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Les Tres Valles Questions

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
A friend and I are planning a trip to les tres valles in France in February.  I have a few questions.

1) Can anyone describe the areas to me?  Which do you recommend staying at and why?

2) We are looking for place to stay.  I would like cheap, but not total garbage.  Ski chalets interest me, but I can't figure out if I have to book out all the rooms, or just one.  We're not very particular with where we stay, but we don't want to stay in a dump full of college kids.

3) Is there a cheap way to get from Geneva airport to the resort?

4) Is it too late to be planning a trip for February or is this the right time?

5) Any other facts that I should know as this is my first ski trip to Europe.

I've always counted on Epicski to provide me with the insiders knowledge whenever I go to a new area.  I've now been all over the US and Epic has never let me know.  Thanks in advance to anyone who responds and helps out.
post #2 of 29
Start here:
wtss.co.uk

And buy the book.

Remember, too, that it's "Trois" in French.

This is the BIGGEST ski area in the world, taken together. The resort components are very different one from another. I'm partial to smaller bases, so La Tania or St Martin appeal to me more than Courcheval or Meribel, but I think it's hard to go wrong.

There's every kind of skiing you could imagine at the 3 Vals, so it's difficult to imagine not having a good time. I'd check on French school holidays to make sure you're not going the wrong week, though.

One other thing: Meribel, Courcheval, et al are so vast on their own that it's entirely possible to ski a week, two, a month, whatever, at one of the component resorts without exploring the whole complex, in fact, I'm sure many skiers at Meribel don't even realize the place is part of something much, much bigger.

I say, who cares? Don't stress out about having to see all of the 3 Vals in a week; you won't. I know people -- good, serious skiers, too -- who've owned a place there for years and are still "exploring." Enjoy.
post #3 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by deltat View Post

1) Can anyone describe the areas to me?  Which do you recommend staying at and why?
 

3 Valleys is big. Think of the biggest ski area in North America, and then bolt on the second biggest ski area in NA. Repeat this until you get to the 5th biggest ski area in NA. Now that you've got all 5 made into one area, double your answer. Now you're getting close.
I'd reccomend staying in Val Thorens (also known as VT). Mainly because there are fewer Russians there than in the Courchevels.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deltat View Post

2) We are looking for place to stay.  I would like cheap, but not total garbage.  Ski chalets interest me, but I can't figure out if I have to book out all the rooms, or just one.  We're not very particular with where we stay, but we don't want to stay in a dump full of college kids.
 
If you are booking a chalet through a tour operator, then you book the number of rooms you require.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deltat View Post
3) Is there a cheap way to get from Geneva airport to the resort?
 
There are busses, or you could do it by train. Depending on the number of people it might be cheaper to hire a car - it's probably a 2 hour drive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deltat View Post
4) Is it too late to be planning a trip for February or is this the right time?
 

You're probably too late to get a good choice, but the bigger problem you will face is that February is the most expensive and busiest time to go skiing in France. By "busy" I mean you could spend 15 minutes in the lift line at most lifts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deltat View Post
5) Any other facts that I should know as this is my first ski trip to Europe.

If you want to go off-piste, hire a guide.
You're above the tree line, so if you get white-out conditions, be careful - best thing is to head for the piste markers and ski down beside one set of them.
Don't make too many plans about where you want to ski, just go out and do it. When you're not sure where  you are, then look at your map!
post #4 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post

You're above the tree line, so if you get white-out conditions, be careful - best thing is to head for the bar.

 

Fixed it for ya.
post #5 of 29
The "ski chalets" are like a cross between a bed and breakfast and a hotel. You book your room(s) and get breakfast. Most of the owners are very involved and are great hosts. It's like they are throwing a continual party. Stay there.

Val T is a bunch of concrete buildings so if you are looking for "quaint European village" you won't find it there. If you were going in March I would say go there though anyway. Better chance of good snow. Personally,  I like above tree line skiing so I would want to stay close enough to Val T to ski it often.

Meribel has the old world village thing going on and is considered 'central'.  It's more convenient to Courchavel but not as much to Val T.

I would consider Menuires. It's more central to both Meribel and Val T.

80% of the skiers stay on the groom swaths running down the open slopes even when there is fresh powder feet away. The rest is yours!

Apre ski starts at lunch time for many people there so you are skiing a full day it will be pretty lively by the time you arrive.
post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 
Wow, I go from 0 replies to 4 helpful posts.  Thanks!

So I did a little more research over the weekend.

1) It seems that February is NOT the time to go as all the French are on holiday.  With that in mind, I could either go the last week in January or the middle of March.  What time would be better and why?  I'm almost thinking late January would be too soon as far as booking goes, but it seems there are a good amount of choices.

2) As far as areas to stay, the problem I am having is finding the right balance between a fun village and cheap accomodations.  The reason I was looking at Meribel is because apparently it's all people from the UK so I don't have to worry about speaking any French.  It's also described as a fun place to stay.  Since it seems like there is little to no transportation between the base villages, the village you pick to stay in appears to be very important.  I want to avoid a tiny village where there is nothing to do at night, but I also want a village w/ cheap lodging and where food won't cost a fortune.  Does something like that exist?

Also, if anyone has any specific places I should check out to stay, let me know.  We are only two people and more then happy to do a self cater studio apartment if the price is right.  On the other hand, we would also be willing to do a half board chalet if the price is right.

Thanks again!
post #7 of 29
If you go in mid March and stay in Meribel you run the risk of typical late spring conditions (mashed taters). If you go then I would stay (and ski) at Val T. If you MUST stay in Meribel I would go in late Jan.
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattL View Post

If you go in mid March and stay in Meribel you run the risk of typical late spring conditions (mashed taters). If you go then I would stay (and ski) at Val T. If you MUST stay in Meribel I would go in late Jan.

Ideally I want to go when snow conditions are the best.  I don't want anything resembling spring conditions.  As much powder as possible please!
post #9 of 29

A few random thoughts for you: first, powder-wise, who knows. The Alps get different types of snow patterns than the Rockies, often with bigger/less frequent dumps (and less overall snow, as far as I can tell). Moreover, exposure and visibility issues, both a result of less tree cover, make it trickier to predict if and when you'll be skiing powder.

 

Val Thorens is a great bet for snow, I'm told, but horrible for exposure/wind. If I had to choose a European resort purely based on chances of finding powder, I'm not sure I'd choose the Trois Vals, though better informed Bears might say I'm wrong.

My general feeling is that March is way better than Jan. for skiing at Alpine resorts; I'd probably even choose March over Feb. for skiing in these parts.

As for this: "The reason I was looking at Meribel is because apparently it's all people from the UK so I don't have to worry about speaking any French," I wouldn't worry about English not being understood in a big international resort like this. I would worry about being in a Brit ghetto in a place like Meribel, but that can be the case in a lot of resorts, from Verbier to St Anton. Whatya gonna do?

And for this: "Ideally I want to go when snow conditions are the best.  I don't want anything resembling spring conditions," fear not. You've heard me rail on about how misleading Alpine verticals are compared to North America (and if you haven't read my illuminating posts, shame on you). But there is an upside. In the Alps, spring conditions at 1700 meters may well give way to mouth-watering winter snow at 2800. That rock-hard offpiste you struggled down at 9am may be soft and perfect by 3. You'll either need solid mountain instincts or some guidance to make sense of this in just a week at a big resort like the 3 Vals, but it's a constant theme in the Alps.

My final word of advice to you, at least for my current post, is this: If you've never skied in Europe, please suspend all preconceptions about what a ski area is and should look like. In doing so, you will dramatically enhance your ability to understand and enjoy your surroundings. People will be going up the hill on lifts, and descending on skis and snowboards. Pretty much everything else will be different.

 

Cheers, P

post #10 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
. . .I would consider Menuires. It's more central to both Meribel and Val T.

I pulled up their website and the deals look fantastic for January!  Does this base have a resonable amount on nightlife?
post #11 of 29
prickly, you forgot to warn him about the lift lines, or should I say lift mobs. Don't get caught in the center, stay to the outside and keep moving forward.
post #12 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

My general feeling is that March is way better than Jan. for skiing at Alpine resorts; I'd probably even choose March over Feb. for skiing in these parts.


I have read about how snow in Europe can be spotty.  The thing about places like Utah is January - March you can't go wrong.  There will always be huge amounts of snow and huge dumps.

It looks like there are good deals in January and March (I guess outside of the holiday month).  Since I'm skiing all the time in the states, I have to plan around other ski trips (huge problem, I know :-P)

The weeks I can choose are :
January 23rd - 30th or March 13th - 20th

I understand that getting a dump or even good conditions will be hit or miss.  Unfortunately I don't live in Europe so going there on a moments notice is not an option.  Since I need to plan way far in advance, which week would you recommend or would I be better off just sucking it up and going in February.  Again, I'm looking for best chance of big powder.
post #13 of 29
post #14 of 29

Rule #1: Don't go in February.
Rule #2: See Rule #1.

But, is there any particular reason why you want to go to the 3V?

post #15 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post


But, is there any particular reason why you want to go to the 3V?


It's huge?  I guess that's my only reason.  It sounds like a lot of fun and I have no idea where to go in Europe.  If you have something better (cheaper, better snow, huge resort) then I'm all ears.

Thanks
post #16 of 29
Bigger isn't always better. You can't even ski a fraction of it in a week anyway. Sometimes people go to these huge places and spend more time getting around than actually skiing.


The size thing for the 'huge' resorts is mostly a marketing ploy. They know that 99% of people can't take advantage of it on their vacations, but it sells the resort.
post #17 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattL View Post

Bigger isn't always better. You can't even ski a fraction of it in a week anyway. Sometimes people go to these huge places and spend more time getting around than actually skiing.
 

True, but I do like huge resorts.  I get bored very quickly.  I was bored of Vail after 2 days.  Whistler kept me interested for about 4.
post #18 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by deltat View Post

Whistler kept me interested for about 4.
 

3V is about 5x the size of Whistler/Blackcomb.

If you're just interested in mileage, mileage, mileage, then go to the biggest resort, but you're going to miss out on a lot of actual skiing because you're trying to get to specific places.

e.g. last Christmas we were in St Anton. One of the guys we were with wanted to ski the complete circuit round to Lech. Every section had to be planned out, so instead of riding a lift and looking at the conditions under it to think about skiing it, you had to get off and head over to the run to get the next lift. What I prefer to do is start off looking for good skiing, and maybe heading in a particular direction, but being flexible enough to choose good runs,even if it goes against my original "plan".
If you start to get bored in Europe, hire a guide.
post #19 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post




3V is about 5x the size of Whistler/Blackcomb.

If you're just interested in mileage, mileage, mileage, then go to the biggest resort, but you're going to miss out on a lot of actual skiing because you're trying to get to specific places.

e.g. last Christmas we were in St Anton. One of the guys we were with wanted to ski the complete circuit round to Lech. Every section had to be planned out, so instead of riding a lift and looking at the conditions under it to think about skiing it, you had to get off and head over to the run to get the next lift. What I prefer to do is start off looking for good skiing, and maybe heading in a particular direction, but being flexible enough to choose good runs,even if it goes against my original "plan".
If you start to get bored in Europe, hire a guide.
 

Totally makes sense.  So with that being said.  It seems that 3 valleys is not one of your top choices.  So given what you know about me already by replying to my posts on this thread, if this were your FIRST trip to ski in Europe where would you go and why?

Thanks
post #20 of 29
My suggestions...
For scenery (+ great skiing): Chamonix or Wengen/Murren (Jungfrau)
For powder (+ great scenery): Verbier or Zermatt
For nightlife (+ great skiing/scenery): St Anton
For size: Espace Killy

Now, I'll say this (as a sweeping generalisation):
The powder may not be as good as Utah, but the scenery, size and nightlife are something you won't have experienced in North America.
post #21 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post

My suggestions...
For scenery (+ great skiing): Chamonix or Wengen/Murren (Jungfrau)
For powder (+ great scenery): Verbier or Zermatt
For nightlife (+ great skiing/scenery): St Anton
For size: Espace Killy

Now, I'll say this (as a sweeping generalisation):
The powder may not be as good as Utah, but the scenery, size and nightlife are something you won't have experienced in North America.

Wow, thanks a lot!  Now as far as price goes.  How does each rank cost wise compared to three valleys and others on your list.  The euro isn't so hot against the dollar so value is also important.

Thank you for being so helpful.  Your guidance and choices will have a huge influence on where I decide to go.
post #22 of 29
Or you could just go to St Anton.
post #23 of 29
If it was your one and only ever trip to Europe, I'd say Chamonix or Wengen. We're talking about where skiing - as a vacation - was born.
If you want the trip that tells you that you must come back to experience more, then plan a liver transplant and go to St Anton or Val d'Isere. And of those two, I'd choose St Anton in January.

...if you need help in getting it booked, I can recommend a travel agent in the UK who knows St Anton well - send me a Private Message and I can send you her details.
post #24 of 29
Thread Starter 
Wow, St. Anton looks like THE place.  Cheap, huge and a kick ass apres.
I think I'm sold!
post #25 of 29
Don't know about the cheap part, but it's pretty good...
post #26 of 29
Thread Starter 
Definitely cheaper then 3 valleys.  The lodging is much less expensive.
post #27 of 29
Well, I've been to St Anton many times, and it's hard to picture not having fun there. Season seems to start and end a little earlier than a lot of other Alpine stations. But it is a great, great resort. My overall top pick in the Alps, no question, though I've never been to Val d'Isere.
post #28 of 29
This is from the Champagne Bar above Zug (easy to get to from St Anton). Click on the link below the photo for full size:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3215/3151367868_874e340445_o.jpg
post #29 of 29

If I didn't already have a place, and had to buy a house in the mountains, living where I live, I'd consider buying there -- even though it's a good hour and a half further away than Monterosa, Cham, Andermatt, etc. I like it that much.

 

 

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