An inside look at skiing in The Three Valleys – Uncover all the hidden secrets of the world’s largest ski area.
The Three Valleys is the largest ski area in the world with 600kms of snow-covered pistes seamlessly linked via its high-speed lift network.
Famous for its enormous ski area, whatever your ski style you’ll have an amazing experience.
Sitting in The Three Valley are a number of A-list French ski resorts including Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens.
You can explore the whole ski area, end-to-end, without ever needing to take off your skis (except for the odd gondola).
Ski epic mountains soaring to over 3000 metres, dance through the lower down tranquil tree runs, relax on wide-open mellow slopes and arrive at snow front apres-ski.
The Three Valleys in Numbers:
- 600km of pistes
- 337 different pistes
- 53 green
- 136 blue
- 113 red
- 35 black
- 166 ski lifts
- Over 2,100 snow canons
- 35,000 hectares of nature
- 12km longest run
- 3420m highest altitude
- 5 freestyle terrain parks
Ski Resorts in The Three Valleys
The Three Valleys is a vast ski area which links to many different resorts and villages.
You can ski 7 different main ski resorts including Courchevel, La Tania, Meribel, Val Thorens, St. Martin de Belleville and Orelle.
Generally, each of The Three Valleys is known by its highest altitude resort with Courchevel at the North, Meribel in the middle and Val Thorens to the South.
Amazingly, the whole area can be skied on one lift pass and pretty much without ever taking your skis off.
You’ll certainly never have to walk or get a bus to access any of the ski area.
Skiing in Courchevel
Courchevel is one of the world’s most exclusive ski resorts boasting some of the best skiing conditions in the world. The Courchevel ski area is split into 3 north-facing bowls which are home to 5 different villages all linked via a modern lift network. Its altitude ranges from around 1300 metres up to over 2700 metres at the summit.
The north-facing ski slopes in Courchevel makes it a snow-sure ski area with perfectly manicured pistes. Beginners will enjoy the gentle nursery slopes which are plenty long enough to make your first turns and experience the freedom of the mountains.
Intermediate skiers explore the whole area on a network of wide-open rolling blue and red runs. You can sail way up to the summit of Saulire for spectacular views, cruise the mellow slopes of Courchevel 1650 and snake through the trees of La Tania.
For the expert riders, Courchevel holds a true challenge… The Grand Couloir! An infamous ungroomed black run that sits on skiing bucket lists across the world.
From Courchevel, it’s easy to adventure across the whole Three Valleys ski area with multiple chair lifts and gondolas offering direct access to Meribel.
Skiing in Meribel
Meribel is known as the heart of The Three Valleys sitting in the very middle of the ski huge area. With sunny south-facing slopes, an energetic town and lift links down to Brides-Les-Bains it is a popular choice for skiers across the globe.
Why is skiing in Meribel so good? Well, you’ve got immediate access to 150kms of slopes, altitudes up to nearly 3,000 metres, plus you can ski straight into Courchevel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires and St. Martin without taking your skis off. It really is the central gateway to the complete 600kms ski area.
Beginners love Meribel thanks to the sunny nursery slopes of the Altiport zone which allow you to get high up into the hills and trees from the very start of your skiing career.
Intermediates venture far and wide on the ample blue and red runs. Take a gondola up to the top of Saulire before skiing non-stop all the way down into Meribel Village. Or touch the highest point in Meribel at Mont Vallon before choosing a red run to bring you back down to earth.
Advanced skiers carve their way around the ski area flying in and out of the lift stations. Try your skills in one of the terrain parks filled with jumps ready to send you into orbit or take the time to adventure further into the valleys where the high altitude rollercoaster of Val Thorens awaits.
Skiing in Val Thorens, Les Menuires & St. Martin
Val Thorens offers one of the longest ski seasons in the world running from November until May. With altitudes climbing to over 3200 metres, 6 surrounding glaciers plus Les Menuires and St. Martin resorts also sitting in the valley, it really is a colossal skier’s paradise. Courchevel is the exclusive ski area, Meribel is the sunny heart and Val Thorens is a high altitude bully.
Don’t be mistaken though, no matter your skiing style Val Thorens has it all. Easy going slopes allow you to find your legs as a beginner in the high mountains. You can hop straight on to the bustling slopes of Val Thorens itself or take secluded laps in lower down St. Martin.
Once again intermediates have an amazing choice of skiing with blue and red runs offering access to almost every part of the ski area. You can take the trip to the top of Cime de Caron and take the whopping 12km descent back into town.
For a secluded ski adventure, try the La Masse ski area only accessible via Les Menuires. You’ll have your pick of the red slopes which glide from 2800 metres back down to 1850 metres.
What about the expert skiers?
Val Thorens is ready for you with high altitude challenges to push your skill levels. Combe de Caron is the black run to tackle early in the day before the legs tire. For perhaps the most exciting run in The Three Valleys, Jerusalem is filled with rollers, bumps and high-speed corners for a real treat!
Don’t forget you can take on a full Three Valleys ski day as you hop over to Meribel and Courchevel without ever removing your skis. AND and and, did you know about the secret fourth valley called Orelle?
Skiing in Orelle
Now, I know what you’re thinking… it’s The Three Valleys so how can there be a fourth valley?
Well there is, it’s called Orelle and it can be skied from Val Thorens via the Thorens, Grand Fond and Cime Caron lifts. To truly explore the whole ski area you need to ski from Courchevel 1650 to Orelle and everything in between!
It’s only a small area with 4 ski lifts but it has one big draw for skiers. The highest point in the whole 600kms of The Three Valleys. Don’t miss taking the Bouchet chairlift which climbs up to 3230 metres. Epic.
The journey might not suit beginners but is perfectly accessible to intermediates thanks to the red and blue runs making up the Orelle ski area. It’s a fun place to ski offering a change of scenery plus a little quieter than the mayhem of Val Thorens.
Off-Piste Skiing in The Three Valleys
Fresh snow flying over your shoulders, floating on cloud-like turns and a few funny bails.
Once you’re bitten by the pow, you’ll never want to stop finding the next turn. So while most just explore the glut of pistes in The Three Valleys, come with me to find out the best spots for off-piste skiing.
A little word of warning first. Please don’t ever ski off-piste unless you are confident in your surroundings. This includes carrying and knowing how to use safety equipment plus local knowledge of the snow conditions. If you’re not sure, then hire a local off-piste guide to keep you safe and show you the secret spots.
For now, keep reading for an inside guide to off-piste skiing in The Three Valleys.
Mont Vallon – Meribel
To be honest, on a fresh powder day the whole ski area becomes one blank canvas. If you’re looking to tick off an epic off-piste area then head quickly to Mont Vallon where you can easily end up taking multiple laps. Start off at the summit and slash through an 850-metre descent of the powder-filled mountain. Don’t forget to snap a picture of the epic views from the top.
Liberty Ride – Les Menuires / St. Martin
In the Val Thorens valley, you can choose between 3 different off-piste ‘Liberty Ride’ zones. These areas allow you to ski off-piste powder in a free and safe way. They are secured off-piste areas, perfect for practising your powder skiing. These areas can be found at:
- La Masse (via the Masse 2 cable car)
- La Riondaz (via the Saint Martin 2 ski lift)
- Les Pylônes (via the Sunny Express ski lift)
Freeride Lab – Courchevel
In 2019, Courchevel introduced the Freeride Lab in the Cruex Noir zone. This can be accessed from the top of the Saulire summit.
“At the Freeride Lab, Creux Noirs, you’ll find the ultimate powdery ski spot for freeride enthusiasts of all levels.”
To get there, you’ll need to walk around 600 metres up to the start point either using ski touring kit or stepping up in your boots. Don’t worry, this is good, a little extra effort keeps the snow fresh from longer!
Best Ski Runs in The Three Valleys (Hidden Gems)
Have you been studying the piste maps working out your perfect skiing itinerary? I thought so! It’s hard to pick between the 370+ runs in The Three Valleys. There’s no way we can narrow it down to a simple top 5 or 10.
So instead of giving you the classic list of ‘best’ or most famous like the Grand Couloir, here are the hidden gem runs that people often ignore. But when the conditions are right, the snow is freshly groomed or a layer of powder sits waiting, these are some of the best ski runs in the universe.
Folyeres – La Tania
Floyeres is a favourite for those in La Tania, the ski area sitting between Courchevel and Meribel. Most in The Three Valleys won’t ski it and others only use it as a homeward bound run at the end of the day. By late afternoon it’s all chopped up and busy. Get to Folyeres when it is freshly groomed and it’s one of the best around. Wind your way down the tree-lined piste, over rollers and through new openings before arriving at the La Tania gondola for another lap. It’s a wide blue run to perfect for most abilities.
Creux – Courchevel
Creux is no doubt a popular run, a wide blue slope coming from near the summit of Courchevel. Once again most people don’t get here early enough in the day to fall in love with the long sunny piste. Ski Creux in the morning for the best conditions. Start off on a wider steep section where you’ll pick up some speed. Give the legs a break as things flatten out, keep going past the Marmottes and Chanrossa chair lifts for the added bonus of rolling terrain into the trees.
Campagnol – Meribel
Mont Vallon is an iconic place to ski in Meribel, most head there for the views from the top. The descent from 2952 metres offers a choice, stay left and you’ll end up on Campagnol, a red run that is pure fun for everyone who can handle it. Speed demons, you’ll meet your match as this long-run challenges you with wicked corners and steep sections. If you have a slower approach then cruise down without fear of getting lost, all styles end up at the bottom for another lap or return to Meribel. Plus get here on a powder day for some of the best turns ever…
Lapin – Meribel Village
Blue runs always go underrated, including Lapin which hides down in the trees on the way to Meribel Village. It’s another quiet place to ski during the middle of the day while the crowds head for the more popular areas of Meribel. I love skiing Lapin after taking the long descent from the summit of Saulire, gliding past the altiport and entering the trees. Keep your eyes peeled for the woodland creatures overlooking the blue run during what feels like an eternal top to bottom descent.
Jerusalem – St. Martin de Belleville
Ask any local for the best run in The Three Valleys and you’ll be pointed towards Jerusalem. The blue run, accessible from the top of the St. Martin Express and Tougnete 2, is an outright legendary piste. You’ll whoop and holla all the way down through the tight twisting turns and over the steep rollers. Arrive in St. Martin to catch your breath and a cold drink in the sun.
Coraia – Orelle
Coraia goes on the list of amazing pistes for one simple reason, the highest point! This run red is the way down from the top of the Bouchet chairlift aka the highest point of the world largest ski area 3230 metres. One of the most unique places to ski in the Alps. As you would imagine, it’s a long ride as you ski below the Glacier de La Pointe Renod before picking up the blue runs into the centre of Orelle’s ski area.
Skiing in The Three Valleys FAQ
Find all the answers to your questions about skiing in The Three Valleys.
The Three Valleys offers 600kms of pistes completely connected by ski lifts. You can ski the whole area without ever taking off your skis (except for the odd cable car)
The Three Valleys is home to 7 major ski resorts including Courchevel, La Tania, Meribel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires and St. Martin de Belleville.
Plus the ski area also includes a number of small villages and satellite ski resorts including Le Praz, Courchevel 1650, Courchevel 1550, Meribel Village, Les Allues and Brides-Les-Bains.
There are 337 different pistes in The Three Valleys including:
– 53 Green
– 136 Blue
– 113 Red
– 35 Black
Yes! You can ski from Courchevel to Val Thorens without even taking your skis off. From Courchevel, you will need to ski through Meribel to get to Val Thorens. Take any of the ski lifts allowing access to Meribel including Saulire or Vizelle. Ski down into Meribel Mottaret then take Plattieres followed by Cote Brune lifts. Then simply follow the signs to Val Thorens.
Yes! You can choose between 3 lifts to access Courchevel from Meribel. Pas du Lac, Saulire Express and Loze lifts all allow you to ski into Courchevel
Yes! You can take 2 lifts from the centre of Val Thorens to access the Meribel. The Three Valley chair lift will take you high enough to ski into Meribel on the Lac de la Chambre blue piste.
On average it takes around 30 minutes to get from the centre of Courchevel to the centre of Meribel. You’ll need to take 2 lifts to get out of Courchevel which takes 20 minutes, then it’s as quick as you can ski down the other side. Usually around 10 minutes descent for intermediate skiers.
Between 60 – 90 minutes depending on your ski ability. It takes at least 4 ski lifts to get from Courchevel to Val Thorens which will take around 30 – 40 minutes depending on lift queues. There is a lot of skiing to be done too as you will need to ski from the summit of Courchevel down into Meribel plus another 2 descents between Meribel and Val Thorens. Give yourself plenty of time, especially on the way back to avoid missing the last lift home