic Chapuis' in honour of Val Thorens' ski cross competitor, who won the Olympic title in Sochi in 2014. This video of the 2013 World Cup event in Val Thorens features Chapuis (who came third in that race):
When it's not being used for competitions, it's open to anyone. It starts from the top of the Deux Lacs chairlift, and has rolling bumps on the top section, then a couple of jumps (which can be side-stepped); lower down, it's steeper, and there are banked corners.
The Stade de Slalom Yannick Richard is classified black. Yannick Richard was a skier who came through the Val Thorens ski club, and won several junior national titles, as well as making the French national junior team in Super G. He tragically died in a snowmobile accident in Canada.
Anyone can ski the Stade when it's open to the public. Sometimes, it's closed for competition, so be alert to the signs indicating whether or not you may go on it.
The Stade hosts European Cup and FIS races, as well as local Val Thorens races. In March 2017, the Alpine Combined and Super G events of the French National Championships were held in Val Thorens (Victor Muffat-Jeandet winning the Combined, and local skier Adrien Théaux taking the Super G title).
Cyprien Sarrazin in the Alpine Combined event, French National Championships, Val Thorens, 30th March 2017
This video shows a slalom race organised by the ESF:
Generally, slalom and giant slalom races are held on the Stade Yannick Richard, and the other branch of the stadium, the Stade des Trolles, is used for Super G.
Many expert skiers love getting away from the pistes, lifts, and the crowds, and skiing off piste. ValThorensGuide's UK site has an off piste guide which deals with safety considerations, local instructors and guides, guidebooks, off piste equipment, and a number of off piste itineraries in Val Thorens, the Belleville Valley, and the Three Valleys.
The guide to itineraries includes the Lac du Lou, the Combe Sans Nom, and the Geffriand (shown in this video):
The old Moraine chairlift is replaced with a new telecabine. A refuge at the Lac du Lou is to open its doors in winter and summer. Village Montana's 5-star Lodge is the latest addition to the portfolio. Read about what's new in Val Thorens for 2017-18.
Val Thorens probably isn't the very best resort for walking, but the lift company and the tourist office have made an effort in recent years to create some walkers' paths. Certain lifts can be used by pedestrians.
You can consult the resort's map of pedestrian circuits. It shows the walking routes for the whole of the Belleville Valley. The main routes are below.
This popular path (number 7 on the map) goes from the back of the Altineige, or the garage, and shadows the boulevard des Echauds piste, arriving at the mid-station of the Bruyeres telecabine in Les Menuires. Return by the same route.
The Deux Lacs path (route number 10 on the map) starts near the Toboggan chalet, and runs parallel to the Espace Junior, on the right of it. Then you turn left, crossing the Espace Junior, and go downhill towards the departure point of the Moraine chairlift. From there, turn left again, on the path to the right of the Combe de Thorens, and you return to the start point at the Toboggan chalet.
Also starting from the Toboggan chalet, the Moutiere path (number 11 on the map) takes you on the same route as the Deux Lacs path, initially. Then, it branches off to the right, and skirts round the left hand side of one of the two lakes. It comes out onto the 'Traversée des 2 Lacs' piste near the Deux Lacs restaurant. From here, it goes along the right hand side of the Linotte piste, past the top of the Moutiere chair, then downhill and round the reservoir. Once the circuit of the reservoir (with nice views of the Belleville Valley) is completed, return to the Toboggan chalet by the same route.
The Marine path (number 12 on the map) starts from the top of Cascades chairlift, and is downhill only. (You can see the prices of pedestrian passes via our Val Thorens ski pass prices page). From the top of the chair, you turn left, and the path curves round to the left, and passes back under the chair. It then goes to the Chalet de la Marine. Here, you cross the Dalles piste, and take the path which follows the left fork of the piste, past the Tete Ronde lake, to the Chalets du Thorens. The Combe de Thorens takes you back to the Toboggan chalet.
We also have information about the lifts open to pedestrians on our walking page. Read more about walking in Val Thorens .
The Commune (Les Belleville) has created a large number of small tree plantations in the village of Val Thorens, and on the slopes. ValThorensGuide is keeping a particular eye on the trees at the top of the Campagnols magic carpet, to see how they develop and grow. We are taking regular photos of the Forest of Val Thorens.
We hope you have a great time exploring the Val Thorens ski area.
We have the prices for Val Thorens, Belleville, and Three Valley passes, with the discounts for duos, 'tribus', children, older skiers, and families. There are also lower rates in early and late season.
See the latest Val Thorens ski pass prices.
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