The large, high-altitude ski resort of Val Thorens boasts excellent skiing and a great range of non-skiing activities. With 600km of piste to choose from, it's no wonder this resort has won 'World's Best Ski Resort' multiple times. Our loyal client and her family headed to Val Thorens for Christmas 2022, read all about it below!
A beautiful sunrise over Normandy marked the start of our drive to Val Thorens for our Christmas family ski holiday. Having travelled on the overnight ferry to Caen, we took a cross country motorway route via Tours and Bourges to our en-route hotel in Lyon, stopping for lunch at the appropriately named 'Aire du centre de la France'!
Twenty-five years after our last trip to Val Thorens we were excited to be going back and our student son and teenage daughter were looking forward to skiing in the vast Three Valleys area for the first time. After the drive up the mountain, it was a relief to reach our two-bed apartment in Village Montana Plein Sud. The rooms had comfy beds adorned with cosy faux fur throws and there were robes and slippers for the spa. Amongst the other apartment highlights were a walk-in shower in the master ensuite, a jacuzzi bath and a well-equipped kitchen with a proper fan oven. Stepping out from the warmly decorated living area to the balcony, we were excited to find ourselves in the midst of the action, with the chairlift passing overhead and skiers whizzing down the piste right next to us.
Our daughter rushed enthusiastically upstairs to help Dad find the carpark entrance and then... Quelle catastrophe!!!... She slid over on the icy road and was in a state of shock with her ankle in considerable pain. Having not even got our bearings in the resort we were grateful to a Montana employee who came with us to the medical centre and arranged for our daughter to have an immediate X-ray. Sadly, it became apparent that the ankle was broken and required surgery within three days. In the meantime, the friendly doctor put the ankle in a temporary cast and we went to the pharmacy for specially adapted mountain crutches with spikes for walking on ice. Back at the apartment we were grateful to get straight through to a senior member of the Peak Retreats team on the emergency helpline and they were able to provide reassurance on going ahead with the operation at the local hospital.
At 8am on what should have been the first day’s skiing we found ourselves ringing the bell outside “Urgences” at Le Centre Hospitalier d’Albertville-Moutiers. Fortunately, the hospital already had the notes from the Val Thorens medical centre and once we had given them our travel insurance and EHIC details, it did not take long for the paperwork and further X-rays to be completed. By 3pm that afternoon our daughter had been wheeled off to have her operation and whilst all went smoothly, she was unimpressed to wake up and realise she had missed the entire World Cup Final! That evening she was able to sample French hospital food including roast chicken with polenta, before being discharged and it was a relief to get her safely back to the apartment that same day.
Whilst disappointed to miss out on skiing, our daughter remained in good spirits and was quick to dismiss the option of flying home. We adapted to a new routine of taking it in turns to ski half days with our son so that our daughter always had company. This meant one of us could drive her to daily physio and nurse appointments in resort and sometimes for a pizza lunch at La Grange restaurant. She enjoyed watching the action on the piste, waving her crutches as we passed. In the afternoons she hobbled up to the relaxation area with us, being glad to have a change of scene and chat to other guests on the poolside loungers. Whilst it was a pity there was no stand-alone Jacuzzi in the pool area, the large and effective steam room more than made up for it.
Village Montana Plein Sud is in an excellent location with the ski room opening straight onto the piste. It was a short ski down to the lifts where there were enough options to start on a different ski lift every day. Alternatively, one could head straight down to Les Menuires, where on the first day we skied a few quiet runs in the afternoon sun. On that occasion we made our way back to Val Thorens from Col de la Chambre on the blue Pluviomètre piste, where it was fun skiing the soft moguls which had formed by the end of the day. On the days spent skiing in Val Thorens we skied back to the residence from the summit of the Plein Sud chairlift or used the Cairn Gondola.
Whilst the pre-Christmas week started with sunshine and blue skies, the weather became more unsettled as time went on with snow, flat light, fog and even rain. When visibility was poor, we skied a range of long cruisy runs directly above the resort. We particularly enjoyed skiing in the area served by the Péclet gondola and also liked spending time further down in the quieter Boismint area. Our favourite mountain restaurants were the Chalet de la Marine bistrot and Chalet des Deux Lacs, both of which are run by the same family. The lunch prices were higher than we’ve been used to in lesser-known resorts but the service was friendly and we were glad to warm up by a roaring fire on snowy days or enjoy the panoramic views from Restaurant des Deux Lacs when the sun was out. On other occasions it was easy to ski back to the apartment for lunch.
On the final Saturday my son and I skied over to Courchevel. As we headed down the Méribel valley, we enjoyed skiing fresh snow on the Lac de la Chambre piste, which was blissfully quiet on changeover day. By Mottaret the snow had deteriorated somewhat so we took the slow but scenic Pas du Lac gondola up to the Saulire area, where the view from the summit was breath-taking. The relief of my son agreeing to an easy start on the blue Creux run was short-lived, as we inevitably ended up losing each other after taking different options when the piste branched in two. I enjoyed an impromptu coffee stop at Courchevel’s oldest mountain restaurant, the nautically themed Cap Horn, whilst my son made his way back from Courchevel Moriond. After a quick alfresco lunch lower down on the terrace of Hotel Courcheneige, we spent the afternoon exploring the picturesque Courchevel ski area, eventually meeting up with the others in Le Praz. As we left the Three Valleys at sunset, Carols from King’s college, Cambridge was just starting on the radio and we were able to enjoy a British Christmas Eve tradition whilst taking in the scenery of the French Alps!
Fortunately, the holiday was not yet over as we had booked a hotel in Sallanches for a couple of nights and thanks to a tip from Peak Retreats, decided to go skiing in Les Contamines on Christmas Day. At the time of our visit Les Contamines had the best snow conditions for miles around but the slopes were not that busy and we loved its off the beaten track feel and the stunning views of Mont Blanc. We started off on the sunny slopes below the Aiguille Croche, followed by the cruisy runs on the Hautluce side. It was all most enjoyable although a few of the drag lifts in this resort are not for the faint hearted. Later on it was possible to ski right back to the Montjoie carpark, on scenic tree lined runs.
Despite our daughter’s injury we were able to drive back to England taking the St Malo to Portsmouth ferry as planned. Brittany Ferries gave us a sticker for the car which enabled us to park next to the lift. It was not until after we’d had dinner and a glass of wine that we casually checked the shipping forecast with a crew member and realised he was not joking that the sea was going to be rough. After all the excitement of the holiday we still slept well despite the rolling waves.