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Info on Trois Valley - France

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
A group of friends is planning a trip to Trois Valley (France) first week of Jan 2006. I've never skied in Europe before, and I'm interested in hearing from EpicSki folks who have. :

What snow conditions might I expect?
How would you rate this resort as compared to one of the Tahoe or Colorado ski areas?
Would my inability to speak/understand French be a major problem?
Any advice you might have is welcome.

I'm essentially an advanced skier, always looking for more variety, mostly off piste, and lately venturing into the backcountry.
post #2 of 12

I've skied the 3 Valleys. It's massive, one of perhaps the largest ski areas in the world. "200 ski-lifts, and 330 downhill skiing runs with an accumulated length of 600 km". Plenty of British who don't speak French go there and in some places there's more English than French spoken. Plenty of off-piste near to the piste but as always if you really want to see the European backcountry be with someone who has local knowledge (e.g. a guide / off-piste ski instructor)

Might be worth you asking the same question here
post #3 of 12
There is nothing in North America that can compare in Size (lifts/terrain) to 3 Valley's. Not just Brits there, plenty of Dutch,Scandinavians.

Snow quality, well its the other way round nothing can compares with the US however in January your on pretty good safe gorund there with condtions. Most of the 3 Valleys is above treeline so white-outs can be a problem.
post #4 of 12
First week of January could be good for snow - but it may not be. I would like to see snow on the ground before I set off.
However, there is a glacier over in Val Thorens.
I have stayed in Courchevel. La Praz is a proper French village as opposed to 1600 and 1800 which are purpose built. I have also stayed in Meribel a few of times. You are in the middle, so it is easy to do Courchevel one day, Val Thorens the next. When we were in Courchevel we got kicked off the lifts coming back from Val Thorens. It is a long day and it is easy to run out of time.
I have not been to the 3 valleys for a few years now. I hear one problem is that it is attracting thieving, Russian scumbags -the ones who robbed the country blind after the fall of communism. They don't ski, but they do spend an awful lot of money, so bars and restaurants look to get their business at the expense of ordinary, decent folks. However it is a big area so you will be able to pick and choose which establishments you patronise.
post #5 of 12
The last time I was in the 3 Vallées was during the first week of January, 2003. This was considered a bad early snow year and even so that place blew any US resort out of the water. It's massive and there's plenty of advanced and expert terrain. Speaking French is a plus but you can get along without it. Just be polite and most people in France will gladly switch to English. We stayed in a very nice place in Les Ménuires which is one of the less attractive resorts in the 3 Vallés but very central at the same time. Les Ménuires has been trying to spruce up its image in recent years and you can now find some nice "upscale" chalets neighborhoods at very affordable prices compared to Courchevel or Méribel.
post #6 of 12
Although it's an aweful long time ago I remember it quite well. We stayed at Val Thorens in January, snow was epic but with the occasional whiteout conditions already mentioned.

If the focus is on groomers I'd opt for either Courchevel or Meribel. For off-piste Val Thorens may fit the bill better overall IMO - the slopes are higher, all above the timberlime, more opportunities and the access to the goods faster (especially around the Caron and east of Mont de la Chambre). The terrain resembles to some extend that of Val d'Isere/Tignes.

Les Menuieres is a place I would avoid if I could - the village is as charming as a defect fridge.

Good luck!
post #7 of 12
Comparing any of the Tahoe resorts (I've been to most of them) to Les Trois Vallees ... well there just isn't any comparison in terms of size. I've spent a total of about 9 months (one entire season plus various other trips) in Les Trois Vallees ... have stayed in Meribel, Val Thorens, and Les Menuires. In all that time I still haven't skied everything ... probably 95% of the pistes/groomers ... but only a small % of the off-piste. Although I got good snow at Tahoe, I was disappointed at the lack of vertical.
Note that in Europe there isn't really the same differentiation between off-piste and backcountry ... if it ain't on the marked piste then it's all off-piste. Some of the off-piste is avalanche controlled but little of it is patrolled ... so make sure you have a beeper.
Although the village of Les Menuires is largely as asthetically pleasing as an English politician, it is well worth skiing through Les Menuires to get to the slopes of La Mass. There is some superb off-piste here, plus an itineret run that is well worth doing if the snow is good ... that's a marked run which isn't maintained ie. it's like off-piste conditions but it is patrolled ... there are a few of these usually marked with a dotted yellow line on the piste map. Some of these are so well trodden though that you wouldn't actually know you were off-piste.
It's also worth taking a trip over to the 4th valley (La Maurien ... excuse my spelling) ... this is over the other side of Val Thorens ... the town of Oriel is at the bottom, but you don't ski down that far. The off-piste there is also superb and it tends to be quieter than elsewhere 'cos most people can't be bothered or don't know what's there. They opened up 2 new chair lifts there about 4 seasons ago ... there was a steep black run at the top which shortly after someone got helicoptered off after breaking their back (I saw them slide about 300 metres over the bumps) they converted it back to off-piste again. I'm not sure if that's still the case.
Over in Courchevel, my favourite runs are around 1600 ... the very long Poma drag lift seems to sort out the men from the boys so it's not too busy.
Basically anywhere away from Courchevel 1850, Meribel Mottaret, or the centre of either Meribel, Val Thorens, or Les Menuires is much less busy. Saturdays are usually the quietest day to ski as it's change-over day for most of the tour companies.

In terms of what the snow will be like in early January ... I can't think of a sensible answer as it could vary from one extreme to the other ... I've had rocks & ice at that time ... and also I have had almost too much snow for them to open the lifts. Here's hoping it's the latter for you. I'll be living it up in Whistler as usual
post #8 of 12
Originally Posted by PowHog
Les Menuieres is a place I would avoid if I could - the village is as charming as a defect fridge.
Good luck!
You'd be surprised how in recent years, the town has been trying to fix up its image & reputation. Sure they still have those cinder blocks atrocities on the main drag (the biggest one is actually set to be demolished) but they have build small chalets areas with excellent views that rival with those of Courchevel. If you are curious check out Les Montagnettes for example. It's the chalets section that you find on any new Les Ménuires postcard. Also Saint Martin de Belleville, the village which is tied to Les Ménuires is beautiful and unspoiled. If you are on a budget, I wouldn't rule out Les Ménuires altogether, you can really find some little parts of heaven at a more modest price.
post #9 of 12
Plus Brooskies Bar in St. Martin de Belleville is a great little night spot and they serve great burgers. Some of my favourite skiing is actually on La Mass ... the snow fields that you see across the valley from the main drag in Les Menuires are just superb after a fresh dump.
post #10 of 12
Originally Posted by kelly001
You'd be surprised how in recent years, the town has been trying to fix up its image & reputation.
You may be right but when coming over from that far I nonetheless recommend giving a shot at the other options first.

St. Martin de Belleville is truly neat, the general access just isn't quite as quick as from a spot like Val Thorens.

Edit: Sizewise an American journalist once stated in a skiing magazine that the total lift-served acreage of Colorado would not add up to half of the Trois Vallee area. Don't know whether that's exactly true but gives a rough idea.
post #11 of 12
As far as size of The 3 Valleys goes.
I would estimate that if you put all the Tahoe Ski Areas,All the Aspen Mountains,Vail,Steamboat + Jackson Hole your getting near the size of the place :-)
post #12 of 12
Or to put it another way ... hooking up Sugar Bowl, Squaw, Alpine, Grandlibaken : , and Homewood, with some lifts in the Desolation Wilderness for good measure, will start getting you close to 3-V, but without the vertical and villages - I remember a run, Jockies, in the Courcheval valley that's a mega-long black down to La Praz, but from my perspective it was a black due to the changeable conditions not any special steepness. Nice bar at the bottom after you've trashed your skis on the rocks. And when I was there there was a valley between Val Thorens (another butt ugly place up there with Motteret) and Meribel that was not lift served that had gobs of skiing - my guess is that there's a lift or two (or ten) there now
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