Why Les 3 Vallées is the diamond in the crown of skiing in France

Two days earlier, we were skiing under clear skies at the top of Europe’s highest resort, Val Thorens. Undamaged after the snowfall of the previous night, our ESF guide took us straight to the top of the Grand Fond chairlift (3,003m), on the Médaille and Rondos slopes, before much of the resort rose, knowing what delights awaited. No destination boasts more of the appeal of skiing in France than Val Thorens.

It was a continuation of a theme – not only were we also spoiled for choice for dining, dancing and drinking on the slopes, but the five-star Altapura Hotel, where our evenings were spent in the outdoor pool or sipping Aperol in armchairs upholstered in rawhide, was the epitome of ski-in ski-out opulence.

On the other hand, in the valley of Les Menuires, far from five-star fast track skiing, the H036 hostel offered a confrontation with reality. It was also an opportunity to rub shoulders with like-minded winter sports fans from around the world for the first time in two winters and the excitement in the communal dining room was palpable. The slopes of Les Menuires were empty thanks to the tendency of skiers to spin down its sun-drenched slopes in favor of Méribel, Courchevel or the dizzying heights of Val Thorens.

Yet it was in Méribel that we felt most comfortable during our multi-resort tour – a finely balanced middle ground between the exuberance of Val Thorens and the economic credentials of Les Menuires. Our confident intermediate skiing skills have been put to good use on its long runs that stretch up both sides of the Allues valley – Sittelle blue being a favourite. The Central Hotel Eterlou, which houses another outdoor swimming pool, proved to be a lovely reminder of the authentic ski holiday experience we were looking for.

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