Let us let you in on a secret…
When you think of the Three Valleys ski area, big-hitting resorts spring to mind. But nestled in the same valley as Val Thorens is the pretty village of St Martin de Belleville a much more manageable size for families, this traditional resort has its roots in farming yet is part of the world’s biggest ski area. After a day on some of the world’s best pistes, skiing back to St Martin you instantly feel like you’ve come home, to a very well kept secret!
The atmosphere suits families; it’s all about unpretentious luxury.
St Martin de Belleville’s traditional stone and timber-clad farms may now be home to cosy chalets and beautiful restaurants, but it has lost none of its authenticity.
When it comes to mythical skiing, the Jerusalem run from the top of Meribel at more than 2100m altitude down to St Martin de Belleville ticks all our boxes. This blue piste is tranquil Three Valley skiing at its best and will delight families with competent little skiers or older ones. The slope is of historical interest too. It was the site of Resistance work during the Second World War when Resistance workers used the barns alongside the slope to hide the vulnerable.
The resort’s nursery slope is great for beginners, and if they make good progress there’s plenty of terrain to explore, making St Martin ideal for families with children who already know how to ski and want to do more.
Here are all the reasons we think that St Martin de Belleville should be on your resort shortlist for your family ski holiday this season.
The brilliant ESF French Ski School offers lessons for children from the age of three in St Martin. Club Piou Piou lessons are specifically for three-year-olds. They’ll who’ll have plenty of fun playing in the snow, whilst learning the basics. Club Piou Piou also encompasses a Mini-club for children from 30 months to 5 years old who don’t want to start skiing yet. Children aged four and over join group lessons, which are graded by level from beginners (Ourson, or bear cub) through to Gold Star. Under 5s get a free ski pass! St Martin also has a nursery for little ones from 3 months old to 30 months old, giving parents the freedom to ski.
Take the family on a Nordic dog-sledding adventure with professional musher, Dany, and his team of dogs. Discover the winter landscape from a different angle, pulled along in a sled alongside the snowy river you could imagine you were in Narnia. Truly magical!
UNFORGETTABLE APRES SKI
For 2019/20 there is a new outdoor spa in the heart of the village. At the end of a day exploring some of the 600km of piste, relax in one of the four outdoor hot tubs whilst appreciating the magical mountain setting. There’s also a herbal tea and changing facilities available. There's so much to do! The resort organises events that will appeal to all ages at various dates throughout the season from a family snow carving competition (think Bake Off Showstopper with snow!) to fireworks and a torchlit descent on skis by the ESF French ski school instructors.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
St Martin de Belleville is home to not one but two chefs with 3 Michelin stars. Father and son, René and Maxime Meilleur (their surname means best), run La Bouitte in the hamlet of St Marcel, which gained its third Michelin star in 2015. Excitingly, the Meilleurs are launched a new venture at the Chalets Caseblanche, which opened for the 2018/19 season in St Martin. The new restaurant is more casual, serving deliberately simple cuisine that showcases the best local produce, complementing La Bouitte perfectly, with a relaxed friendly atmosphere. Our mouths are watering already!
STEP BACK IN TIME
St Martin has a long and fascinating history, while away an afternoon walking the village heritage trail. There are 12 places to discover on the trail, which starts at the village church. You’ll see the communal bread oven, the ‘bachal’ (wash house), and end at the beautiful 17th century baroque chapel of Notre Dame de la Vie.
Spend one blissful night of your ski holiday in your own luxurious mountain refuge, perfect for marking a special occasion. Ski to this gorgeous hideaway or walk up on snowshoes from the hamlet of St Marcel and enjoy a champagne aperitif (for the adults), traditional Savoyard dinner, a night away from it all and the best breakfast, all served by Viviane and her family.
Where to stay: our recommendations.
4-star self-catered chalets & apartments | largest sleeps 14.
These stunning self-catered chalets and apartments are superbly appointed, with living areas that boast floor to ceiling windows, beautiful views, a wide terrace or balcony and a décor that effortlessly mixes the contemporary and the traditional. Each has either an open fire or wood burner and most have a private sauna. They could not be in a better position, just 50m from the gondola giving access to the Three Valleys.
4-star self-catered chalets & apartments | largest sleeps 12
These über-stylish self-catered chalets and apartments have plenty to love. All bedrooms are en-suite and the chalets have their own sauna. Enjoy curling up by the fire in the evening. In the morning take the private shuttle bus to the resorts centre and lifts, the ultimate in convenience when you’ve got the whole family to get ready and out the door.
4-star self-catered apartments | largest sleeps 10
The 4-star apartments at ski-in/ski-out Les Chalets du Gypse are right on the slopes. The 30 luxury apartments have superb facilities including a lovely indoor pool, and a hot tub, sauna and steam room.
4-star luxury self-catered chalets | Rose sleeps 14, Violet sleeps 8
In a great location to make the most of the skiing (just 100m from the gondola) Chalet Rose and Chalet Violet really feel like a home from home. Chalet Rose has a lovely terrace with spectacular views, an open fire and a pool table in the living area. Plus a teen-pleasing home cinema room! Both have an outdoor hot tub.
5-star hotel, restaurant with 3 Michelin stars and Bela Vya spa | rooms & suites
As well as a superb restaurant, La Bouitte is an outstanding 5-star hotel and spa, which enjoys an idyllic rural location. Its reputation as one of the most welcoming, convivial places to stay in the French Alps is richly deserved. For families, there are luxurious suites that sleep up to four.
Why the expert team at French Alps specialist Peak Retreats love St Martin de Belleville
For its genuine village feel
From its narrow streets to the sound of the church bells, from the moment you arrive you feel a part of village life.
For its unpretentious luxury
Stunning chalet apartments where you instantly feel at home sit alongside cosy restaurants serving simply beautiful food.
For its access to amazing skiing
600km of slopes, easy, speedy access to the rest of the Three Valley; there is so much to ski!
For its magical setting
Hidden away yet at the entrance to the world’s largest ski areas.