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Planning a trip to the French Alps

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I am planning a last minute trip to the French Alps, I will be there for a week with a couple of friends.  I've never been there before and I would like some help to plan my week.

 

We will be staying in "Le Praz"  which is close to "Les 3 vallées". We will be there for 7 days and are planning to ski 5 days. We are not looking for groomed runs but we also don't feel like hiking mountains, I don't mind walking when I am at or near the top of the mountain but I don't want to hike the whole mountain.  

 

Our skiing level : 

We are from Montreal, Canada where there is not big mountains but we just came back from a trip to Colorado where we skied Vail, Breck and A-Basin.  We skied Breck bowls (Imperial, Peak 7 bowls and stuff like that) without difficulty.  We are looking for something about the same difficulty or maybe a bit harder.

 

I already know that I want to spend 1 day at Mont-Blanc for "L'aiguille du midi / Valley blanche (the 20km run)".  I would also like to visit Les 3 Vallées but the domain is so vast that I don't know where I should go.  We are looking for high altitude, big vertical.  Any other recommendations would be really appreciated !

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 8
I'm not sure your questions make sense - Le Praz is at the bottom of Courchevel, one of the 3 Vallees so you are highly likely to be skiing there. Do you have all your own avi kit and decent knowledge because that's what you should have for self protection when skiing off groomer in Europe. As for how tough try this courtesy of the local pizza slingers


https://youtu.be/aH9vv7ryozI


Chamonix is a long drive away and there is more than enough skiing in the Tarantaise to keep most people happy for a lifetime so I'd keep your sights lowered a bit.
post #3 of 8

Well, there's good news and bad news for your trip.

 

The bad news is that you can expect pretty much every marked run on the piste map to be groomed, including the blacks. Also in the bad news column is that La Praz is at the lowest skiable part of the Three Valleys, while all of the highest peaks are above Val Thorens, which is quite a trek from your base.

 

The good news is that the Alps are all about lift-accessible off-piste terrain. You shouldn't really need to do any hiking to find terrain that you like.

 

However, if this is your first trip to the Alps, then you need to know a couple of things. First, most resorts don't bother to mark hazards that are off piste, even if they are right in the middle of the ski area. So, you can't just jump off the groomer without checking to make sure that it's safe. Second, most resorts in the Alps won't do avalanche control on the off-piste terrain unless it is on a face that could threaten groomers, lifts, or buildings below. So, you have to be aware of the potential avalanche danger of any off-piste line you choose to ski.

 

On a side note, I agree with @fatbob about the side trip to Chamonix. It will probably take you 2 hours to get there from La Praz by car. I think you'd have a more enjoyable day if you just booked an off-piste guide in La Praz or Meribel.

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 

First of all thank you for your replies.  Sorry if my question did not make much sense, english is not my first language, I usually speak french. 

 

@fatbob We will rent AVI kits on the days we will be doing "off-piste" terrain.  We might also hire a guide if we feel a bit more adventurous. 

 

@CerebralVortex Val Thorens is about a 1h drive from Le Praz which is not bad at all.  We really don't mind driving in the morning to get to the best parts of the mountains.  Thank you for the warnings about unmarked hazards!

 

I understand your point of view about Chamonix but I feel like I would miss something going the the French Alps and not spend a day at the Mont-Blanc.  I think the 2 hours drive would be worth it for a day there !

 

Also, does anyone have a place to recommend where we could hire a guide for a couple of days and do we have to book in advance ?

 

Thanks again !

post #5 of 8

You will need a guide for Mont Blanc.

 

http://www.chamonixskiguide.com/

 

I have not been to Les Trois Vallees.  We are going to Val Thorens next winter with our ski club!

post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern View Post
 

First of all thank you for your replies.  Sorry if my question did not make much sense, english is not my first language, I usually speak french. 

 

@fatbob We will rent AVI kits on the days we will be doing "off-piste" terrain.  We might also hire a guide if we feel a bit more adventurous. 

 

@CerebralVortex Val Thorens is about a 1h drive from Le Praz which is not bad at all.  We really don't mind driving in the morning to get to the best parts of the mountains.  Thank you for the warnings about unmarked hazards!

 

I understand your point of view about Chamonix but I feel like I would miss something going the the French Alps and not spend a day at the Mont-Blanc.  I think the 2 hours drive would be worth it for a day there !

 

Also, does anyone have a place to recommend where we could hire a guide for a couple of days and do we have to book in advance ?

 

Thanks again !

 

A few of the towns in the Three Valleys will have an office for a guide company. Some ski schools also have guides in addition to instructors. If you can't find any in La Praz, then Meribel will most certainly have some.

 

If you're hiring a guide for yourself, then it's probably best to just stop by the office the afternoon before. That way, you can check conditions and forecasts before you book. If you want to ski with a larger group, then you might have to book a bit farther in advance. It's probably best to check with the guide office/ski school on your first day in town.

 

As for getting to Val Thorens, it's really not necessary to drive all the way. You could drive or take a shuttle to Meribel, which is just around the corner from La Praz, and make your way up the mountain from there. That will be faster than starting from La Praz but without doing a long drive.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

Awesome thank you so much ! 

I hate leaving for a trip without having solid plans but this one is very last minute.  Your help is really appreciated !

post #8 of 8

Hi Northern.  I've stayed in Le Praz many times so some information below that hopefully will be helpful.

 

The three valleys big selling point is that it is the biggest linked ski area in the world, generally it is regarded as a place for people who want to do a high mileage on piste rather than as a classic off piste destination.  All pistes are marked out by poles and most people without a guide largely stick to them.  Having said that the 3V does have off piste opportunities and a reasonable selection of black runs - try a search on the Grand Couloir in Courchevel.

 

Le Praz had a big new chairlift which went for this season, so you can be quickly into the slopes and usually you can ski back to the village for most of the season, you will find most of the lifts across the entire three valleys area are modern and fast.  Le Praz is in the Courchevel Valley, Meribel is the central valley and Val Thorens is the third valley across.  Typically good skiers would expect to cover most of the area during a week's stay.  From Le Praz across to Val Thorens is about an hour and a half for reasonably fast skiers on piste, and there is now a fourth valley with a couple of lifts beyond the Val Thorens valley.  The drive from Le Praz to Val Thorens means going back down into the valley, along and then up the Val Thorens valley - most people would just ski there for the day.  If you wanted a slightly quicker start a drive round to Meribel from Le Praz is quite quick if the road is open and it would save you a bit of time but personally I wouldn't bother.  

 

Not sure whether you will find it easy to rent Avi equipment - whenever I have doen it the guide provided the equipment.  Typically to go off piste in the Alps if you aren't qualified or know the local area in detail most people hire a guide / instructor, if you are off the marked pistes it is at your own risk and as was said above it is not protected - 1 person has died so far this season above La Tania which is just around the hill from Le Praz.  The local ESF (French Ski School as you speak French) will have guides or you can try independent schools such as http://www.skinewgen.com/  In addition, with the freeze thaw cycle in March if the weather warms up a guide can hopefully find decent snow off piste - if it hasn't snowed for a while it may not be worthwhile going off piste.  Important to check your insurance as well, typically insurance policies in Europe don't cover off piste unless you are with a qualified guide - evacuation can be expensive if you have an accident and aren't covered.  There is off piste all over but some of the highest is off the Cime de Caron and La Masse in the Val Thorens valley.

 

You will find a three valleys thread on http://snowheads.com/ .

 

If you post there you may be able to get recommendations for individual guides, and information on Chamonix - although that is a long drive and you would probably want to be sure the Vallee Blanche was in good condition before going and the weather was going to be conducive.  An alternative would be Val d'Isere which is another classic resort and more renowned for its lift served off piste opportunities than the 3V - its about a 1 hour drive from Le Praz.

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